By Tom Johnson

The way I see it, you have two choices when it comes to becoming a better firefighter. You can set your standards high, expect great performance, and strive for daily improvement…or you can be minimum standard, fear performance altogether, and just coast for your whole career.

If you are your own worst critic, which you should be, you expect more out of yourself than you do of anyone else. You aren’t waiting for someone to tell you that you aren’t doing it right – you already know, and you are in the process of making changes. You critique your performance immediately and address failures head on. There is no room for excuses – and no time for them either. You expect to succeed and are not surprised by winning. No need to celebrate or boast because it was in the plan from the beginning. You hate losing, so much that you train your ass off to ensure it never happens. And if you do fail, you get even hungrier and more determined to never fail that same way again.

Too many times we justify sitting on our asses with excuses like “It’s too hot” or “It’s too cold” or “I’m too tired.” Weather, entitlement, and negativity, among other things, block our path to sharpening our craft, or so we think.  In this case, you are your own worst hypocrite. The hypocrite is the worst of all firefighters. They sell readiness to the citizens, fellow firefighters, and even their own families, but they buy laziness. Fires and rescues don’t care about any of that garbage. That’s why the fire ground is the great equalizer. You can’t cheat. Hypocritical mindsets and decisions become readily apparent come game time.

What I find interesting is that we typically see more deaths recorded on video in the fire service than you do in police or military operations. Billy Street Corner films a firefighter being carried out from a collapse and it’s right there on YouTube. And you would think that would be enough motivation to train to win. But we deny it won’t happen to us and that we would never do what they did (which would have avoided that firefighter’s situation altogether). Well, you are probably right in that you would never do what they did, but ask yourself if you even could. Don’t forget that you promised more. You promised you would make things better when you arrived on a scene. You did not promise that you would hold your position until the next guy came in and solved what was and is your problem.

Simply put, be your own worst critic and become more.