Resolve to Keep Learning

People generally confine their resolutions to the beginning of the New Year. But in the fire service, we need to be a little more flexible about when we choose to make improvements to our professional approach. We need to be able to make resolutions midstream.

Here’s a resolution I wish we would all make: To keep learning.

We all came into the fire service eager and curious to learn about our new profession, or when we were promoted, to learn about our new position. That curiosity was built upon our own natural impulse, the same impulse that leads us to turn to the next page of a good book — the desire to learn more.

We’ve all got it. But the challenge is to use it and develop it for our own benefit, and for the benefit of our crews and our department. In the beginning of our career, or in our new position, our minds were engaged in an unquenchable thirst for more knowledge. Unfortunately, some of us have become bored with the job or the position. Personally, I wonder how this could happen. With all of the new challenges we are now faced with — such as fires that burn hotter and faster, WMD and terrorism, more hazardous materials traveling through our communities, mass casualty incidents that we never before imagined, catastrophic natural disasters coming one after another, and much more — there are so many more responsibilities at every position. How can we not have a thirst for more knowledge? After all, that’s what drew us to this profession; we’re problem solvers!

In his book, "How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci," Michael Gelb wrote, “Leonardo had an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.” I suggest that we make our resolution for this New Year to begin “to think like Leonardo did” — to reignite our passion for curiosity and become a continuous learner. Hopefully by doing this, we will spark the curiosity of our fellow firefighters, and we will all broaden our knowledge of our profession and improve our abilities and skills to operate in it.

This curiosity can be developed and put to use easier than you think. By completing the following self-assessment, your answers will tell you how you are doing and where there is room for improvement.

• I keep a journal or make notes of my insights and questions about new innovations and procedures
• I critique and reflect after every emergency call or incident
• When faced with an important decision, I seek others’ perspectives
• I read; About my profession and other professions like mine
• I learn from others, in every position
• When I hear or read a new word, I look it up and make a note of it
• When I hear of or read about a new concept or tool, I investigate it
• I know something about all of the positions in the fire service and am always learning more
• I solicit feedback from my friends, relatives, and colleagues

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Just as iron rusts from disuse, and stagnant water purifies, or when cold turns to ice, so our intellect wastes unless it is kept in use.”  He knew the importance of being a continuous learner. Why don’t you make the continuous quest to learn more from your resolution? It’s probably the reason you are reading this article anyway, isn’t it?

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