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Implement personal, organizational, community change by changing your mindset

Dr. Candice McDonald shares her personal journey of overcoming adversity to inspire fire and EMS leaders at ImageTrend Connect


Photo/Greg Friese

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Dr. Candice McDonald gave an inspiring keynote presentation about her personal journey of growing up in poverty and how a growth mindset propelled her forward personally and professionally to the fire and EMS leaders attending the ImageTrend Connect conference.

McDonald, the deputy CEO of the National Volunteer Fire Council, has served as a firefighter, EMT, EMS chief, instructor and inspector. She also spent over 20 years working for NASA in the Office of Protective Services as a special agent.


Dr. Candace McDonald, CEO of the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Photo/Dr. Candace McDonald

Memorable quotes

Here are six memorable quotes from McDonald’s presentation.

“Success isn’t something you achieve. Successful is what you are.”

“Someone with a growth mindset believes people can improve. Things can be changed in our community to be better.”

“Adopting a new mindset is a ticket to a different life.”

“Be a victor, not a victim.”

“Whining does nothing about the problems we are facing. And whiners attract other whiners.”

“Change that comes [to the workplace] without education leads to resistance.”

Top takeaways on growth

Here are several of the top takeaways from McDonald’s personal story of overcoming adversity and achieving personal and professional success.

1. There is no magic wand

McDonald began her presentation by explaining that success – personal or professional – doesn’t come from a magic wand, but with making choices, having a growth mindset, asking for and listening to feedback, and asking for help.

2. Growth mindset leads to individual and community change

Someone with a growth mindset focuses on things they can do and that can be done, rather than what can’t be done.

McDonald doesn’t mind people on her team coming to her with complaints, but she also wants them to bring solutions to change or improvement, which is an important part of a growth mindset.

3. Roadblocks, detours and pitfalls can be overcome

McDonald’s early life was filled with roadblocks, detours and pitfalls to her personal success. Growing up in poverty, McDonald was labeled as an “endangered child” and the adults in her life, like guidance counselors, had low expectations for her future.

Though we might not all face the same roadblocks, detours or pitfalls to success, McDonald explained we all have to, “believe we are capable of improving our situations.”


During her presentation, Dr. McDonald tossed three soft, squeeze balls into the audience, which represented the barriers she faced and overcame in her career.

Photo/Greg Friese

4. Turn emotion into action

McDonald called on attendees to turn the emotion from the obstacles we face personally and professionally into action. “Doing something we have control of is a victor mindset,” McDonald said.

5. Get help to move forward

There is no reason to not use the experience, knowledge and resources of others who have faced similar challenges as their own. McDonald encouraged attendees to share with their colleagues and ask the people they supervise two questions:

  • What is one new thing you want to learn in the next six months?
  • What is one challenge in the current workplace you are currently experiencing?

Learn more

Read, watch or listen to these articles, videos and podcasts to learn more about McDonald, growth mindset and professional development.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on Twitter or LinkedIn and submit an article idea or ask questions by emailing him at