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Reflecting on 55 Years

July 12, 2012

It all started 55 years ago today. Kansas was going through a sweltering heat wave with prolonged temperatures well into the triple digits. I was told that it was so hot many Kansans were talking about climate change, but I don’t know that for sure. It was my first day on earth.

Fifty-five years is a long, long, long time – and much has happened. Historic events, natural disasters, classic movies, music to dance by, inventions, wars, many have left us and many have been born. Can a fifty-five year old fire chief with thirty-four years experience share some reflections worth reading? I’ll give it shot.

Never lose your zest and happiness for life. One of my personal favorite career pictures was this one. My administrative assistant Cary Collins, a wonderful person, took the picture during a fire prevention visit. The children’s faces say it all. When I occasionally let a bit of negativity enter my mind, I pull out this picture. It’s all it takes to get be back on track. Find your reminder.

Never stop learning.
You can learn from people – all people. You can learn from watching a movie. You can learn from listening to a speaker, or a musician. You can learn by reading. You can learn by playing a game. Learn with your total body – your mind, your heart, and your soul. When you stop learning you are done. A picture of my emergency responders is my reminder of what’s at stake. Find your reminder.

Treat everyone with respect.
Everyone has to make some tough choices in life. You don’t have to love everyone you meet, but you can respect them. Criticize ideas not people. I personally knew I had it figured out one day when I terminated an employee for just cause – but, did it respectfully – and he apologized to me afterwards.

Sometimes employing the “never stop learning” makes you a bit too smart for your britches. A short passage from an old movie named “Harvey” is my reminder. “My grandmother always told me, “In this world Stevie – she always called me Stevie – in this world Stevie, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart, I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” Find your reminder.

Give thanks to others.
Nobody is self-made – nobody. Help comes in different servings from different people. Have you thanked your boss or your workers? Have you thanked you spouse, your parents, your children, your friends, your customers. A picture of my wife helps remind me. Find your reminder.

p.s. Turning 55 isn’t all bad – it’s also called, “Senior Discount.”

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