Facing Your Flames Head On


Facing Your Flames Head On

I have had the privilege of training firefighters over the years and, many years ago, I had the honor of participating in a controlled burn with the Pittsburgh Fire Department.  During that training, I realized the magnitude and danger of fighting a fire.  Smoke, heat, fatigue, confusion, disorientation, fear and fire; all these elements and more go into what firefighters do on a daily basis.  When I entered the building that was on fire in Pittsburgh that day, I had very little fire fighting training but I entered as an observer only, even though I did pick up the hose and help out a bit.  The sights, sounds, and smells of that day burned (no pun intended) into my memories and clearly there was some lessons to be learned that day.  The teamwork, camaraderie and training that all went into the orchestration of fighting that fire was impressive.  The way that fire fighters attack a fire is something that we can all learn from in our everyday lives.  We need to face our flames head on in order to accomplish our missions. 



When you are in a burning building, you must become hyper aware of both your surroundings and what is going on inside your body and mind.  One misstep could lead to a dangerous situation and one miscalculation of your own abilities, or of your own air tank on your back, could put you and your team in danger.  In life, we need to become more self aware of our own emotions and what works inside of us.  This includes what we need both physically and mentally to accomplish whatever mission we are working to accomplish.  When you stop and self reflect, you change your way of thinking from reactive to proactive and you better take control of yourself and more positively affect the outcome of your life.  

Control Your Fear

In order to do anything that is worthwhile in life, we need to control our fear.  By facing our demons and proactively working through or around obstacles, we begin to see that we have more control over our fear than we initially thought.  Facing our flames head on involves feeling the fear, but going into the fire anyway.  I remember feeling apprehension before entering that burning building; I had never done it before and did not know what to expect.  Feeling fear is 100% human.  Fear and apprehension keeps us alive; however, if you let fear control you, you will never set foot into a fire.  Ever.  


A certain level of training is necessary for fire fighting, and for anything that you do in life for that matter.  Training is an integral part of everything that we do. Remember that I had had a certain level of firefighting training, and my mind and body were used to being in dangerous situations from other hazardous training events that I had been though in the military.   Training builds self-confidence and gives you a feeling of “I can do this” no matter what happens.  This self confidence can lead to arrogance if you don’t apply the first principle of this article, self-reflection.  Training must be challenging but not too challenging, so that you can progressively learn from incremental challenges.  Without training, we can’t expect to enter a burning building and face our flames.


Before entering the burning building, the Pittsburgh Fire Fighters explained to me the sequence of events during the controlled burn, what I should expect, and where I should place myself so that I could both help and stay away from danger.  Visualizing a positive outcome to your training, and doing an in depth rehearsal can increase the chances that you will succeed when you enter a burning building.  The chances of a positive outcome to any situation or event can be increased by visualization.  Close your eyes and see yourself performing the necessary steps in the activity, or see yourself communicating effectively during a speech, or imagine yourself making the sale during your next sales call; chances are that your success will go up as a result of visualization.  You can’t expect to make it through a fire unless you visualize yourself making it through the fire.


It goes without saying, I would never have stepped into that building without the help, mentoring, and support of the Pittsburgh Fire Fighters.  When I entered the building, there were fire fighters on the roof with axes, making holes in the roof so smoke could escape out of the building and not hinder our vision inside.  There were Fire Fighters going down the stairs with axes in front of them, pounding on the stairs so they would not fall through by accident.  Outside the building, a myriad of personnel, trucks, and police officers maintained a perimeter and were the command and control for the entire operation.  The team that was amassed to deal with that fire that day was immense.  A well oiled machine that was happy to be there, doing what it was trained to do.  When you face anything in life, you need to have people that you can count on.  Individuals that have been trained like you and speak the same mental language.  Individuals that will bring you down and speak negatively about you or what you are about to accomplish should be left behind.  Individuals that will offer criticism from a place of improvement and will be there for you when the chips are down are welcome to come along.  Facing your flames head on should be the battle cry for your entire team, and they should be behind you in case you stumble and need help carrying the hose.  


This week, think of something in your life that you need to face, head on.  Perhaps it is something to do with your job or perhaps a confrontation with an old friend that you need to patch up?  Maybe you have something that you would like to do that you have never done before and are apprehensive or scared of doing?  Apply the principles of this article, like a checklist, to the problem.  Do you have the right team to help you out?  Have you trained enough for this particular event?  What type of outcome can you visualize?  Is it time to face your fear head on?  Have you done the right amount of self-reflection necessary to achieve your mission?  Remember that we can do anything in life with the proper application of our mind and body.  Facing your flames head on is something that we should enjoy doing on a daily basis.


“Lean into it!”

Dr. N