One Thing at a Time: an example from EMS (part 2)

August 26th, 2012 § Comments § permalink

(Continued from here: For years we have been trying to do more with less. We, as employees, entrepreneurs, and parents seek to multitask and get more done in less time. The Great American Dream was to increase productivity and leisure time – but that hasn’t worked out so well. We thought we could systematize industry and agriculture, and allow ourselves shorter work weeks and more time to pursue self actualization.)


Being a paramedic has helped me in this area:

Fire Department paramedics, 2000As an emergency services responder, I often have to multi-task. I’ve found however, that I can not multi-think. There’s a difference and I believe it applies to other professions and to parenting.
When I’m treating a critical patient, I will often try to be as efficient and quick as possible. This may mean simultaneously setting up an IV, applying EKG leads, and directing my partner in tasks. Yet when it comes to assessment, I have to narrow my focus. When I listen to lungs, I have to concentrate on that. When I’m reading a 12-Lead EKG, I have to focus on a systematic method of interpretation. If I try to listen to lungs, while calculating a drug dosage and reading an EKG, I’m likely to do one of these very poorly – with very negative outcomes.

If I don’t arrive, I’m not doing anyone any good”

It’s the same when I’m responding to a call. From the time the call first comes in, my first task is to determine the address, map it (whether on paper, the computer, or in my head), then to respond to that address safely and quickly. Certain calls will compete for my attention and distract me from arriving safely and quickly. If I don’t arrive, I’m not doing anyone any good. I have to arrive – which translates into safety – and the quicker the better. But distractions reduce my odds of arriving.

When the dispatcher tells us there is a baby not breathing, or another terrible event, it is easy to let one’s mind get ahead of itself. I start thinking about the tragedy unfolding, the parents, the child, the crying, the pain – and suddenly, I’m not watching traffic like I should, I make navigation errors, and I’m not being safe, or quick. I have disciplined myself to think instead about the task right before me – responding safely and quickly. Then, once we are on the road, and the traffic and geography allow, I will think about treatment options, review drug dosages, and plan for rapid assessment and treatment of my patient. But until I arrive on scene, I always make safe and rapid response my priority.

Here’s how this applies to parenting:Vader geeft baby de fles / Father feeding the baby

You work so you can provide for your family, not the other way around. Your family does not exist so you can have a career. You do chores around the house for the sake of your family – your family is not the cause of your chores. Everything you do is for you and/or your family. Your family is not a distraction from those things – you do those things for your family.

your kids are the reason you’re running these errands…”

So, if you’re at a soccer game, be at the soccer game. A Quick call from a coworker is to be expected – but keep it quick. Set good boundaries with your colleagues and don’t let them dominate your time with your family. The same with evenings and weekends.

When you’re in the car and running errands, remember, your kids are why you’re running these errands – they are not making your life harder – they are the reason you are here. Don’t subordinate your kids to your tasks, prioritize your kids above your tasks. Be available for them as you run your errands, drive around, and take care of household tasks. There may be times of silence, but you will be amazed at how the quality of your times together improves.


(to be continued…)

Part 1 – Multitasking

Part 2 – An example from a paramedic

Part 3 – Don’t say, “I’m just too busy.

Part 4 – What we did

Rise and Fall of Heroes

July 3rd, 2012 § Comments § permalink

It was almost 40 years ago when I first talked to Mike. I was a young Explorer Scout with Washington County Fire District #1 and he was a veteran fire lieutenant. I remember sitting in his office listening to his stories about the life of a firefighter. It impacted me deeply and is a part of my journey to become a professional firefighter.Bunker gear

I always looked up to Mike, as a mentor and a role model. I find it interesting who we pick as mentors and heroes in our life. Some people just fit and Mike was one of those people. As a 15 year old, wet-behind-the-ears, punk kid, Mike seemed so much older and wiser – and yet, at only 30 years old, he was still trying to figure out life himself. At that age, 15 years is quite the spread.

“For most of us, it is difficult to leave the friendships, the lifestyle, and the brotherhood.”

When I was 30, and well seasoned as a paramedic-firefighter, Mike and I were assigned to the same shift. He was my officer, even though I worked on the rescue. It was an interesting time to be in our maturing fire district. We just merged three large fire agencies into one and fire EMS professionals were struggling to gain greater recognition in an agency locked in tradition.

At the same time, my career was beginning to take on a new life. Within a year or two, I would move off the line and into a management/leadership role. Though we never really talked about it, I sensed Mike was going through his own personal struggles. I didn’t know how to connect with him and we really never talked. This was hard for me – as it is for most accolades when their mentor falls from grace.

Our lives move forward and many things go on. Mike retired from the fire district in 1994 and I quit in 1995. I know, for most of us, it is difficult to leave. The friendships, the lifestyle, and the bonds are nearly invincible. It truly is a brotherhood.

Saturday morning I was sitting in a church listening to my wife’s uncle preaching when I watched a man and woman take a seat a few rows in front of us. Other than his long white ponytail, they were relatively unremarkable. But when he turned his head, I saw something familiar. I mentioned the familiarity to my wife as I continued to watch for more clues.

By the end of the service I was certain it was my old hero Mike. I approached him with my hand extended, “Mike Hart?” I asked. He looked up with curiosity, recognized me, and we embraced. I had tears in my eyes for at least 10 minutes as we stood and chatted. Eventually we moved outside where we talked for at least an hour and a half. He was the last person I thought I’d ever see in a church, but I know a few have thought that about me too.

We told stories, caught up on former firefighters, and shared life experiences. It was a providential encounter and both of us were blessed. To think I’d almost skipped the opportunity to attend church with my family? I’m so glad I didn’t. Mike has clearly regained his footing and will live on as an important part of my life’s journey.



A Plan, A Direction, A Vision

June 20th, 2012 § Comments § permalink

My original idea for this particular blog was to document my development as a Dad. Long before my Darling Daughter (now 7!) was born, I began to read books, listen to podcasts, and seek mentors on how I could be a good great father. Of course this created a lot of opportunity for introspection and growth. And since I tend to learn more when I’m writing, my goal was to write down those thoughts and learning opportunities.

Interestingly, life handed us a couple of curve-balls and I focused on not striking out, instead of growing and sharing. Our Colorado Springs Project was failing, we had to move, my position in Oregon wasn’t a good fit, then came the health problems, unemployment, and sudden career change. Whew…  Life grew very interesting over the past six years.

For health and family reasons, I decided to take an unpaid sabbatical. I’ve been away from work for over a month now. I have recharged, re-balanced, and relaxed. We have experienced some recreation, recuperation, and refocusing.  This has been a positive experience, albeit challenging. Our current lifestyle – night shifts, long hours, long commute, and financial pressures – was killing me, and killing my family. It was the right thing to take this past month away from work.

Sometimes finding one’s direction is about passion, sometimes it is about opportunity, and sometimes it is about needs.

One thing I’ve been able to do is reassess my priorities. Leaving the Common Ground family was really difficult. More than a project, much more than a mere church, these people were our extended family. And right when we needed them the most, we moved cross-country into a church that didn’t know how to be a church. We found ourselves alone and struggling during a very difficult time.

This blog became my outlet – and hence, it lost its original focus. As I’ve shared with my Wonderful Wife, this space became a place for me to whine, rant, and complain. Oh sure, there were some deep insights, but watched my loyal readership slip away. In addition, as my life turned away from church leadership and towards emergency medical services (my first career from 30 years ago), I began to doubt my direction. Pretty soon, my writing became more sporadic, less frequent, and very unfocused.

A few months ago I began writing posts on three different self-managed blogs. I created an EMS blog for EMS-related topics. There is a spiritual growth blog for topics related to being a disciple of Christ. And there is this blog, which has remained somewhat autobiographical and random. I then created Facebook and Twitter accounts for these three topics and over the past month, I’ve been curating topics into these threads. It is interesting to see what generates the most attention.

In reality, what I’ve been trying to do over the past few years, is to figure out who I want to be and what I want to do, when I grow up. I love being a team-building leader. I loved being a part of raising up Common Ground. I miss being a part of that kind of community. But here I found myself, ensconced in EMS. So, I tried moving into leadership and management – but I found I wasn’t welcome there.  Now what? Maybe consulting?

For me, management and leadership comes easy – but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Yeah, I believe that being a leadership consultant is something for which I have passion and talent. A few doors have opened in that arena, but not very wide. It is very confusing to be in a dark, windowless room, forced to work a mindless job, teased with opportunities, but never seeing the true light of day.

Sometimes finding one’s direction is about passion, sometimes it is about opportunity, and sometimes it is about needs. When all three of these align, like they did in Colorado Springs for us, the choices are simple. When only one or two of these line up, the risk of making a good, or bad, choice increases exponentially.

Here’s what I know right now:

  • As long as I continue to work in my same position, at the same hours, with the same commute, for the same low wages, I will die and bring my family with me.
  • I have a passion for empowering people, leading life-changing projects, and making a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.
  • I am too much of a free-thinker, too independent, and too outspoken to be embraced my most corporate entities. In other words, I do not make a good employee and I am too much of a threat to the stability of other people’s careers.
  • I have an entrepreneurial spirit that is evidenced through many branches of my ancestral family tree. This spirit does not sit still very long.
  • Of my three life passions, the doors are virtually closed on two out of the three –
    • Denominational Employment. Even if I wanted to work for the church, I’m pretty sure I’m not welcome. There may be leaders out there who would hire me, but the people in the pews are not very open to this idea. And, yeah, there is really only one denomination whose values and beliefs I align with – so working for another denomination would be a real integrity stretch that I couldn’t overcome.
    • Emergency Medical Services. From the age of 15 I was immersed in emergency services. I was there at the beginning of the paramedic revolution and I’ve had a very diversified career. I know I have much to offer yet, but the price to pay is probably more than I’m willing to put down. There are some unspoken opportunities out there, I could do a better job of networking, soliciting, and promoting – but I realize I really don’t have the passion like I used to. Mostly, because I’m not longer intrigued by the bureaucratic challenges and political realities.
    • Leadership. Now this is where it gets complicated. In our society and culture, we like to move people up through the ranks, and we like to know they have the basic skills and knowledge related to the particular industry/employer. For instance, using the examples above, we want our denominational leaders to be theologians and we want our EMS leaders to be paramedics. Hospital administrators are almost always doctors, and the manager at McDonald’s almost always came up through the ranks. This occurs even when leadership and administrative skills are more important than the industry skill.

Over the course of the past 20 years, I have walked into a variety of situations and assumed leadership roles with virtually no experience in the particular industry I managed. I’ve supervised a deli staff, managed an IT department at a mid-sized university, managed employees at a dry cleaner, grocery store, and wholesale food distributorship. I’ve managed commercial lease properties, led government task forces, and managed a municipal water district. I was foreman of a pipeline construction crew and president of the graduate school student body. I’ve managed paramedics, laborers, secretaries, and volunteers.

For me, management and leadership comes easy – but that doesn’t mean it is easy. The learning curve is usually steep, but asking questions, soliciting advice and input, and staying humble allows me to let other show me the paths to take. This builds stronger decision making, empowers the workforce, and enables the organization to move forward in unity. Sometimes, having an expert in the field will weaken this process because the “expert” doesn’t feel the need to build consensus.

So, now what?

  • I still believe I am called to lead a faith community.
  • I still believe in putting my family before my career.
  • I still am passionate about a few things.

When we get to a place where planting a church comes out of our vision, and not out of our anger and frustration with the way we’ve been treated, I believe we will be in the right place to start another Common Ground like experience and community. But not before that. However, I believe we are very close to that time. I have a lot of spiritual recovery yet to cover though.

I’ve already lost one job because I refused to put my family second to my employment, and I feel like my current situation is equally at risk. That’s OK though. God carried us through the first one – which isn’t over yet – I know he’ll carry us through the next one. Even if we have to live in a 600 square foot, run down space, I know we can choose to be happy – regardless of income or comforts.

The one thing I am passionate about is helping other men discover their identity and clarify their vision. I am passionate about great parenting. I am passionate about being a good husband. And I am passionate about a quality relationship with God. All of this came into clear focus on Father’s Day of all days. As I was donning my Daddytude t-shirt, I realized – this is my passion. And, this, is the direction I’m going from here forward.

Where Am I?

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