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Setting Goals

Setting Goals

Battalion Chief Paul Lepore

Life can be extremely busy. How often do you hear someone say, “I can’t believe how fast time flies? Where did my day go?” Personally, I find that if I do not set goals, life passes me by. I have heard it said that if you don’t set goals you are just drifting through life. Goals don’t have to be big. Start small. They can be as small as losing a few pounds, increasing your workout, putting more money into a retirement program.

I have personal, professional, and “fun” goals. My personal goals include buying a big boat, turning left, and taking it, with my wife Marian, through the Panama Canal. To reach this goal we have to do the obvious things like continue to save money. In addition, I need to become more mechanically proficient. I am pretty good on a boat, but I need to learn more. There is a big difference between figuring out basic electrical and mechanical issues, and being alone off the coast of Coast Rica with a mechanical failure. Part of my plan is to enroll in a diesel mechanic trouble-shooting class. Another goal I have is to catch a Swordfish on rod and reel. I have caught hundreds of Marlin, but a Swordfish is the ultimate gladiator fish.

Most people set their goals too low. I encourage you to “DREAM BIG.” You may have a goal to get hired on the fire department, or to promote to Engineer, Captain, or Battalion Chief. Why stop there? I encourage you to set your sights on becoming the Fire Chief. When speaking to entry-level candidates, I am always amazed to see the blank look on their faces when I query them about their short and long-term goals. Most can stumble through the 5-year goal, but very few have even considered forecasting 10 – 15 years down the road. The same thing applies when I am speaking with promotional candidates. In their mind all they can see is the position directly in front of them.

I challenge everyone to broaden their horizons. I remember a conversation I had with Tim Riley, the recently retired Fire Chief from Newport Beach. He believes that most fire chiefs are what he calls “Chiefs of opportunity.” In other words, he believes that many of the contemporary leaders of today’s fire service were in the right place at the right time. Imagine if a firefighter set a goal to become the fire chief. What could be accomplished during a 30-year career if that firefighter took the time to write down an algorithm to accomplish his or her goals? How many times have we heard that there is a continuing trend in the fire service of promoting people with little experience? Face it, with many departments getting increased retirement benefits, many of the senior leadership have moved on and are enjoying life after the fire department.