Monday, October 7, 2013


By Mark vonAppen

I am quick to anger, motivated by passion, I have my principles and there have been many times when I have been tempted to ring out from being monumentally frustrated and exhausted from jumping through hoops and over hurdles.  The greatest source of my frustration is watching talent and motivation squandered.  I hate to see broken bones.  I don't know what the keys to success are necessarily, but I know the quickest route to failure is trying to please everyone, or trying to punish everyone.  Call me old fashioned, but I suppose I'm a victim of who I was as a kid, back before the age of instant gratification and Jack Ass Nation, back when people mattered.  I believe in service before self, and I also believe that some of us have lost sight of how to treat one another.  

Sometimes we break our own bones. 

I know that we have to play to our strengths and our strength lies in our people.  We don’t need our 15 minutes, we need sustained effort towards excellence, because it’s everyone’s responsibility.  In order to get to where we need to go we have to create a culture of belief.  So many organizations get it entirely wrong, change the patch, create a hollow mission statement, issue forth dogma, and rule through intimidation.  Those tasked with leadership must remember that strength comes from their people.  People are the bones of any organization.

"Show them what you have in your soul after stress has stripped everything away.  Show them strength."

The bitter reality is this, you're only as valuable as your last performance and people have short memories.  Some are constantly seeking to improve their own standing and as harsh as it sounds, they'll do most anything, including walking on others backs in order to get there.  Organizations that sustain success keep their core group of contributors united in cause, acknowledging their accomplishments, recognizing that the key to success are strong bones, strong firehouse leadership, and core chemistry.  Strong core leadership ensures that the role players fall in step and comply with the program.  Without strong leadership in the firehouse the new faces, young, impressionable rookies, can easily seek a lower level.  A house divided cannot stand - that's what they say anyway.

As leaders at any level, we must never quit.  In the same breath, I'll tell you that we must know when to quit.  We must remember that proving we are right and proving someone else wrong are bad reasons to continue a fight.  The best reasons to push forward when things are rough are your bones, the people, sound principles, and strong beliefs that are people driven. 

How do you rise above it?  Remember that it's a game; you can beat them at it.  Push harder, stiffen your resolve, and maintain your composure.  Show them what you have in your soul after stress has stripped everything away.  Show them strength.

Treat people right and they'll walk through fire for you.


  1. What a great reminder that people are and aways will be the infrastructure of any organization. If our infrastructure is rotten the whole system will be rotten. And even when the rot starts from the outside, from the organization itself, in the form of training cuts and salary cuts and budget cuts...we have to be careful we don't allow ourselves to become septic. Stay strong. Stay hungry.

  2. Great blog, as always. It goes both ways though. Just as those on the line want administration to treat them right, administration wants the line to treat them right. We need to open the lines of communication fully in order for this to happen. When you communicate and all know why decisions are made, maybe even being part of the process then the understanding occurs. When you have understanding I believe then all will treat each other they way they should. There is NO place in ANY organization for personnel at any rank to ostracize, alienate, or be jerks to one another. It is unprofessional. PERIOD.

    Protect all your bones, all are important from top down and down up.

    Stay safe all,

    <3 , your sister in service, Marilyn

  3. Very good Mark.