Saturday, May 12, 2012


By: Mark vonAppen

One of the more satisfying sidelights of this blog has been hearing (reading) the talk being generated surrounding this modest body of work.  Some recent posts (No, Cadence, and Stay Hungry) have struck an unexpected chord in some brothers and sisters that have read, and subsequently commented or blogged about them.
"No more...the anger, (the) negativity has to go away." 
In reference to "No," this appeared on "The Average Jake."

...I am going to as the post says, “start moving ahead with or without you.” I am done waiting, done talking about, and done trying to placate to those who do not want to see excellence in our Fire Service.  I love this job, flat-out love it.  There are very few places I would rather be than riding on a fire engine heading to a call.

In order to fully get to the next level that I want to get to, the anger, negativity has to go away.  It will be a long battle with my emotions but it has to happen.  It will not happen over night, or even over a year but today is the day to change it. 

"The anger and negativity has to go away" is as much a rallying cry for this blog as is "Stay Hungry."  Anger gets the machine in motion, but over the course of time anger is counter-productive.  Anger will eventually consume us, leaving us frustrated, exhausted, alienated, and in the end, defeated.  No more factions, no more "us vs. them."  Work together, sweat together, you've heard it before.

In order to move the fire service along we have to think big, but start small. Positive strides are made possible as the circle that works grows.  Everyone has to get with the 
program for it to happen.  Progress requires total buy-in.

To expand the circle of function, start with your company.
Too often passion is confused for anger.  It is true that we are fervent in expressing our convictions, in speaking our truth.   We look in the mirror every day and inventory our skills and determine our level of commitment.  Looking in the mirror and admitting our shortcomings is painful.  These stings are the pains of growth, they are a natural part of growing and stretching our abilities.  The more we stretch and push through the pain of honest self-evaluation, the further we - everyone - eventually will go. Stretching our abilities keeps us humble.

The movement to stamp out mediocrity is bolstered by hard work and is ultimately won through acceptance. We must recognize that every member of this great profession brings their own unique talents to the organization.  We have to engage everyone in order to move forward.  We must accept that not everyone shares our - admittedly weird - 24/7 dawn to dusk love for the job.  Some can turn it on and off like a light.  We can't, our light never goes out.

"It will be a long battle with my emotions, but it has to happen. It will not happen over night, or even over a year, but today is the day to change it."
                       -The Average Jake
The key to moving ahead is as simple as getting started.  The key to getting started is breaking big, overpowering tasks into smaller, manageable ones and then getting started on the first one.  The first step in all of this is breaking down barriers.

Our passion is our thing. We must own it, be proud of it, but we can't force it on others.  In one way or another your words will come around to everyone.  When people see you out there working, training, and sweating maybe they'll come out and sweat with you.  That's how it all starts, with sweat and hard work.  When we sweat together most of the time we end up laughing together.  Laughter leads to understanding.  The circle grows as we understand one another.

Your reach is far greater than you realize.
Whether you're out on the ramp dancing with a 24' ladder like a lunatic in the midday heat, doing power cleans until you vomit, a Jake, riding backwards and stupid, a hose jockey, a warrior, a critic, working the job, or whoever you are, in your unique way you are reaching people.  Your reach is far greater than you realize.  The word of your positive teachings continues to spread and those who take the time to really listen will hear you. 

Passion does not equal anger.  The truth has no anger.  Today is the day to change it.  By communicating your passion for the job you are putting your fingerprints on others and giving them the tools to succeed and survive.

Stay hungry.


  1. Mark, excellent as always. As soon as I sad this I thought of an author I have read on occasion. Dr. Gary Chapman says about anger;

    Anger is not designed to stimulate us to do destructive things to the people [or organizations] who have wronged us. Anger's fundamental purpose is to motivate us to positive loving action that will leave things better than we found them.

    I think that quote sums your post up nicely. We just need to rein our emotions in from time to time and continue on our positive, constructive paths. After all, leaving things better than we found them is what those of us that are truly serious about this job are after in the first place, right?

  2. WOW.....very powerful and humbling

  3. Mark, this post really spoke to me. After having read it and turned it over in my mind, I see that holding on to anger is not the solution to my problem. Instead, I have to work on letting go of it and looking forward with hope to a brighter future in a new place, with new faces, and maybe there's someone like me who wants to use their passion to create positive, constructive change. One day I hope to leave my own "Fingerprints" on EMS, in whatever way it may happen. Keep writing, Brother, because your message is reaching those of us who will listen.