Thursday, August 6, 2015


By Mark vonAppen

If I could sit down with myself as a new officer and talk  about what's important to remember, here is what I'd say.  

This is an excerpt from a speech I wrote for a recent promotional ceremony:

As you prepare to move into a riding position that the organization recognizes as a leadership spot, try to keep a few things in mind.  There are shiny things that accompany this new riding position; namely, a badge, a bugle or two, and possibly a glimmer of respect.  Remember that you got to where you are in life because of who you are.  If you've been leading, they'll follow, if you haven't, then you have a lot of work to do.

If you've been leading, don’t change who you are because you changed riding positions on the rig. Respect is found in who you've always been, you earn it with your every interaction.  If you have given due respect to every position you have held, that glimmer of respect will shine a little brighter.

You are, and must remain, a functional member of the team.  Remember that you are always a rider.   The team is more important than any individual.  Don't get distracted by the shiny objects that festoon your collar and chest, they are worthless if you try to be something that you are not.  If you're not you, those shiny things are just decoration, and they won't mean much. 

Be more concerned with who you are and not who people think you should be.  Be yourself.  If you do, you never have to remember to be somebody else.  When things get tough, your character is what needs to shine more than your bugles and badge.
"Be yourself.  If you do, you never have to remember to be somebody else."
The craft is about people.  Retain a sense of humility.  Take the craft more seriously than you take yourself.  This job is more real than any book you will ever read.  If you're honest, you will be humbled every day by the greatness of your peers, by how much there is yet to learn, and by how much responsibility you own.  Hubris is one of life’s poisons; don’t drink from that cup.  Remember to maintain the beginners mind, and never lose the sense of wonder. 

Listen more than you talk.  There is a big difference between time served, and time in the service of others.  This is but another step in the life-long journey to mastery.  It’s not about your time in your riding position, it’s about what you do with your time in that position.  

Say to yourself, "May I forever strive to master the craft."  Do your job, treat people right, give all out effort, and have an all in attitude.


  1. Awesome! Mark, you have an unbelievable ability to write/express/describe what every firefighter, and person for that matter, should continually strive to be. Your words, as I am sure you are completely aware, have such an impact on so many. Please do keep up the amazing work and thank you for what you continually share. Hopefully I can make it down for one of your seminars, sooner rather than later. Aaron Johnson, CFD, Alberta, Canada.

  2. "There is a big difference between time served, and time in the service of others."
    Every post you write something that drops my jaw and burns my brain with the clarity of your writing.

  3. Wow! Thank you! One of the best things ive heard on 16+ years "Be yourself. If you do, you never have to remember to be somebody else."