Batt. Chief Bob Atlas

Secrets of Success for Entry Level Firefighters, Part 1.

Secrets are thoughts or information that are kept from knowledge or view. To be more specific, they are the things that are important to you that elude you on your search for information that may prove to be important in your quest for a job as a professional firefighter. Success is a favorable or desired outcome. Basically, success is the culmination of all of your efforts good and bad. Now that we know that the secrets of success are not hidden from you we can proceed to finding them. In this two part series we will discuss the secrets to successfully obtaining a career in the fire service.

A key element that must exist before you can receive these secrets is the understanding that you must work at creating your own unique package to present to the Interview Panel. This “package” is nothing more than a chronology of your life and an overview of who you are and what you stand for. Once this “package” has been created you must understand this simple “Rule”: Your weakest important quality sets the level at which you can use all the rest of your qualities. With these two important principles mastered we can now discuss the principles of success.

1. You’ve got to have a Vision:

Vision is the ability to see your future. You must be able to see yourself successful in your chosen job, department and work environment. This vision must be clear and specific. Attach specific milestones to it and you begin to create a roadmap to your goal. This vision can manifest itself in a “Vision Statement” that you create.

2. Commit to Excellence:

A commitment to excellence simply means that you make the decision to be the best YOU can possibly be, every minute of everyday no matter what you are doing. Excellence also means continually striving to become better than you used to be. Excellence is a state of mind that should permeate every area of your life.

3. Focus on your unique talents and abilities

Talents and Abilities are the assets that you posses and set you apart from others. Talents are great natural or acquired capacities to do certain things well. Abilities are the things that make you suitable for a specific action or condition. Although they sound the same they are very different. You should be able to list both of these as part of your “package.”

4. Accept complete responsibility for yourself & your life, be in charge

When you begin to accept responsibility for yourself and your life you will acquire the tools to handle you own circumstances. At this time it may appear that you may have more negative things occur in your life than before but the opposite will become evident in time. You will see opportunities present themselves that you could not see before, because you are prepared for them now. As you take charge of your future by demonstrating responsibility people will see you differently and begin to treat you accordingly. Your friends will see you as an asset, your family will say they knew you could do it and outsiders will look to you for assistance.

5. Develop a clear sense of direction

A clear sense of direction will keep you focused on your goal. Formalize your direction by writing it down in a form you can access regularly. Commit it to memory. Read and re-read it many times. Think about it all the time, as you make decisions and as you speak and act in your daily life.

6. Never consider the possibility of failure

“Failure is not an option” These are the immortal words of Gene Kranz, lead flight director for NASA’s Mission Control and the famous Apollo 13 Lunar mission. Truer words can never be spoken. Your career as a professional firefighter will affect many. If you were to allow failure as an option think of how many would suffer because you did not fulfill your mission. This thought must be one that you use to focus your actions when times become tough. You will have moments of doubt and despair. Do not allow them to overwhelm you. Remind yourself often “Success is the only option.”

7. Success is a state of reality and a lifestyle you are worthy of

In order to achieve this reality and lifestyle you must follow the instructions for success. They are not arbitrary. There is no shortcut or tricks. They can not be manipulated or changed by anyone. These rules must be followed and executed precisely in order for you to be victorious. The formula is simple: Find someone who has succeeded at what you want to do, find out how they succeeded, get their advice and then do what they did.

8. Take & Keep the right counsel

You are a product of the books you read, the things you listen to and the people you associate with. It is very important to make sure you only allow the information and people into your life that support your mission. There will be much information and many people who will attempt to distract you from your goal. Be vigilant in protecting yourself. Fight temptation. Enjoy life but be mindful that you only have to work hard at this for a relatively short period of time and then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for many years to come. Make the sacrifice. It is well worth it.

9. Be Coachable

It is a proven fact that having and following a coach can be of great benefit. Consider the professional athlete. They are adults who have turned to other adults with more knowledge than them to be advised of the intricacies of their profession. Remember when you were a child and had a certain coach or teacher that you learned a great deal from. That experience afforded you many benefits. The same principle exists here. If you listen to a good coach you can achieve the positive outcome you are looking for. Go out and seek that person.

10. Be prepared for the inevitable set backs and success

Consider the purpose of a setback. They are designed to delay your forward progress. When forward progress is hindered this is a signal to slow down or stop and take stock of what is happening. Once you have recognized that you are having a setback take the time to assess what is happening. Seek assistance from trusted counsel and head the advice. As you begin to move forward again do not forget to permanently note the experience so as not to repeat it again.

As for success, if you follow your direction and plan it will inevitably come to you. The key to gaining this brass ring is attraction. You must be prepared and be receptive. This is not easy. I will say however, if I knew it was this good, I would have worked infinitely harder.

Bob Atlas is a Fire Captain and Co-Owner of Public Safety Training Group. He has assisted many candidates in becoming professional firefighters. Bob has also mentored incumbent members of the fire service in preparation for promotional opportunities. He can be reached at

Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.