Playground Lessons

Today I got to do something I don't normally get to do: Sleep beyond the sound of my alarm clock. Really, I could do that on any other day. To do so, however, would mean missingclass or work. Neither are good options. Even without an alarm clock, I still wake up at 6 am.

Like most people in public safety, that IS what sleeping in looks like. The morning is a bright summer day. Yet, it’s not hot and sticky yet. A perfect day for taking my 5-year-old daughter, Baby Girl, to the playground. The playgrounds I went to as a kid hadscorching, metal slides that could cook an egg in the summer time. The swing sets normally had 4swings, with 3 missing or broken. These days, my kid gets to enjoy playgrounds that really are an amusement parks without the admission price.

At the playground we go to today, it’s amazing. It’s really 4 – 5 large playgrounds within 20 feet of each other. They have themes like pirate ships and dinosaurs. Never mind slides. One of them actually has a zip line that allows my kid to travel between the monkey bars and some other contraption I can’t describe. Most importantly, there are swings. A whole row of them. They are on the outer edge of the playground. And they all work!

Swings are one of Baby Girl’s favorite parts of the playground. Still, using swings is a new concept. She says, “Can you just push me?” and I explain “Big Girl, I want you to do it all by yourself. You’ll have more fun that way.” I talk her through the motions. Feet forward, then back. Lean in and back. We spend about 10 mins of swinging sideways and turning in circles. After some good laughs,I finally get in the swing next to her and show her how it's done. Watching me, she mimics what I'm doing and starts to get the hang of it. She's not necessarily on her way to the Olympic trials in playground swings. But she should be able to have fun at the playground. 

How often are you the example of how to do something? The reason the phrase “Actions speak louder than words” is so true, is because people don’t think in words. They think in pictures and movies. Getting a mental picture or mental movie into a person’s mind is key to getting understanding. At times, this can be done with words. Other times, you just have to get on the swings. Make being an example apart of your ordinary day, and watch it have an extraordinary impact.

 About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. 

Things Have Changed

 "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but…"There are few ways to get a group of firefighters to be quiet. This one works pretty well. I was doing some training with a group of firefighters recently. In the mist of training, one of our department’s retirees stops by. He’s a well-respected firefighter. He retired as an officer and is known to be a great on the fire ground. When this guy spoke of how to handle an incident, knowledge just oozed out of his words. The way he started out this story made it even easier to listen. He goes on to say, "Back when we got acquired structures to burn in, we would use a live victim for rescue. That probably would not go over too well these days."Boy is he right! Anyone who knows current safety standards, or has read Line of Duty Death (LODD) reports in recent history realizes the danger those people were put in.   

As I soaked in the words he said, it made me think. The retired guy realized that even though what was done in that era was commonplace, it is now known to be extremely dangerous. Learning has occurred for him, and hopefully, for the entire fire service. For those of you that can’t fathom how anyone would have ever done this practice, consider this question: What common place things have you done that you later you found out could be the worst thing to do?

I am just beginning to teach my youngest kid, baby girl, to ride a bike.She has a helmet, and knee pads, and elbow pads. All of which matches her bike, by the way. What did I have when I learned to ride a bike? An afro. That's what protected me. My afro.My mom wasn't a bad parent for it. That was acceptable. Just like the retired firefighter, I realize that times have changed for the better. It may take more effort and resources to accomplish training in the fire service or training on the playground, but it's worth it.Change for the best often requires more work. But before change can happen, one must realize the need for change. If you don't see something wrong with what you are doing, why do something different?That retired firefighter understood the need for the change in training. What changes do you see a need to make?In yourself?Your organization?Your profession?Change is inventible, why not make it a change for the good. It takes ordinary people to make a change to have an extraordinary impact.

About the Author 

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. 

Cruising to a New Perspective

We just arrived in port at the Baltimore harbor that morning. As I drink my coffee on the 9th level of the cruise ship, I can see my pickup truck in the parking lot. Looks more like a toy truckin a sea of Match Box cars. With time left before we disembark the cruise ship, I begin to think: "What a different view."

Nine days prior, I made my way to that very parking spot as directed by parking attendants. With my wife, we got our bags and made our way to the passenger terminal. We could barely see pass the sea of other cars and trucks. There was no missing the ship, though. It Looked more like a floating high-rise city. Once inside the terminal, the real boarding process began. We navigate through the maze of zig zag lines, paperwork, and check points until we finally made it to our cabin.

An announcement over the PA brings me back to that morning as I sit sipping coffee. I see a new perspective on the same place I've been before. Our truck is still in the sea of vehicles, but Inow see it on the left of the passenger terminal that we entered the first time. Further left of the ship I can see other ships of varying sizes in port. Straight ahead of the terminal building, the highway is in sight. With a steady increase of cars and decrease in speed, I'm reminded that the Monday morning commute is starting.

All of these were probably visible 9 days earlier, but I had not risen to the 9th story of ship, so I had no awareness of this. Why tell you this? In 2007 I attended the first offering of the Virginia Fire Officer's Academy. Over the course of a week, instructors were brought into the campus of the University of Richmond. Once there, they gave new and aspiring fire service leaders the chance to learn leadership from a different perspective. One of the speakers did a class demonstration using three people. All stood in different parts of the room. The presenter explained that as a person rises in an organization, he or she begins to see the same things in a different perspective. Perhaps, in a perspective that could not be understood at any of the other levels.

As a leader in any fire service organization, how do you go about having the perspective of the levels you are not currently at? How do you get the view from the 9th deck, the parking lot, and everywhere in between? Driver operators in the fire service understandhow to use gallons per minute (GPM) to provide flow for water. The fluid motion of the frame of reference of leaders also requires a GPM:

o Guide

• This is a person at a higher level than you. A person at a level that you aspire to be. He or she gives you a bird's eye view. Helps you to develop the possible visions of future goals. Having regular contact with people ahead of you is vital for achieving goals. You cannot be what you cannot see

o Peer

• This is someone from another organization or area that gives you a different perspective at a similar level. Thisperson lets you know that the grass might lookgreener because it artificial, or better taken care of. You may have arrived on side A of the building, but the peer is giving you a report from side C.

o Mentee

• Remember the version of you at beginning of your career? People say that they do. But their minds tend to play tricks on them. We all sometimes suffer the ‘Curse of Knowledge’. Once we have learned information, we can’t imagine us, or anyone else, not knowing that information already. We need someone that reminds us what life looked like in the beginning. This is how we relate what we know, to the people that need to know it.

Each new day and each new level in life affords us the chancesee and know things we never knew before. But as human beings, we only get to see the perspective of the level we are at. If we are to move us, our organization, or our cause to new destinations, we will need to use GPM to provide the proper prospective to get there. The story of our journey may seem ordinary, but the impact can be extraordinary.

 About the Author

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

Hip To Be Square

"It's just a picture." I think to myself. But to my 5 year old daughter, baby girl, it is further proof that she is a failure. Her big brown eyes had surveyed the picture in its entirety. "I can't do it! I can never get it right! I'm just no good at making squares!"In her mind, there is an ideal of what perfection looks like. It does not match what she's doing. I assure her that the leaning house that resembles a rhombus instead of a square is fine. Still, it is not close to acceptable in her mind. It is proof that she did not accomplish an art masterpiece.

At times in your life, do you sometimes feel like you have failed miserably? That despite your efforts, you are performing an exercise of futility? All the energy and hard work you put into a task, and the impact is minimal.Whether a small change, or a revolutionary ideal for the world, getting results can be difficult.

Have you heard the phrase "In his/her own little world"? Perhaps the way to successful change in the world, is to change the world of one person. Those people you directly influence, including yourself. Perhaps in changing the world of one person, there is an actually change in the world over all. He or she could be the person who is meant to change the world, He or she needed you to see that it was possible. If my daughter one day becomes a renowned artist, perhaps it was the help I give her in finding the perfect square that helps get her there.

If that is the case, how would we do that?How do we change someone's world, instead of the world as a whole?I could simply say it in one word: inspire. In the fire service, however, we like nifty acronyms.Instead, let HER spell out the steps:

Hope

In the movie "Dumb and Dumber", the character Lloyd asks Mary what are the chances of him dating her. After hearing that it's about 1 out of a million, Lloyd pauses, and then says, "So, you’re saying there is a chance!" I don't know that I have that level of optimism. But for change in happen in anything, you have to actually believe that it can happen. For Baby Girl’s journey to art greatness, she needs me to assure her that she can make a square.

Example

Innovative ideals are generally improvements on what already exist. Could it be that you need to go as far as you can, so someone else can go further?It is akin to a relay race in track and field. One person does the best he or she can to give the next person the chance to improve on that. With that in mind, I show baby girl how I draw square. My artistic abilities were not recognized by my grade school teacher. Perhaps Baby Girl can improve on what I did.

Resources

In my last position in the fire service, I quickly learned that being successful was not about what I know, but where to find what I need to know. Helping individuals to find ways to improve can help them to make meaningful changes. Some people need general theories, others need step-by-step directions. For Baby Girl, we did what makes sense; we watched Sesame Street videos on YouTube about drawing shapes. Know your resources!

I have no idea if Baby Girl will become a high paid artist that changes the art world. I do know that as some point, she will again experience failure. When she does, she can use HER as a way to find Hope, an Example, and Recourses to be successful. The ordinary experience of drawing a circle, may one day lead to extraordinary changes.

 About the Author 

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

Using Your Minds Eye

Ever had trouble looking for the right word?You are in the middle of trying to describe the perfect moment. The word you are looking for, however, is evading your memory. Here is a thought; maybe you shouldn't be looking for words. If not words, what else would you be looking for?

Take a min and think about a great moment in your life. It can be anything. The birth of a child. A wedding. A promotion. Whatever great moment that is tattooed in your mind. Think about the sights and sounds of the moment. Can you remember any of the smells?Can you remember the texture of the things you touched? I'm willing to bet that in the process ofremembering that moment, it did not appear as the text you are reading now. Your memory didn't appear as words being typed on a word document. That memory instead appeared as an experience of the senses.

People can remember words, but nothing compares to anexperience. No wonder we can't find the right word; we are trying to describe an experience. What are the implications of understanding this? Have you ever had an ideal or thought you wanted to convey to someone?

A seed of information, that you are looking to plant into the mind of another individual. A teaching moment. A vision of what could be. Over time, you water the soil and allow the bright, warm rays of enlightenment to beam down. The hope is that thoughts and deeds will sprout up from the soil. It would be as if a tree of wisdom has taken root. If this happens to be what you are trying to do, perhaps you should consider the PPE that you use. Not Personal Protective Equipment. Instead:

P - Paint a Picture

• When explaining something new, from a leadership vision to a new learning point, help your audience see what it is. Describe with detail what it is you are thinking. Use analogies that are relatable for the person. In a class once, I was struggling to wrap my mind around how the heart sends blood through veins and arteries. Then the instructor explained to me that understandinghow the heart pumps blood is similar to how the pump on engine pumps attack lines. I now have a picture in my head of a driver operator on a major fire with fire hose sending and receiving water. Learning has occurred.

P - Produce a Movie

• “Imagine this…” Beginning an explanation like this gets your audience into the mind set of being in the front row of a 3D action movie. It’s like being at Disney World and riding one of the movie rides. The person is there at the event, watching things unfold first hand. How easy is it to remember new ideals when an instructor or leader has helped you feel like you were there when things were being formed?

E - Experience the Moment

• This step takes producing a movie one step further. Instead of being at the event; you have a starring role in the event. Years agoI wrestled for the Air force and practiced at the Olympic Training center. We had a trainer that had us do this thought exercise. Wehad to imagine being in a future wrestling match. In our mind, we had to think of everything we could expect. How exhausted we would be. Being ahead in points. Being behind in points. Feeling the strength of the other competitor and fighting them off. What I understand now is that doing this exercise prepared me for possibilities I had not thought of. If you can imagine the hard times, you can push through to the good times.

When I teach students about hazardous material response, I explain that to be effective, one must have the proper level of skill and proper equipment. Everyone has some ideal worth sharing. Now you have the proper PPE to help ordinary people do extraordinary things.

About the Author  

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

Using Your Minds Eye

Ever had trouble looking for the right word?You are in the middle of trying to describe the perfect moment. The word you are looking for, however, is evading your memory. Here is a thought; maybe you shouldn't be looking for words. If not words, what else would you be looking for?

Take a min and think about a great moment in your life. It can be anything. The birth of a child. A wedding. A promotion. Whatever great moment that is tattooed in your mind. Think about the sights and sounds of the moment. Can you remember any of the smells?Can you remember the texture of the things you touched? I'm willing to bet that in the process ofremembering that moment, it did not appear as the text you are reading now. Your memory didn't appear as words being typed on a word document. That memory instead appeared as an experience of the senses.

People can remember words, but nothing compares to anexperience. No wonder we can't find the right word; we are trying to describe an experience. What are the implications of understanding this? Have you ever had an ideal or thought you wanted to convey to someone?

A seed of information, that you are looking to plant into the mind of another individual. A teaching moment. A vision of what could be. Over time, you water the soil and allow the bright, warm rays of enlightenment to beam down. The hope is that thoughts and deeds will sprout up from the soil. It would be as if a tree of wisdom has taken root. If this happens to be what you are trying to do, perhaps you should consider the PPE that you use. Not Personal Protective Equipment. Instead:

P - Paint a Picture

• When explaining something new, from a leadership vision to a new learning point, help your audience see what it is. Describe with detail what it is you are thinking. Use analogies that are relatable for the person. In a class once, I was struggling to wrap my mind around how the heart sends blood through veins and arteries. Then the instructor explained to me that understandinghow the heart pumps blood is similar to how the pump on engine pumps attack lines. I now have a picture in my head of a driver operator on a major fire with fire hose sending and receiving water. Learning has occurred.

P - Produce a Movie

• “Imagine this…” Beginning an explanation like this gets your audience into the mind set of being in the front row of a 3D action movie. It’s like being at Disney World and riding one of the movie rides. The person is there at the event, watching things unfold first hand. How easy is it to remember new ideals when an instructor or leader has helped you feel like you were there when things were being formed?

E - Experience the Moment

• This step takes producing a movie one step further. Instead of being at the event; you have a starring role in the event. Years agoI wrestled for the Air force and practiced at the Olympic Training center. We had a trainer that had us do this thought exercise. Wehad to imagine being in a future wrestling match. In our mind, we had to think of everything we could expect. How exhausted we would be. Being ahead in points. Being behind in points. Feeling the strength of the other competitor and fighting them off. What I understand now is that doing this exercise prepared me for possibilities I had not thought of. If you can imagine the hard times, you can push through to the good times.

When I teach students about hazardous material response, I explain that to be effective, one must have the proper level of skill and proper equipment. Everyone has some ideal worth sharing. Now you have the proper PPE to help ordinary people do extraordinary things.

About the Author  

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

How To Complete a New Years Resolution

Ladies and gentlemen, I have successfully figured out how to accomplish a New Year's resolution. Every year people make resolutions. So often people fail. We all are aware of this. When I repeat the following statement from the internet, most people would agree: "My 2017 goals are to accomplish the goals of 2016, which I should have done in 2015, because I promised to do them in 2014, after planning them in 2013." No worries. I have you answer to completing your New Year's resolutionssuccessfully: Stop making New Year's resolutions.

Some may be thinking, "Without this time to commit to making a change, how will I improve?" Simple; stop waiting until January first to make a change. The changes you need to make, you knew long before the beginning of the new year. On any given day, you realize that there is some area of your life that you want improvement. Take a minute right now, and you can name a few. My question to you is, why wait for another year?

After reading some books, listening to different speakers, and examining my own successes and failures, I now understand some things about real change. This insight left me SMH. No, not the texting abbreviation for "Shaking My Head", but my own abbreviation for "Spark, Motivation, and Habit."

• Spark - That thing that sets change in motion. It's the initial ideal that things need be different. Who you want to be, and who you are, do not match. When you walk a few flights of stairs, get winded, and said that's the last straw. When you have miss a meal and your stomach doesn't growl, but ‘talks’loud enough for others to hear. What is that thing that makes you stop and say "Change must happen."

• Motivation - Spark may give you the initial ideal, but motivation is where the action starts. Gears start turning. Progress in a direction begins to happen. While planning can be a part of motivation, motivation is about taking action. Starting the diet. Starting the college classes. Starting the new relationship.

• Habit - What you use when motivation is not enough. Trust me, making change happen over long periods of time will not happen without habit. Most people are familiar with the power of bad habits. Bad habits are why we needed to make a change to begin with! Think how hard are they to stop? Why not harness that power for good? People who do well in saving money are not always motivated to save money. They just got used to doing it. After years of wrestling on the All-Air Force wrestling team, I found that my body would automatically lose and gain weight depending on the time of year. My body had gotten into a habit that took years to stop.

One of my favorite sayings is "Test everything. Keep the good; avoid every kind of evil." I encourage you that the next time you feel the spark of change inside you, use motivation and habit to make the change happen. You don't have to wait until January first. Take any ordinary day, and make it extraordinary.

 About the Author 

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

What Homework?

 "But daddy, we haven't done my homework!" Some words you don't expect to hear from a kid. Yet, those are the exact words that exploded from my 5-year-old "Baby Girl" a few months ago. Here I thought that there was a natural repulsion between kids and homework. Guess it's a learned skill.

Unfortunately, the day had used up most of my caffeine energy, and I barely had enough to get her ready for bed. Still, I know the hopes I have for her. I know the importance of learning good habits early in life. And you know that there was no way daddy would say no to his Baby Girl. So, we did it. We wrote letters and added up numbers. Afterwards, I thought, " How did I accomplish something, that I had no energy to do?" How do you do the extraordinary, when you lack the energy to do the ordinary?

For me personally, it is about being the example. Preferably, the right example. I want Baby Girl to see the right example in my actions. The example of getting things done when it's not easy to do. Getting things done when people are depending on you. It's then that I truly understood integrity. Making sure that my thoughts, words, and actions all matched up like the perfectly aligned gig line on a military uniform.

It's officially 2017. The best and worst of 2016 will be recounted for the next few weeks. New Year's resolutions are being started by many. While I did my typical year in review of my life, I won't be making any resolutions. Instead, I will continue to live up to the lesson that Baby Girl has reminded of: Be a person of integrity. And do homework. Can't forget homework.

About the Author  

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. 

Oh Christmas Tree

The oversized tree was up and decorated. Bright lights. Colorful Christmas ornaments. The family heirloom from my grandmother place in the middle. Anintricate angle doll sits on the tippy top of the tree. Everything was done with the tree that day around noon. Dec 26th. You read that correctly. The day after the great present explosion, we finally finished getting the tree put up. Why bother completing a task the day after the due date? If we couldn't get the tree ready in 364 days, why still do it? That is where the wisdom of children comes in.

My daughter, baby girl, is a whole 5 yrs. old. Old enough to write a Christmas wish list, make cookies for Santa, and help decorate a tree. Doing the tradition of putting a tree up was on my to-do list, but not really near the top. Two days before Christmas, I finally stayed home long enough to clear out the space and put the tree up. Being that I am a husband and color blind, I opt not to get involved in the details of what goes where on the tree. But despite starting, we never finished. And since baby girl had actually slept over at her aunt's Christmas eve, it seemed like we were facing a year where we missed the Christmas tree standard.

"So, daddy, can I help decorate the Christmas tree tomorrow?" Of all the things I expected to hear her say on Christmas, that wasn't one of them. Has anyone ever asked you to keep going when you already stopped? You set a goal, you missed the mark, and now someone is looking at you saying "Keep going!" As we make our way through life, we stumble and fall at times. It only becomes failure when we don't get back up.

And so, we made time. Amid the hustle and bustle of opening more presents, learning to ride a new bike, and drinking hot coco, the tree was finished. My daughter never stops amazing me. An ordinary day with my kid, reminds me of the extraordinary life lesson of how to keep on, keeping on.

About the Author  

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

The SOGs of Success

And finally, I'm done. Months of studying late into the night, way past my bed time.
Months reading acronyms that seemed to be a language all their own. Months of practicing skills now rooted in my mind ready to activate at a moment’s notice. After all that, I have completed the promotional process. All that I wait for now is the phone call that decides where I go from here. 
 
One part my departments process is an interview. In preparing for interview, I put together a curriculum vitae. "What's that?" is what I asked the person who recommended it. He went on to explain that it is what a person has done throughout his or her career. It's more complete than a resume. Think of it as doing a patient assessment that allows you to get an ideal of how the person is doing. It was in that process of pouring into Microsoft Word the experiences that I had, that the full impact of what other people poured into me sunk in. I have had the chance to be a part of things in my department, in the state, and nationally. No matter how well I did at any of those, I realize how much support I have gotten from others. The mentors and supporters in my life had given me S.O.G.'s to have an impactful life. 
 
Strength

What trying times have you had in your life? Are you there right now? Whether the trouble happened to you, or because of you, we all have trying times. To this day supporters and mentors still help me to persevere through difficult times. In those dark times, not only could I not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I felt myself walking through knee deep quicksand that I was sinking in. It was the strength that others poured into me that allowed me to see things to completion. 
 
Opportunity

Have you ever been in an awesome situation and say to yourself "How on earth did I get here?!" You weren't the typical number one choice to be in that project or on that team. Yet, you did great work while there. That's what happens when others see your potential, and give you a seat at the table. That is what happens when your supporters and mentors give you an opportunity. 
 
Guidance

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" (Will Rodgers). I looked at this training announcement that said "Safety through Leadership". I am constantly looking for leadership training, but I had doubts about this one. Yet, at the encouragement of one of my many supporters, I applied for it all the same. Since then, the 2007 Virginia Fire Officer's Academy has been one of the best choices I have done in my career. Supporters and mentors provide direction for you to move on down the track. 
 
I have no idea how much success I will have in my life. I'm sure it will be due, in large part, to the mentors and supporters that help me along the way. People who have given me S.O.G.'s. My success comes from people seeing in me what I was unaware of in myself. For as ordinary as I feel most days, my supporters and mentors have a way of finding the extraordinary. 

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

You're in the Wrong Spot

"Man, that truck sure looks familiar." On a bright, sunny day I had just walked out of an Arlington, VA building. The warm feeling of accomplishment was over me as I had just registering for a charity walk. My daughter, who was about 3 at the time, was bouncing along with me. But that truck. The same grey color. The same kind of wheels. Wait. Is that the same license plate? And why is it on the back of a tow truck?  I had disobeyed a fundamental rule for living in the Washington DC area: There is no such thing as a 'free' parking space. After frantic negations with the driver, I was able to broker a deal to get my truck back on the spot.  
 
I arrived at my second stop of the day, feeling pretty good about not having to walk there. This time we are at a cookout in a park in DC. I park on the side of the road, and cross the street to the cookout. About an hour into my time there, I now see the red and blue lights of the police parked behind the cars near where I had parked. He's out, asking questions, and looking at license plates. Seriously? Twice in one day I'm parked in the wrong spot?  Lucky, this time it was just a request to move somewhere else. Easy fix. 
 
Finally, I made it home to a parking spot that was reserved for me. I knew where I was supposed to be. No tow trucks coming for me. No police officers telling me to move. Nice and safe. I had made it to the right spot. Have you spent some time in your life looking for your right spot? Many times we have periods in life that we feel like we are going place to place and not belonging there. Whether it be a major conflict of priorities, or just the wrong place at the wrong time, we will always find there are places we don’t quite fit. What do you do? Much like my parking lot adventure, put yourself in gear and drive to the next place. Not fitting in at one spot, doesn't mean you can't fit in somewhere else. Everyone has a spot reserved just for them. 

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

When Help Asks for You

One day, I'm riding in the back of the fire engine, because, when you are in the fire department, that's what you do. Then a guy looks at me and says "so, what are you good at?" "Nothing, really" "Come on, everybody's good at something! That guy, was Marcello Trejo. He was good at plenty of things: Fitness. Compassion. Keeping people laughing. He was the kind of person that when he came to mind, I would wonder what kind of extraordinary impact he would have on the entire fire service. He was not the guy I would have thought would have taken his own life. TD Jakes talks in one of his sermons that some people can be going through turmoil and no one ever know it. Are you one of those folks with turmoil hidden behind a smile? Would you know what to do if someone you knew was that person?

When I take a flight, the flight attendant always has in his or her safety briefing that when we lose cabin pressure, first put your mask, then help the person next to you. In the military and in public safety, we rarely do that. Instead, we fail to see how taking care of ourselves, can be the best things we can do to help others. Instead, like a superhero from the 50's or 60's, we set out to save the world on our own. Not realizing that superheroes of today need, and get, help from ordinary people who care about them. 

For the month of Sep, I've decided that every day, I'll do 22 pushups for the military suicides that happen every day. Then another 13 Burpees to represent initiative 13, the Behavioral Health Initiative from the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. I started to video the workouts, but then I thought "I'm no star athlete, what's the point in that?" Instead, every day, I'm going post something I learn about mental health or suicide. A story. A fact. Info about an organization. Sometimes it will be a video, sometimes just an encouraging word.

The challenge I have for you, not to do push-ups. Go learn something new about mental health or suicide, and post on my blog at www.helpasks4u.wordpress.com  Whether the help is for you personally, or if the help is for someone you care about, remember this:

"Ask for Help, because help always asks for you." Marcello Trejo

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

Swimming Lesson

You would think that I would know what to expect by now. Four summers in a row, I have taken my kid to swim lessons. The last two summers, I've avoided being the parent who is too involved in his child’s class. Actually, the instructors don't let any parents in during practice, so I had to find something to do while I wait. I have an ordinary routine: 

o    Drop off the kid to her lessons
o    Swim some laps
o    Sit in the whirlpool
o    Shower
o    Pick up the kid

Last week something different happened before swimming. I got an email from the personnel section in my fire department about the next promotional announcement. Just like that, my ordinary swim routine turned into an answer for this question:  How do you to take on your next challenge in life?

•    Get in the water 

o    After checking the water temp with my big toe before swimming, the cold water did not excite me
o    Committing to doing the preparation for a promotional exam made me shiver at the thought of the work that needed to be done
o    Getting motivated to start a challenge can be trying

•    It will warm up…eventually 

o    After forcing my body not to jump out the water, it acclimated
o    It took me some time to get used to the ideal of beginning my prep for a new challenge
o    Once I did, I got comfortable with the taking new action

•    One stoke at a time

o    I didn't start out swimming a lot of laps; I started out being consistent with small movements
o    I am studying little by little. Day by day. Week by week. Until I reach my goal.  One stroke at a time. One lap at a time.
o    Big success comes from small steps. 

Every day, ordinary people, like you and I, do ordinary things. If we pay attention, we may find extraordinary inspiration to take on new challenges. 

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

The Taciboard

When you're a fire service instructor doing a practical exam, you see all kinds of peculiar things. For instance, two students walk to my hazmat skill station. They have all their gear on. They are carrying their tools. But wait. What is that? I've been in the fire service 16 years and have never seen a tool like this. Picture this: A red, wooden, board. It's flat and is about as long as a typical ax or pro bar. One side had a handle carved into. The other side, metal reinforcement attached with screws. Have you ever seen someone coming towards you and said to yourself, "Here comes the funny story!" I waited patiently to hear the "what had happened" start for this odd invention.
 
"It's the Taciboard!"  "The what!?" I say. The student (we'll call him Fred D. Firefighter) goes on to explain that early on in recruit class, he left his tool behind during training. To assist Fred in remembering the importance of carrying his tool, the instructors gave him a board to carry everywhere. It was simply a plank of a dingy, wooden pallet. Fred took it upon himself to do more with it. That's when he came up with this unique, versatile tool. He listed more uses for this thing than I can recite. 
 
When's the last time you owned a mistake you've made? When is the last time you've seen the opportunity in your challenge?  Most people would have seen carrying this board as just an ordinary recruit school punishment. Instead, Fred made an extraordinary new tool based on a new challenge. You don't have to be a teacher to provide a worthwhile lesson. In this case, here's Fred’s lesson for us: Life's challenges give you a chance to find opportunity. Ordinary people do extraordinary things. 

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

Where Are The Instructions?

Everything was gathered in front of us: Eggs. Water. Oil. Cooking spray. A pan. And of course, cake mix. My youngest daughter and I had items ready, as per the standard operation procedures of cupcake making in our home. We are set to begin operation 'ultimate cupcake'. What makes our cupcakes ‘ultimate’? People may not be willing to put 10 lbs of stuff into a 5 lbs bag, but I'm willing to put 24 servings of cupcake batter into a 12 serving pan.  
 
Aside for the last part, I'm pretty good at following instructions. After years in the military, followed by years in the fire service, I have had plenty of practice. Give me instructions to a task I have never done, and I'll probably figure it out. But what do you when there are no instructions? For things like, how to be a dad? Sure there are self-help books jumping off the shelves for parenting. Where is the one for your specific model of kid? 
 
Despite all of the specific instruction I 've had in my two careers, those careers have also helped me figure out how to work without instructions. I use the acronym RPM. (because, after 14 years in the military, and 16 years in the fire service, how could I resist making my own acronym).  I use this regularly for being a dad, but it can be applied to other aspects of life, such as leadership
 
1.    Read
o    No, you can't find all the answers you need in a book. Yes, you can find useful info that can help you. It is a starting point. Reading will not always give you answers, but it can give you ideals. Things change, parenting changes, leadership situations change. You better be changing to keep up. Keeping your reading list current will help with this.
 
2.    Playbook
o    Slide tray. Template. Script. Whatever you want to call it. People who have been in the military and/or fire service know how to take prior experience, and come up with a general-use guide for getting through situations. I say general, because sometimes the play is broken; it doesn't go as planned. But it can still be made to work. And now the play is improved.   
 
3.    Mentor
o    Get a counsel of wise people. In a TED talk video, Bruce Feiler, a dad dying of cancer, found a group of dads to mentor his kids after he passed on from his illness. We all need a group of people wiser than us to prepare us for what is ahead. Having one mentor is not enough. This group needs to be as diverse as you want your life to be. Take their wisdom. See the possibilities.  
 
There are a number of life areas that you will have to make things happen without directions on the box. Whenever you’re operating out of the box, try using RPM for ultimate leadership, or ultimate cupcakes. Life needs more of both.  

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

 

Ordinary People

"You know; this is a bigger deal than you think." That's what I tell my wife as she gets ready for her second interview. For the second time in one day, I've been asked "Are you Veronica Baskerville's husband?" I’ve heard this question many times in our 12 years of marriage, but not from reporters.  

The evening before, my wife went from hearing the piercing sounds of laughter and joy at a baby shower, to the ringing in her ears of gun shots piercing the air. One of those shots landed in the shoulder of a 7-year-old kid. My wife rendered aid to the kid until public safety arrived on the scene to take over. So automatic was her response to give aide, it didn't register for her to even talk about it later that evening. Honestly, with each of us being in the public safety for 16 yrs. each, we each have forgotten most of these stories before getting home. It’s “Just another day at the office.”

On this first day of National EMS week (15-21 May), I'm reminded that of the many ways to group people in the world. I have found yet another paring. There are those people in public safety that have these ordinary days. On duty or not. Career or volunteer.  Full time, part-time, or per call. And will always answer the call to action.

And then there are the people not in public safety. People who see our ordinary day as extraordinary. And appreciate that someone is doing these ordinary things that have an extraordinary impact. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the embodiment of public service for 16 years in my wife. Despite her claims of being an ordinary person, I have always known her extraordinary impact.

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

Get Me Down From Here

There is no way I am doing that! That was my initial thought. I was in high school living in the European country of Belgium when we went to a dimly lit roller skating rink. I was there with a group of friends and parents. Skating rinks were nothing new, but this one had something different. This mountain of a ramp. At least one story high. You could slingshot down it and out onto the main floor. Why on earth would I do that? Apparently, my brain did not convey that thought down to the rest of my body in time to stop me from getting up there. I found myself at the top of ‘skate mountain’, looking down. There was no way to go back if I wanted to. My mom looked on, probably with hopes that she spoke enough French to get me to a hospital in case this didn't work out as planned. 
 
Years later, I'm at it again. I shouldn't be surprised. This time it was a hot, summer day at a busy pool in Germany. I'm standing on the diving board a few stories high. The smell of chlorine in the water makes it all the way up to me. I was excited about jumping off...until I got to the top. Have you ever been really excited about jumping into something new, only to find yourself not sure if excitement or fear is what you're feeling? Suddenly, out of nowhere, a kid half my age bumps me out of the way as he makes his jump. Ready or not, I'm about to go over. 
 
Yet again, I managed to find myself in an elevated place. This time, it's walking onto an empty stage. It's the Howard Theater in Washington DC. The stage maybe empty, but the audience is not. Sold out. There were over 100 sets of eyeballs and ears looking and listening. It was the second time I was able to speak at The Moth Storytelling event. An event where people tell stories based on a theme. Personal, true stories. And I began to tell a story that I had never thought I would share with anyone. Five minutes is a long time when you are opening the vault of your thoughts. All the while, hoping your story can inspire at least one person. 
 
At each one of these points in my life, I took on an exciting, new challenge. A challenge that that, once I got there, I was no longer sure I wanted. Have you ever had doubts about the very event you had been longing to do? How did you move yourself forward? Or did you? If you didn't, here is what helped me:
 
o    Get a Supporter
•    Sometimes, you need just one person that has more faith in you to have faith in yourself
•    It doesn't hurt if they also have a plan for fixing you up just in case
o    Get a Kickstarter
•    Sometimes, you need one person who, just when you need it, will nudge (or push unexpectedly) you to get going
o    Get a Big idea
•    Doing things just for you is fine
•    In those moments of paralyzing fear, however, having someone or something more important than yourself may be what you need to get momentum
 
In each case, I went to a high place in my life that set up my potential. I just needed a spark to move from potential to reality. How are you going to release your potential?  

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

 

The Drive to Develop Leadership

Have you ever thought of owning your dream car? Think of that for a moment. The perfect year, make, model, color, and whatever else is a must have for you. For me, it would be a 1969 Pontiac Trans AM. Chrome wheels, immaculate paint, and in pristine condition. Problem is, if I found that car today, in that condition, I couldn't afford it.   

Instead, I would be looking for a car in need of repair. I would put in the needed work to bring out all of the best qualities of it. It would take time and hard work, but at the end of it, my dream would be a reality. That's what it is like to build up leadership in a person. It doesn't matter if that is yourself or someone else. No one starts off completed. We all have our various flaws. But with hard work and a time investment, we can maximize the leadership potential inside of us and the people around us. Are you ready to get you leadership skills to show room condition?

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

What I Know Now About Leadership

"That's how you plan to handle that? That is the response I got from the drill instructor when he asked me how I was going to handle a problem that just happened in the dorm. It was somewhere around the fall/winter of 1992. I was all of 17 years old. And within a few months of being in basic training for the Air Force, I choose to lead about 50 recruits as the dorm chief. The other guy didn't fare so well. For the life of me, I have no idea why I decided to take the leadership plunge.

I take that back; I know why I did. No one else would. Life had already taught me that one way to make sure to stay around for a while is to do the jobs no one else will. I didn't know it then, but that was a pivotal moment in my training to be a leader.

The question the drill Instructor asked me dealt with how am I going to fix a particular problem if I couldn't get people to listen to me. My answer was to tell him the problem so he could handle it. The tone of his voice clued me into the notion that was not the response he was looking for. What I didn't understand at the time was he was looking for me handle it. But I had no ideal by how.

I've heard that experience comes from how you have had to work through trails and/or fix your mistakes. In the following weeks, I gained a lot of experience. Here's what I now know about leadership:

1.      Leadership is figure-outable

I didn't have the right leadership answer for the drill Instructor that day, but I have learned a better answer over time thanks to experience. It's amazing what you can find in you when forced to look.

2.      Everyone has potential to be a leader

Not everyone knows it. Not everyone has the same level of leader capabilities. It's a process of self-discovery.

3.      Getting to really know people is one way to be a better leader for them

Connect people's values to the direction you need to go. if you don't know the people well enough, you will struggle with this.

4.      Finally, leadership is a transferable credit

I took those lessons in leadership from the military, and have put them to use in the fire service to help move individuals, and hopefully organizations forward.

 Now, how do you plan to handle your next leadership question?

About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.