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.