Every time I teach a class – I have a habit of asking about practical skills. The question is always the same – how many of you are confident with skill XYZ.
“How many of you are confident with conventional forcible entry?”
“How many of you are confident with ground ladders?”
“How many of you are confident with running a saw on a roof?”
Whenever I ask in a group of 25 or 30 like during the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy Truck Academy, there’s almost no response. Occasionally you’ll see one or two start to raise their hand and then immediately put it down when they realize no one else is raising their hand with them.
There’s a saying that the line between confidence and arrogance is very fine… But somewhere along the way, we’ve created a mantra in the fire service where even confident people are reluctant to say they’re confident in their skills. I see it at fire classes, the full-time firehouse, and the volunteer firehouse.
No one is reluctant to say they’re confident at tying their shoes or changing brakes on their car, but when we ask if they’re confident with a ground
ladder, or with a pro-bar, there is silence. Kids that are confident in tying shoes will RUSH to tie a shoe for someone because they take PRIDE in the fact that they emphatically know the task at hand and want to show it off for you. Why are we acting any different when most of the fire service are kids who never wanted to grow up?? It’s OK to be confident. It’s GREAT to be confident. We should be encouraging people to take pride in knowing their job so good that they’re confident enough to say so. If they aren’t that good or confident, then we should be making sure they know the deficiencies and getting them to the confident point.
If you’re confident in your skills – be proud of it. If you’re not, work on it. If you’re not working on it, you’re promoting mediocrity in a business that NONE of us should be OK with mediocrity.