Friday, April 16, 2010

The Personal Strengths of a Texas Firefighter

"I'm not going to lie: I enjoy fighting fire. There's an adrenaline rush--it's exhilarating. I hate to say it, because property is being destroyed, and it is horrible when someone is displaced or when people or animals lose their lives. But in the midst of battle, I'm having a good time." ("Adam Ohler, 30: Firefighter and Paramedic," as told to Kirsten Salyer, Texas Monthly, December 2009)

I was transfixed by this account from Adam Ohler, a firefighter and paramedic working in West University Place, Texas, which is near the heart of Houston. I admire firefighters as much as I admire law enforcement officers or our uniformed men and women who risk their lives serving our country overseas. It takes character--personal strength--to do what they do. So to have this insider's look was spellbinding--one of the reasons I'll probably never cancel my subscription to the Texas Monthly.

But I was also fascinated for another reason. By telling his story, he illustrated several personal strengths that someone like Adam would need to do what he has to do.

COMPASSION - "You have to have an altruistic nature, to want to help people. I thrive on that good feeling, to know that I made a difference in a person's life today."

PERSEVERANCE - "In 1998 I got certified for firefighting at the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy, and after volunteering for a year as a firefighter, I got a degree in fire science and then went to paramedic school."

COOPERATION - "The station operates like a family. You hang out, play practical jokes on each other, end up forming lifelong friendships. And when you get a call, you rely on that camaraderie. You need to like each other and know what each person is capable of to make a call go safely."

COURAGE - "Every scene is chaotic. Period. It's always chaos, and I've never met a firefighter who was fearless. We've all been in a situation where we're not sure we're going to go home."

COMPOSURE - "After you see a few bad things, you start to go, 'Okay. That was okay. I did all right.' And you build on that. After a while, once you've seen a hundred dead people, you learn not to think about it too much."

While it's true that all the personal strengths become necessary at one point or another, some are needed more often.

This is applies to every walk of life, depending on what a person is involved in - school teachers, managers, artists, parents, small business owners, athletes, and hundreds more. Each needs to be consistently strong in different ways.

What kind of work do you do? Which personal strengths are most important to succeeding in what you do?

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Photo licensed for use on this blog by

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