*Picture from likesuccess.com
Another year, another FDIC in the books. I didn’t attend this year. Maybe I will again, maybe not. The reasons are perhaps best saved for another post when I feel like committing professional suicide. But, in watching this years FDIC through the lens of social media I think I made the right decision to stay home this year. I may have gotten in trouble.
You see, there is great training to be had once a year in Indy. There is knowledge to be had and insights to be gained. There are also colossal wastes of time. And it is difficult to know the difference from reading a course title and description. Heck, sometimes even knowing the instructor personally backfires as a litmus test for whether or not to invest one’s time in a classroom or HOT class. I guess it is what it is. Not everyone is a great instructor ( even at the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference [that’s what it means in case some of you didn’t know]) and not every class is ground shaking and world changing. The truth of the matter is it’s a huge business. Either for an existing business or for one that hopes to get going. And for many instructors that teach at FDIC it is the latter that draws them.
I admit that at one time it was a goal of mine to teach at the Super Bowl of fire service training, as many have described it. I wanted to be known, respected, rub elbows with the biggest of the big names. All of that has since changed for me, personally. I no longer desire any of that. There are many that do and I guess that’s ok, depending on your motivation. Now, I don’t begrudge anyone making a buck or two. I actually think it’s a God-given, American right to do so. And if a gig at FDIC makes your side-business take off, more power to you. Or if your side-business leads you to a gig at FDIC, more power to you. But I guess I’d ask what is that side-gig? Is it providing good, solid, foundational training? Is it trying to start a movement that corrects an issue in the industry? Is it providing a support service for those of us in the industry? Or is it providing a side-show? Douchebaggery, I believe one post I saw described it as. Is it dressing up in silly costumes and parading around drumming up business for yourself? Is it stumping for any manufacturer of any thing (often dressed up in that silly costume)? Is it giving out as many of your t-shirts/ challenge coins/ stickers/ whatevers as possible so your “brand” gets out there more? Seemed like it by much of what I saw.
If you’re providing something back to the fire service I guess handing out all that stuff is ok. Obviously manufacturers do it in order to convince you they are the best provider of your next fire apparatus/ SCBA/ bunker gear/ whatever. And if you provide training through classes/ books/ videos/ whatever I get it too. But it’s these individuals and organizations that provide nothing back but a website or brand that represents what? Themselves? That they, the individual, is the greatest dragon slayer/ blog writer/ postulator/ whatever. I’ll admit, when I was putting a lot of effort into this blog and was about to attend FDIC I thought about making a t-shirt to advertise the blog. Figured I’d wear it around and maybe get recognized, maybe network a bit, maybe draw new readers to the site. But I couldn’t do it. It felt…. I dunno…. greasy or something to me. Because, you see, I don’t really provide anything back to the fire service. I write my opinions, provide some thoughts, maybe even a little bit of actual training that might help someone somewhere along the line. But that’s really it. This blog is an outlet for me, not a business.
Notoriety, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is; the condition of being famous or well-known especially for something bad : the state of being notorious. Many people use this word incorrectly and have a misunderstanding of its meaning. They confuse notoriety with fame, which is defined as the condition of being known or recognized by many people. See that subtle difference there? Notoriety gets you fame for doing something dumb, usually. Fame can also get you notoriety, also after doing something dumb. So, are you walking around FDIC feeling all smug because of your notoriety? Whoops. Or are you pretty secure in your fame, until it turns into notoriety? Also, whoops.
Here’s what I’ve decided for me personally. I can have the type of impact I want to have for my fire service career by training the probies that come into my department, by being a good instructor in our Training Division, by continually improving myself and learning and by passing on my knowledge and experiences. I don’t need FDIC to do that. I can do that right here at home in my department and the departments in the general area that train with us. I may write something here or share something on the Facebook page that helps someone. That’s my reward. That’s what I’m looking to do. I’m looking to make a difference, not sell a product or an image.
If one of your goals is to teach at FDIC or any other trade conference or show ask yourself why you are aspiring to that. Fame? Notoriety? To make a difference? Only you know for sure.