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From time to time, our readers and followers find issue with our blogs and posts, especially when the quote comes from someone who has found their actions to less than stellar. I understand the frustration, but I also know I need to cite the words that I choose. I could make the citation smaller, but I give full credit to the person cited.

About ever three years, I get someone who really challenges a quote we use, more importantly the person cited. In the past I deleted the controversial meme. I try to provide quotes I think will "fly," but who knows everything about everyone. That doesn't work either. After all, what appeals to me doesn't necessarily appeal to others. One follower wanted to know who I was quoting (pretty sure they had access to Google...). So, I turned to FB to see what our followers had to say. Here is the question and the comments we received:

We occasionally get pushback about a quote we share. How do view quotes from someone with a less than stellar past?
  • Keep on making a difference! What is offered can be taken or ignored. It is the reader’s choice. Carry-on!
  • Strong leaders build people up, inspire, and motivate. Weak leaders break people down, cast judgement, are condescending, and criticize. Everyone has failed or made mistakes at some point or another. Great leadership requires a high level of humility.
  • I could give two rats ass who said something. The value is in what was said and it's meaning not whose lips were flappin' at the time it was uttered.
  • Everyone has a past, stellar or not, it’s not necessarily their actions then that define them, it’s the actions and steps they’ve taken since. Many motivating quotes come from times when someone is downtrodden and at a low point. Those points did not define them it is what came from them next that made them exceptional leaders. Good leaders pick themselves up and continue on, great leaders pick up those around them and move them forward into the future leadership roles.
  • Everyone has a past. Perhaps a less than stellar past is what motivates their leadership. Influencing others in a positive way.
  • I have always wondered this question...I come from some kind of a past. I just know how people look up to me now. I know how to look at each one differently. Humility, I like that word and practice it every day
  • Well that's true people emulate the ones that they learn from if you Foster a teaching environment then everybody wins at the end of the day
  • We all have a story and different chapters. Sometimes we might want to skip a page or 2. There is value in words.
  • Even a broken clock is accurate two times a day.
  • If it works, motivates or gets people thinking it shouldn't matter.
  • Effective leadership often times comes from the morally bankrupt...it does not mean the words they speak hold no truth.
I was humbled by the responses and encouraged that most in our forum can glean wisdom from a message without getting caught up in the person behind the quote. I am not diminishing the importance of the person behind the quote. That does matter, but I challenge you to see beyond the person and consider the words. There is plenty of room to debate the quotes themselves without where they came from. (That is the glory of our forum: healthy debate!)

We are not the only ones who get confronted about what we post. Here is a little nugget I found from a e-newsletter I follow. They calmed my soul and gave me fuel to continue to journey. May you find them useful as well.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth when it comes to wisdom. Take it wherever you can get it. Just because a certain athlete has a messed up personal life doesn’t mean their poise on the court isn’t worthy of study and emulation. Just because a person in a different era with different standards did some bad things (or believe bad things) doesn’t mean they didn’t do many good things and we should feel no guilt being inspired by the latter. Even if someone actively disagrees with what you believe, their actions in one situation or another may well confirm the very belief you hold dear. There is always something to learn and we should always be open to that. (Daily Stoic)
About the Author: Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.
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People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. - John C. Maxwell

[Photo: Kari Greer/USFS]
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One person can make a difference and everyone should try. - John F. Kennedy

[Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS]
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As we approach the end of the calendar year, many will attend gatherings to honor fellow co-workers moving into a new phase of life—retirement. In many cases, retirements mean vacancies to be filled, yet another new phase of life. Just like fire operations, handling the transition is critical. We may only have one shot to do it right.

Those entering new phases of life are faced with the adjustments and stress like finding a purpose or new home, learning a new job or not having a job at all, meeting new people, finding their way in an unfamiliar environment, etc. The journey can be a smooth one or one bumpy ride. Ego is one of those things that can impair our ability to connect with others and make a smooth transition.

Before you make any transition, make sure create a transition plan. Ego can tell you there is not reason to plan. That everything will be work out just fine (and it may...). A little humility (maybe a lot) gives you the room for vulnerability. Vulnerability allows you to connect with yourself and others who know the other side of the transition than you do. Vulnerability allows you to say, I still have much to learn and there are others who have the key to gaining said knowledge.

Whatever your transition, be sure you have a plan—a plan that includes humility, empathy, love, and compassion. I share with you Jonathan Gravenor's TedX talk "The Other Side of Ego."  I have heard similar stories from others within the wildland fire service. With that, watch for yourself. 


Digging a Little Deeper
  • Is your ego driving your life or are you in control?
  • What matters most in your life? Are you giving it your full attention?
  • Make space in your life for silence.
  • We are never to old to be a child.
  • We are never to busy to embrace humanity.
  • Is there someone you need to engage and give of your greatest asset—your time.
  • For more of Jonathan's story, read his book The Other Side of Ego: From Cancer to Consciousness."
"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words awaitanother voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
— T.S. Eliot

I do care if you live or die! Go out and live those million amazing moments!
About the Author: Pam McDonald is a writer/editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.
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The best leaders are life-long students of leadership. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 60

Photo credit: Ben Eby
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"Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one." - Benjamin Franklin
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