A Lesson In Value From First Responders

2017 has been anything but quiet for natural disasters. We have had hurricanes, earthquakes, drought, floods and most recently;  the strong Santa Ana winds blowing over southern California creating the third largest disastrous wildfire on record. More than 200,000 acres of land have been burned, over 8,000 firefighters with heavy equipment and helicopters are doing whatever it takes to keep growing the percentage of fires contained in the area; and still, only 35% of the wildfires are contained.

During this time, we marvel at the courage, strength, dedication and commitment of First Responders and those who support them. Firefighters, local police and paramedics are risking their lives working around the clock and through the night to help save families and evacuate people from the raging fires that are rapidly spreading and destroying everything in their path. Their impact is evident as lives are saved, homes secured, people and animals are transported to safety. When people ask these men and women what they do and they say “I’m a fireman,” “I’m a first responder,” or “I’m a paramedic,” we are grateful and express our thanks for their bravery, efforts, contributions and heroic acts.

All of this led me to think about the everyday heroes who we work with, sit next to in our community and meet in business. What do they say when they are asked, “What do you do?” and how do we respond when they say, “I’m a lawyer,” “I’m a garbage man,” “I’m an electrician,” or “I’m a secretary?” We often do not get to see or take time to think about their impact and we likely don’t consider them heroes. Why not? 

“The power you have is to be the best version of yourself you can be, so you can create a better world.”

Ashley Rickards

In today’s society, we have become obsessed with the title we have earned and assign value to that title based on “what we do.” But do we really care about “what” people do? Or do we truly care about “the impact” of what people do? Are we in awe of the first responder who works to save human lives from all types of dangerous and risky situations? You bet. But we are also in awe because we know their impact to our community and personal safety.

What about the librarian who guides us to the stories which enrich our lives, make us smarter and feed our imaginations? What about the cleaning crew who keeps our office clean so that we feel good when we walk into our offices because it’s neat, orderly and smells nice? What about the handyman who fixes that which don’t understand or have time to deal with and makes our lives easier, less stressed and more convenient?

Each and every one of us has the opportunity to personally and professionally impact life and the lives around us. Are there jobs and actions which garner more fanfare and public admiration? Of course. But there are no scorecards for value when you consider impact. In other words, just because you don’t put out fires, doesn’t mean you’re not heroic. Just because you don’t run into a hurricane versus away from it doesn’t mean you don’t have value. And just because you don’t score TD’s, teach children or perform surgery, doesn’t mean you don’t make an impact.



  • Use this time of year to reflect on your impact. Look at what you’ve “done” this year and ask, “what’s been my impact?” Avoid grading or comparing. Just accept the impact you’ve made and embrace it.

  • Use 2017 to focus on the New Year and consider what will propel you to make an impact in 2018. Integrate this information into real goal setting which you can achieve and measure.

  • Focus on personal and professional impact but be sure to keep them separate.  Recognizing these individually allows you to avoid blurring lines of value which so often we do when we tie our work to our personal value.

  • Write this all down. Make it real and share it with those close to you. This helps drive accountability as well as empowerment and motivation.

When we were kids, many of us pretended to be nurses, doctors, policemen, firemen, athletes, etc. They were our superheroes because of what we saw them do and the impact they had. Guess what, we all have a little superhero in us and we don’t need to pretend any more. We are parents, hard working people, friends, family members, coworkers and we all have value and make an impact; we just need to take time to think about it and appreciate it.


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