New Year... New Perspective... New Life

New Year... New Perspective... New Life

I found myself on my knees, head in my hands, in the dark, alone and trembling...not from the cold but from a gut piercing fear...If you’ve ever been there you know what I’m talking about. It’s not a fear for your life, it’s a fear that this is your life!

It was almost one year ago to the date... I was 44 years old, weary, confused, terribly unhappy and scared. No, I was terrified to the core about my life, my future, and the well-being of my wife and two young boys. I was in my bedroom and alone with my thoughts. How had I gotten to this point? I’d always made what I thought were sound life decisions without, athletics, a successful sales career, several very rewarding years in the bail bond and recovery business. A good life, full of travel, great friends, a solid family, a loving supportive wife and two beautiful sons. And yet here I was on the eve of another New Year in utter despair and absolute confusion.

“I’d been so clear about what I wanted to do and yet here I was lost, confused and struggling to find meaning in my life…”

This wasn’t supposed to be the plan, I’d checked all the right boxes along the way. I looked around at my friends, most of whom were in the prime of their careers, thriving and prospering. I just felt empty, like something was missing, like a part of me was missing. The road ahead looked less like a well-travelled path and more like a goat trail, long since forgotten, marred by deep ruts and hidden by bramble bushes. There was no sense of confidence in my step and I was paralyzed by fear and indecision. As I friend of mine said, “You’ve lost your mojo.” In reality, I’d lost sight of who I was or perhaps more aptly who I was meant to be.

I remember that I reluctantly accepted an invitation to a pre-Christmas BBQ with friends. I was in no mood to celebrate but these were dear friends and in hindsight I needed an outlet. As I sat in the backyard talking to a fire captain friend I started to pour my heart out, tears streamed down my face as I spoke about the missed opportunities in my life, about my dream of being a paramedic about my deep passion of caring for others and about my uncertain future. He stopped me mid-sentence… the simple impact of the moment and his words will give me chills until day I die. “Stop” he said, “If you want this, I will help you”. Nine simple words that took my breath and changed my life.

One year later, here I am, 45 years old and on the precipice of the greatest adventure of my life. In less than a month I begin the one-year commitment to become a firefighter. I’ll enter the fire academy with a group of 20 somethings full of piss and vinegar and God willing, change the rest of my life. In doing so perhaps I’ll also fulfill my dream of being able to change the lives of those I touch. I’m full of hope, full of direction, full of confidence and full of purpose. It hasn’t been an easy year….hours of preparation, EMT classes, fire technology courses, training, late nights studying, travel and time away from the family. All of this has been done while working to support a family, maintaining balance in my marriage and nurturing the lives of two young boys. I mention this not for one bit of admiration or accolade but only to provide context to how transformative this process has been for me. I couldn’t have accomplished this a year ago, I was frozen. So what was the secret behind the transformation?

I’ve had so many people ask what I’ve done to prepare. How did you get yourself ready? They want to know about the physical training, my diet and exercise, the medical and fire courses, etc.. And while I could talk for hours about the Crossfit training, my conversion to a Paleo diet, the yoga, the running regimen and so on, it really had very little to do with those things. The challenge for me was mental not physical.

Here are the five simple but critical things I learned over the last year that made all the difference in my life and allowed me to stay focused on my dream. Please, take it from me, don’t wait for the new year to implement change in your life. Apply these today and start your own transformation. You too can chase your dreams and change your life!

1) Focus on the future not the past...look forward not back

I wish I’d adopted this philosophy sooner in life. Carrying around the baggage of missed opportunities and broken dreams will drain your lifeblood. We spend so much time focusing on what could have been and inventing excuses for why we didn’t do something or why it’s too late, that we literally destroy future opportunities. Not a day went by over the last 10 years that I didn’t think about a career in the fire service. How different would my life be today had I stopped making excuses for why I couldn’t pursue my dream and then languishing in the guilt of not taking action. Reflect and learn from the past but “always” remain focused on the future. Live and act upon your dreams!

2) Do something small every day

Small steps lead to big accomplishments… it’s how I'm approaching the academy. A year is a long time. If I stop to consider the number of days, hours or missed weekends away from family over the coming year it’s overwhelming. When tackling a large task, focus just on what’s in front of you. Break any seemingly monumental challenge into manageable steps. It’s like the old adage...How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Remember, a 10,000 mile journey begins with one step. Take the first step!

3) Set attainable goals

This is and always has been a challenge for me. I’ve generally tended to bite off a bit more than I could chew. Some call it a drive for overachievement, I think it’s overconfidence. The key here is not to set yourself up for failure. This seems obvious but be sure you can attain the goals you set. Setting goals that are unrealistic and ultimately unattainable only erodes your confidence, it creates a toxic mental state that paralyzes action. For example my initial instinct with the fire academy was to chose the shortest possible path... 12 straight weeks, M-F, 4:30AM - 9:00PM while it seemed like the quickest option, it wasn’t a “realistic goal”. The strain on my family and inability to provide income would have been catastrophic. Ultimately, I chose a one-year academy with a part time option that was still challenging but far more manageable.

4) Give yourself permission to fail, learn and move forward

Failure in life is inevitable. Without failure there can be no growth. If you believe that you cannot fail or that it’s a sign of weakness or inadequacy you’ve already lost. It goes back to my original point… I was so focused on the failures throughout my 40+ years on this planet that I was paralyzed into inactivity, paralysis by analysis. The realization that all that you are and all that you will become rests on your ability to learn and adapt from failure, is both liberating and empowering. Learn from your mistakes, adapt and move on without regret!

5) Enjoy the process - Life is a marathon not a sprint!

The fire academy is paramilitaristic. There’s a lot of pain, yelling, systematic breakdown and rewiring that takes place as we cadets are reprogrammed… “I” becomes “We” and “Me” becomes “Team”. I’d be lying to myself if I believed that the next year was going to happen without some real low points, hardship and agony. But that’s life isn’t it? No one promised it would be easy. It’s a long road with peaks and valleys. You must learn to enjoy or at a minimum accept all of it. It’s the valleys that define who we are and make the destination even sweeter.

In closing, I have two things to say. First, don’t wait for New Years and another round of unrealistic resolutions to begin your transformation. Regardless of the size of the goal or challenge embrace a new mindset, a new attitude and the simple steps above to realize your dreams. If I can do this at the ripe old age of 45, so can you. Second, I have to take a moment and pause to thank all of you who have shown me so much support and provided truly inspiring feedback to my posts over the past several months. You will never know how big a role you played in this process. The words and the actions of all who serve have provided me with unspeakable motivation and determination. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Happy New Year,

Leave a comment:

Mavel R.

12/30/2014 11:37 AM

Thank You Scott, you just gave me the support and inspiration I needed. God bless your soul and your family today, tomorrow ALWAYS and FOREVER.

Scott S.

1/4/2015 1:39 PM

No, thank you! It's comments like yours that give "me" incredible support and drive each and every day. I wish you the very best in all your endeavors. Never stop reaching for your dreams!

Sasha W.

12/30/2014 7:17 PM

Scott, welcome to the brotherhood that is the American Fire Service. Your life experience will serve you well. Your positive attitude and appreciation for serving others will help you overcome the challenges ahead.

Scott S.

1/4/2015 2:02 PM

Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement. Im my mind I still have a long way to go before I can consider my self part of the "brotherhood" but I'm beyond grateful for your support and welcoming words. It's my dream to one day be able to stand side by side with my brothers and sisters in the fire service. It's that dream and the encouragement of people like yourself that keeps me on task every day.

Scott E.

12/30/2014 10:42 PM

I started at 47. Always keep learning. Seize the privilege to serve whenever it's presented to you. Life is uncertain. Hang tough.

Scott S.

1/4/2015 2:09 PM

Incredibly inspiring words. Individuals like yourself who started later in life provide me with tremendous fuel to succeed. There are so many doubters in this world it's easy to get pulled down by the naysayers. You've proven that anything is possible. I'm honored and grateful for your response and encouragement. I'll carry your words with me through the academy and beyond. Thank you!!

Carlos C.

12/31/2014 6:30 AM

I needed to see this. I am at the place where I lay awake at night with tears rolling down my face. As my wife lays next to me in the dark. She doesn't know the man next to her is broken down and beaten. I cry myself to sleep. Thinking my boys won't have a father to bring to career day. I have wanted to become a police officer ever since the age of 18. I I have the schooling and training but, just can not land a job.

Vern T.

12/31/2014 9:04 AM

I have been in the police service for over 32 years and have enjoyed a great career. There have been many disappointing moments where I have tested for other jobs; had the education, training and experience and was not selected. Keep your head high and don't lose sight of your goal to become an police officer, and do not lose sight of what is really important...your family and the support that they give you every day.

Scott S.

1/4/2015 2:28 PM

Where do I even start? Tears are steaming down my face as I read your post because I've been right there brother. It's a dark place, I know firsthand and it's one that leaves you with more questions than answers... DO NOT STOP PURSUING YOUR DREAM. There were so many days when I thought "well, thats it time to choose a different path" the trick is persistence and focus. As the individual below put so perfectly don't lose sight of your goal. I cannot begin to tell you how many people in the fire service told me they'd reached the end of the line with tests, interviews and deadends and then suddenly... whamo, here comes the call that led to their dream job. Hang in there, find support in others and lean on your wife and family, they will provide you with the motivation to continue on. I was reluctant to share my situation and feelings with even my own wife and now she's become my biggest supporter and advocate. You will accomplish your goal! One last thing... please keep me abreast of your progress. You can email me anytime at scottgovx@gmail I have a feeling your going to have one hell of a story to tell and one that I think others are going to need to hear. Stay the course.. Godspeed and God Bless!

Laura S.

12/31/2014 7:13 AM

Scott...thanks for being my supporting friend by the campfire that said stop!!! Im 55 and am embarking on my journey to my lifes desire of being a fitness & lifestyle coach. Always looking forward. God bless you and yours with the best year ever!!! Happy 2015!!!!

Scott S.

1/4/2015 2:38 PM

Outstanding! Thank you for sharing. I think we all need that "campfire friend" who's able to shake us to the core and wake us up. It truly is never too late as your proving. I can't tell you how much I respect your drive and ambition. It takes incredible effort as you know all too well. I love hearing stories like your's they're the inspiration that carries me every day. Follow your passion, pursue your dreams and provide a beacon so that others may find the way. God bless you my friend. I hope that not just this year but every year brings the happiness, fulfillment and reward you seek. Always looking forward...Thank you!

Donald M.

12/31/2014 11:00 AM

Thanks for sharing, Scott. Great story and what I needed to hear at the start of a new year. Retired Air Force aircraft maintainer. Couple of years before I retired, I started suffering from what the AF called a "mood disorder". Fisrt few years after retirement were okay, but things rapidly spiraled out of control. My biggest problem was adapting to civilian life. I grew up in the AF and have had an ID since I was 10 years old. Just have to say that I'm no longer going to look back. I'm taking your advice and moving forward. God Bless. FYI, my father was a retired Air Force Firefighter.

Josh F.

12/31/2014 12:47 PM

Good for you, bro & thanks for sharing. After 15 years on the job, I've learned quite a bit but you need to only remember 2 things: 1) Grow up or 2) Become a firefighter You can't do both. Welcome to the brotherhood.

Cecilia S.

1/1/2015 6:44 AM

AWESOME!!! Yeah, "old fart" I'm 46 and need motivation. I love your comment about starting small. Many times we try to jump in with both feet and run a marathon.

Jeffrey C.

1/1/2015 6:56 AM

Awesome words Scott! I always love reading something positive about someone achieving a goal, especially in a world where it seems we don't read to hear as much positivity. Ive been in the fire service full time for almost 5 years now and I absolutley love going to work. I hope you get to experience a career as a firefighter. With your motivation you'll be great! God bless

william c.

1/6/2015 9:29 AM

Brother, I know exactly how you felt! I was in the same situation about a year ago. I spent time in the Marine Corps, owned my own business and figured I had the best life ever. Then one dreary day a dear friend of mine came to me and noticed I wasn't the same high energy, adrenaline driven person he knew from years passed! He asked me what I wanted from life and at that moment it hit me...I wanted to be a fire fighter. I figured that would put me in a position to make the ultimate impact on people's lives! Much like yourself Scott, before I knew it, I was neck deep in the training and classes necessary to become a firefighter. I'm sad to say that my dear friend and beloved Chief has since passed away, but everyday I'm on the job, I celebrate and thank him for the gift he gave me! If I can make a difference in just one persons life, then I know I've made the right choice! Brother keep your head held high...We are Fire Fighter's and belong to the greatest Brotherhood known to man!

Adriana R.

1/6/2015 6:45 PM

Wow awesome!! Got chills reading this, I'm in the same boat and I know my hard work will pay off

Adriana R.

1/6/2015 6:45 PM

Wow awesome!! Got chills reading this, I'm in the same boat and I know my hard work will pay off

Robert M.

1/10/2015 1:04 PM

Just what I needed to read! In the past week I entered EMT school, and became a probationary volunteer at my local EMS station. It all starts here, I'm a little nervous about school, but I know I can do it. I really struggle with failure, so what you said was a great reminder to learn from it, and move forward. Thank you for sharing such an encouraging post! Good luck and God bless you in your career pursuit!

Daniel C.

1/11/2015 6:22 PM

Thank you for sharing your story, just reading it has made me strive and work on my goals to become an airline pilot, your words are the encouragement I needed to be able to push myself ahead, Thank you.

Damien C.

1/12/2015 10:04 AM

Good luck on your new adventure! It was the best decision I ever made, you wont regret it. I started "late" as well 32 to be exact , which is late in most departments. You seem to be ready for the challenge. Don't let the 20 somethings bother you. You bring life experience to the party, it's invaluable. In those low moments you referred to, remember this . It's a calling , one that few care to answer. In doing so you become something more than yourself. You become part of a brotherhood that will always be there. " A man has no greater gift to give than his life , for his fellow man." Embrace and accept this concept and you will be fine. Once again good luck and welcome to best job in the world.

Steve M.

1/12/2015 12:02 PM

I felt as though I was reading my biography when I read this. My story mirrors yours. I am 36, I owned my own businesstuff and had to let it go because if the economy. Depressed doesn't even begin to describe the dark place I was in. I am now in Paramedic & and fire 1 & 2 (yes, both at the same time). Life has taken on new meaning and I can not imagine doing anything else. If only I hadn't been a hard headed southern Irish boy when I was young I might have been able to have a longer career in this field. That's my only regret at this point. Your advice and story are both inspirational. I hope more read your story. Thanks for being vulnerable enough to share.

James B.

1/12/2015 12:58 PM

Roll on Scott! I was a volunteer firefighter/emt for many years. Part of that time I was also on active duty in the Air Force. Unfortunately, medical issues prevented me from becoming a full time Dragon Slayer when I retired from active duty. I still get a thrill when I hear a siren.

Charles M.

2/21/2015 4:00 AM

Scott, I have been a career firefighter for 16 years. They told me when I first got hired that it was the best job in the world. They were right! Good luck, and welcome to the brotherhood.