Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Knowledge IS Power

It's a simple statement: "Knowledge is power". I like it a lot and it has been one of my favorites for many years. To me, it means the more you know, the more you can do. It means the more you know, the safer you can be. It means the more you know, the more valuable you are. It means a lot of things and it rings true for me in so many ways. It's one of the reasons I kept my job last year when so many others were losing theirs. I knew more, and I could do more than a lot of folks in my position. I'm not bragging here, I've spent my whole career learning about everything I come into contact with. Not just say " Hey, that's neat" and move on. I always stop and ask questions about this 'new thing'. I ask how it works, what is does, ask to try it, try to figure out how I can use it, either now, or sometime down the road.
 I have also worked in many 'adjacent' jobs to mine at several different levels from hands on, up to project design and management.
 Most people have knowledge that gives them power. This is particularly true if you work in a specialty field such as Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement, etc. This knowledge does not come cheap, but those of us who have it tend to take it for granted. That is to say that we don't appreciate what we have between our ears. For us, its 'common knowledge'.
 At my paying job (NOT in Emergency Services) I do some teaching from time to time. Subjects include the occasional technical training for newer employees as well as industrial safety issues that I am suited for. My employer is a Global Company and has lots of rules and mandatory training. We are running some type of training just about every month. Sometimes we combine subjects and knock off several in a single session. These are the annual refresher classes that EVERYBODY has heard year after year. Very exciting stuff. I teach one or two of these also. The other person who runs many of these sessions (I stop clearly short of calling him an instructor) uses the same PowerPoint presentation EVERY year which he downloaded from the Corporate training site without any proofreading, customizing, or personalizing. He presents it in a manner that makes it clear he has no interest in what he is shoveling out, and the captive audience clearly gets his message and goes to sleep, only waking occasionally to check their watches. He knows he has to do this every year, and THEY have to listen to it and sign the log before they can leave. It is verbal regurgitation at it's finest. Understandably EVERYBODY HATES THIS. Both the trainer and the trainees.
  I have a different approach. I get asked to teach things I am actually qualified to teach such as Fire Extinguisher training, fire safety, safety at home, Bloodborne Pathogens, CPR, First Aid, and things of this sort. I enjoy teaching, and more importantly, I enjoy giving someone else tools that may help them in a very difficult moment. Consequently I take it seriously. This means I prepare my own lessons, do my own research, teach correct, complete, and accepted practices. I also keep in mind that I must overcome the corporate training attitude, which means I have to work extra hard to keep people interested and present the material in a way that makes them realize on their own that 'this stuff has value!'. I include some useful short videos in my PowerPoint , have hands on things so they can see, try, or practice what I am teaching, and I try to use humor and take time for a laugh or two. My three rules are: the material has to be fresh, any videos I use MUST be something they have never seen before, and I never give the same presentation twice, even if it's a year later. I update each presentation every time I give it. New videos, new verbiage, updated data.. Amazingly, it all works. I explain WHY this stuff is important, not only at work, but at home, not only for the Company, but for their Family. I teach how they can apply what I teach to improve their own lives or careers. I make it personal, I GIVE them something they can use: I give them power to make a difference. My knowledge becomes their power. By giving them what I have, I get much in return. I am no genius, I just know something they don't and am willing to share it.
 If you think making a great stop on a fire is a rush, or bringing back a patient from an overdose, try teaching somebody something and having them come back later and tell you how it made a difference in their lives. 

"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, TEACH a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime."

 We all have knowledge which has power and value. If you feel stagnant or are just looking for new outlets, try sharing some of that knowledge. You don't have to be a Paramedic Supervisor or Senior Fire Officer with years of experience. You might be a relatively new firefighter, a CFR, First Aider, EMT, or what ever. But there are people who can use some of your knowledge to improve their lives. Think about Church groups, Scout groups, senior citizen centers, Junior Firefighter programs, or possibly at your own paying job. These people can learn a lot from you, and you can learn a lot from them, especially about yourself. If your not so hot on the presentation stuff, do some checking around. Find something on the net, it's there for the taking. Just check the facts, customize it for your needs, and let it rip. You don't need computers, projectors, sound systems or any of that stuff. The internet is overburdened with lesson plans. There are lots of materials on government sites like OSHA, NIOSH, NIST, and those type places. Check around, ask some more experienced instructors.
 Almost every time I do a class I get at least several people that come up and thank me, ask follow up questions, and tell me about things they really enjoyed in the presentation. This tells me that not only did I get the message through, but they actually enjoyed our time together. Sometimes I get some really nice compliments about the difference I made for someone. I have yet to hear my co-worker/psuedo-instructor get a single compliment beyond "Thanks for keeping it really short". I know it is beginning to bother him a bit because he is starting to make an effort to understand the material and teach it better. Maybe someday I'll teach him how.

Knowledge is power, go out and give someone else the power.

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