THE WINNER’S EDGE
of uncertainty increasing after being lost in a structure fire, and
the fear of failure creeping into your mind if you do not go home.
Take yourself to the worst scene you can imagine and listen to the
sounds, verbalize the radio traffic, and conceptualize the drastic
conditions! Can you see yourself? Can you feel your heart racing?
Can you picture your family’s faces?
Now, once you’ve found that very flash of pure panic, the sweet
spot of dire distress, with deliberate intent drive the thoughts out
of your consciousness. Ignore the distractions! Redirect your awareness to winning this day. Step over the edge, and choose to win
the fight! Concentrate on whichever relevant training techniques
you’ve acquired for this mentally-generated scenario. Step by step,
work yourself free of the scene, and visualize a self-rescue where
you stand triumphant! Now, can you see yourself? Can you feel
your heart racing? Can you picture your family’s faces? Well done!
Routinely practice this exercise and envision a different situation
each time. Be genuine in your emotional alarm—do not limit the
drill. This is a quintessential lifesaving process. Not only are you
training “what-if” thinking, but you are methodically replaying your
rescue plans. Both the mental artistry of painting the picture and
the subsequent mental gymnastics of escaping are crucial to training
thought control. Surviving on “The Winner’s Edge” is contingent on
clear thinking, and the more capable you are at ignoring distractions,
the more successful you will be when it is an authentic survival event.
The aforementioned approach will garner lifesaving reimbursement in a time of crisis. Include this training method in several
aspects of your day-to-day life, such as when you work out (in
private), when you step out (in public), and when you train out
(with your crew). Insert mental repetitions into everyday life.
We all know how easy it is to be influenced by distractions and,
likewise, how difficult they are to release, so practicing is a must.
Do you remember this movie quote, “Clear the mechanism!”?
In his film “For Love of the Game,” Kevin Costner used the
statement as a strategy to help block out the noise and emotions
of pitching in the highly stressful major league, freeing him to
perform at his peak. Well, sometimes life imitates art. What is
one of your favorite catchphrases? (We all have at least one or
two go-to expressions that we use in public or private to help us
work through unforeseen complications or events.) Learn which
key mental phrases work unwaveringly for you to help repress the
unwanted thoughts, and activate them on command.
There is no substitute for experience, but after spending the
needed time to conceive and conquer the psychological snares, you
will be closer to conquest than you ever imagined.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP
In addition, physically train with added uncomfortable and
unexpected variables. Regardless of the exercise, include something
realistic and unconventional to throw into the mix, which will help
to facilitate a sensory overload, triggering your survival mindset.
This process of training can have tremendous benefit. It teaches
you to ignore what is not needed but, equally valid, retain what is
important. Identify that not every “new” element is a dangerous pit-
fall; some are worthy of storing in your mental file cabinet, where
others are merely “slag” that need to be sloughed off.
Be creative, be consistent, and be cognizant of this cutting-edge
training technique. Let’s be honest, whatever scenario you visualize
will pale in comparison to the real thing; nothing can equate to
true “life-and-death” emotion. But, if you have at least done all
you can prior, then you are better equipped to survive when the
eventual day arrives!
PROBLEM SOLVERS NEEDED
Finally, it’s fair to assume if you find yourself in a true life-or-death situation, it will be something you have not opposed before
(otherwise, you would know how to avoid it). To battle this severe
happenstance, most likely you will need to formulate a plan for
survival that uses alternative answers and reasoning. The exit
strategy may not be obvious! Training to think outside the box is
critical. The solution to your problem is all around you; you just
need to know how and where to look!
Problem solving is a necessary provision of “The Winning Edge”
survival mindset because it helps to shape a firefighter’s mentality
by expanding his linear way of thinking to include exploratory
options outside the normal realm of reasoning. The ability to
see past the limitations in a time of pandemonium often proves
invaluable. Dreadfully, a person can become paralyzed into inaction if he doesn’t quickly detect a readily available resolution to
his dilemma. However, training your mind to interpret all the
surrounding information, uncovering those items that could be
used as productive tools, is an essential aptitude. As a police officer,
I considered many things from my environment as potential weapons if I were to ever find myself unarmed and in a fight for my life
with a hostile assailant; no option was off limits.
This type of logic is transferable to firefighters also. Irons and
axes can be lost or misplaced at a fire or, frankly, sometimes
just plain forgotten on the rig. Nevertheless, in a time of need
you cannot be handcuffed by their absence. Consider substitute
instruments ranging from pieces of furniture to decorative but
firm items of artwork and building finishes such as towel racks or
railings. These are all improvised equalizers that can work in your
favor, acting as leverage against your entrapment. In a life-or-death
matter, whatever it takes to free you from the edge is EXACTLY
what it takes! Your confinement is only restricted by your refinement; don’t be afraid to try something new.
TRAIN TO THINK DIFFERENTLY
To help enhance this mental faculty, practice problem solving regularly. Periodically, on entering a foreign room or area, look around
at all the available tools. Envision yourself trapped in this place, and
then systematically process how you would use these newly found
tools for your survival needs. Train your brain to decipher information differently, removing the obstacles of obstruction and inserting
tools of opportunity. Brainstorm predicaments with your crews to
even further advance your mind to possibilities.
Moreover, in conjunction with your everyday training regiments,
don’t simply echo the exact same call types and scenarios you’ve
attempted in the past, but add a problem-solving element to every
equation. Spend the time to design new endeavors with new variables. Incorporate eccentric challenges (safely monitored and safely