February 2024 Leadership Message From the ISFSI President: Seth Barker

By Seth Barker posted 02-28-2024 11:46



When I first started as an instructor for our department, I was underqualified, with very little experience, and not very confident in my skill set. However, I had passion. I had passion for the fire service. I had passion for firefighters. Most importantly I had passion for the job. These things made me want to be better every day. There was not a day that would go by that I did not want to come to work. I still remember the feeling of walking into work transitioning from a volunteer to a career firefighter in my organization. I remember looking at the engine I passed so many times and feeling an incredible sense of pride. Reflecting now it was not pride, but passion. Passion for wanting to be the best that I could be. Passion for wanting our department to be the best that it could be. For contributing to the fire service that has so generously giving me and my family an amazing life.

Passion does not come easy. It comes from believing in something so much, it fires something deep within us. It expresses determination towards goals we never thought possible. It communicates a commitment towards a purpose that is beyond our self and others. It is here that we find the best in ourselves.

So, the real question that comes up is how we keep that passion going after so many years of being an instructor? How do we keep that same drive and enthusiasm delivering a subject we have done hundreds of times? How do we transfer that passion so others can pick up the torch and carry it higher and further? How do we inspire the next officer, instructor, or next generation?

This weighed heavy on me in the beginning of my career. I was struggling with finding the right mentor. I was looking in every direction for advice. Leaders to follow who had the experience as a backing was what I was lacking. I was getting a graduate degree on what not to do, not what to do. It took a couple of conferences outside my circle of influence to realize that there was a tremendous number of instructors out there that had the same passion as I did. It took putting my big boy pants on and introducing myself to them after their lectures and seminars. Constantly showing up, sitting in the front row, asking questions relentlessly, until we were on a first name basis. Exchanging emails, texts, and knowledge about how I could do it better back in nowhere Montana. I soon developed a group of instructors we call the “Training Guys” that have helped guide everything. I was looking to much inward, and not enough outside. These guys have the passion that exceed my own, and that is important. It keeps me wanting to be better. It also keeps me in check for not being complacent. This is why I am so passionate about paying everything forward. That is what everyone has done for me. I know my department is better because of it.

How do you harness this same methodology? I think the answer is very easy. Engage in ISFSI’s community forum. Start talking to each other and sharing ideas. Share what works for you. Share curriculums, skill sheets, JPRs, and lesson plans. Make our organization better than when you joined. Keep that fire lit. If you are a great mentor, tell us. If you need a great mentor, tell us that too. There are so many ways to connect with others through ISFSI with endless possibilities. I truly believe my success in my career is a direct result of my membership with this organization. Thank you.

Keep the passion in your life and your job. Don’t lose the momentum. Inspire everyone around you. Don’t ever stop trying to become better. Find your team. We can all help each other do that.
Passion is everything.