Forest Fire Direction: Words of Wisdom

From time to time our readers and followers find problems with our blogs and our publications, especially when the quote comes from someone who found that their actions were less than stellar. I understand the frustration, but I also know that I have to quote the words I choose. I could make the quote smaller, but I give all the credit to the person quoted.

For about three years, I've been getting someone who really challenges a quote we use, more importantly, the person cited. In the past, I deleted the controversial meme. I'm trying to provide quotes that I think will "fly", but who knows everything about everyone? It does not work either. After all, what attracts me does not necessarily appeal to others. A supporter wanted to know who I was quoting (pretty much sure that they had access to Google …). So I he turned to FB to see what our supporters had to say. Here is the question and comments we received:

We sometimes have criticisms about a quotation we share. How to view quotes from someone whose past is less than stellar?

  • Keep making a difference! What is offered can be taken or ignored. This is the choice of the reader. Carry on!
  • Strong leaders train people, inspire and motivate. Weak leaders dissociate people, use judgment, condescend and criticize. Everyone has failed or made mistakes at one time or another. Good leadership requires a high level of humility.
  • I could give two buttocks of rats that said something. The value is in what has been said and that does not mean whose lips were flappin 'at the moment it was pronounced.
  • Everyone has a past, stellar or not, it is not necessarily their actions that define them, it is the actions and measures they have taken since. Many motivational quotes come from times when someone is oppressed and at a low point. These points do not define them, it is what comes from them that makes them exceptional leaders. Good leaders pick themselves up and continue, great leaders take those around them and advance them into future leadership roles.
  • Everyone has a past. Perhaps a less than brilliant past is what motivates their leadership. Influence others in a positive way.
  • I have always asked myself this question … I come from a past. I just know how people respect me now. I know how to look at each one differently. Humility, I love this word and practice every day
  • Well, it's true that people imitate the ones they learn if you promote a learning environment, so everyone wins at the end of the day.
  • We all have a story and different chapters. Sometimes we may want to ignore a page or two. Words have value.
  • Even a broken clock is accurate twice a day.
  • If it works, motivates or leads people to think that it should not matter.
  • Effective leadership often comes from the moral bankruptcy … it does not mean that the words they speak do not contain any truth.

The answers put to my heart and I was encouraged by the fact that most members of our forum can draw wisdom in a message without letting themselves be caught by the person behind the quote. I do not diminish the importance of the person behind the quote. It matters, but I challenge you to look beyond the person and to consider words. It is quite possible to debate the quotes themselves without their origin. (This is the glory of our forum: a healthy debate!)

We are not alone in facing what we publish. Here is a small nugget that I found in an e-newsletter that I am. They calmed my soul and gave me the fuel to continue traveling. May you find them useful too.

Do not look for a gift horse in the mouth when it comes to wisdom. Take him where you can. It is not because an athlete has a personal life wasted that his coolness on the field is not worthy of study and imitation. It's not because a person from another era, with different standards, did bad things (or believes), that she did not do a lot of good things and that we should not feel no guilt inspired by these. Even if someone is actively disagreeing with what you believe, his actions in one situation or another may well confirm the belief that is dear to you. There is always something to learn and we should always be open to that. (Daily Stoic)

About the author: Pam McDonald is Editor-in-Chief for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.