‘Setting Yourself Up for Success with EM Training’ with Todd De Voe, EM Professor and Practitioner at CSU Fullerton

Picture of Todd De Voe during EM training interview.

Todd De Voe is an EM Professor and Practitioner at CSU Fullerton, an EM training expert, as well as the host of EM Weekly – an emergency management and response podcast.


Interview with Todd De Voe

Todd De Voe is an EM Professor and Practitioner at CSU Fullerton, an EM training expert, as well as the host of EM Weekly – an emergency management and response podcast.


Preview


Transcript

CBD: Camilla Barker-DeStefano
TDV: Todd De Voe

CBD:   Okay. Today we are talking about setting yourself up for success as an emergency management and response professional. And we are particularly talking about training, and we’re talking about forming good habits around your professional development and your training.

            Now, with me to talk about this is someone who I know is very much involved in the kind of education and professional development side of things. And I know that he’s very active on social media about this, shares a lot of information, and is just in general, very on top of what’s going on in the field. I think that is something that we should all be aiming for.

            So Todd, welcome and thank you very much for joining us.

TDV:   Oh, it’s my pleasure.

CBD:   Great. So could you just tell us a little bit about your background? What your current role is, how you got there? Just give us an idea of where you come from and what you’re doing.

TDV:   Sure. That’s actually one of my favorite questions specifically for emergency managers, because we have gotten here from all different locations from across the map, right? So I started out as an EMS, as a paramedic. Started getting up there in rank and so forth. And then I got to work some of the larger fires in Southern California. And from there, I kind of fell in love with the emergency management side of what we do as a profession. And from there, I moved into full-time emergency management in 2005.

            From there, I started teaching emergency management with various different trainings. Started off doing training, right? ICS training, so forth and so on. And then I moved into full-on teaching at a college, and now I’m at universities teaching emergency medical programs, and also general public [inaudible 00:01:48] classes.

CBD:   Fantastic. Fantastic. Yeah, I know that you have a very diverse background in that way. And I agree with you that I think this is one of the more interesting questions that we can ask people when we’re just getting to know them, is like, “How did you actually get here in the first place?”

            I came from this legal background. And then other people are like, “Oh, well actually I was on Wall Street before.” And then there’s other people that were just teachers in schools, or whatever it was. And we seem to come in from all these different angles. I think, actually, that makes our profession much more enriched, in terms of skills and backgrounds and whatever else. So yes, glad to hear that you are one of diverse backgrounds, interesting backgrounds. And I’m sure, actually, that will fuel this confidence that we have in what you’re about to say about training.

            So I know that you very much commit yourself to learning, you commit yourself to professional development. Could you tell us about some of the things that you do in your own career? Whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, whatever it is, to kind of keep on top of what’s actually going on in this field.

TDV:   Yeah. So professional development is very important, no matter what job you’re in, right? Whether your job is to pick up sticks, or it’s to be the President of the United States. You should always constantly be learning about what’s out there, because things change. If not, you get stagnant. And one of the mantras, or maxims, I suppose you could say, that I really believe in is: the minute you stop learning is when you should get out of the business, because things change.

            And so that being said, I do various different things. I don’t just focus on emergency management when I look at my reading, and what I’m trying to learn. Like Fast Company, for instance, on business. I read some of the other blogs that are out there. I read a lot of political magazines that are out there, to see the tone of where we are politically going. I read books like crazy. I think I’ve showed you a picture of next to my chair. I think I have like six books sitting there right now that I’m in the process of reading. Audio books. So I’m constantly looking to improve just my general knowledge and also emergency management knowledge.

            One of the questions I ask weekly, is what books and publications do you read or do you recommend? And the reason why I ask that question is two-fold. One is I’m looking for new books all the time, right? And the second thing is I think it’s important to see where people are by what they read.

            I remember somebody said one time, “When you go into somebody’s house,” and I’m thinking it probably was written back in the 1800s, “if you look at their bookshelf to see what’s on the shelf, you see what kind of person they are.” And I really do believe that.

CBD:   Yeah, I would agree with you on that one. And the funny thing is, actually, is that when I moved over to the U.S., I didn’t bring the entirety of my book collection with me, because it was going to cost something in the region of like three grand just to ship it over. And so all of the books that are in our house at the moment are my partner’s books, and it’s just Irish history, Irish history, Puritan history, Puritan history. And it’s like you come in here and it’s like, “Oh, so this is some Irish Puritan thing going on.” So the exception, I think, is me at that moment. I kind of saw in little emergency management books every here and there. But for the most part, it’s just the Irish and the Puritans in this household.

            But yeah, I love the fact that you have such a kind of mix of things going on. And I think this is really important. When people are trying to figure out, “Okay, I’ve got myself into this profession. It’s a hard profession to get into.” In terms of the availability of jobs compared to, say, the availability of training programs. I guess it’s the same in a lot of fields. We’ve got loads of students and then we narrow it down, and narrow it down, and actually getting one of those jobs is really tough.

            And so once you’re actually there, figuring out how then to keep yourself up to date with what’s going on in the field, to keep yourself up with training, that’s important. And I love the fact that you have mentioned magazines, blogs, newspapers, books, just keeping up with all of this kind of external literature. That’s maybe not directly what you’re doing in your job or your day to day life, but you’re keeping that kind of context in the background. I think that’s really, really important. So I’m going to drag out a top tip right there. Learn the context of what is actually going on. What’s actually going on in the government, or in the state-level government. Excuse me. That’s really interesting. Thank you.

            Let’s talk a little bit about academic literature, because I think people are in two camps with this. You either get the people who are like, “Yes, love it. Consume academic literature like it’s water.” And then you get other people that are just not that into it. And I think there is sometimes quite a realistic sort of impression that the Academy is not in touch with the practice, and the practice is not in touch with the Academy. So what do you think about that? Do you think that’s true?

TDV:   Well, yeah. In some cases, I think it is, because when you read the Journal Of Emergency Management, for instance, which is our journal. Some of the topics that are in there are really dry, right? And I get it. And it’s scientific sometimes. Sometimes it’s just policy positions that people are writing, and sometimes you can’t get past the writings. It’s nothing wrong with the author, for instance that are writing about it. It’s just the subject is just it is what it is. Think about teaching a ICS class, or taking it, right? You can’t make it as exciting as… it’s just it is what it is.

            But the problem is that we really need to read those journals, and we need to write, right? And if you are in this field and you aren’t writing, there’s something going on, right? You need to be able to contribute. So there’s different avenues that you could do.

            For the International Association Association of Emergency Managers, you have the Dispatch that you could write it for. So that’s an avenue, and there’s interesting stuff there, they’re always looking for. If you wanted to write for a peer-reviewed journal, such as the Journal of Emergency Management, then again, which is a little bit more technical writing, if you will. So there’s that aspect of it.

            So you need to be writing. Even if you’re just writing for your own personal industry blog, right? For instance, you have Disaster Resilient blog that’s out there. Or you have the Emergency Management Magazine that you could write for. So you need to be reading and writing those things.

            So yes, when you get to the academic side of it, it can be wonky sometimes. And sometimes I have to apologize to people because I’ll tell them, “I can be wonky.” And so this kind of goes back into it. When somebody will ask me a question, I’ll ask them how detailed do they want the answer. Because I could give them a quick overview, and sometimes they want more, and I’ll go, “Okay, but I want to prepare you, because we’re going to get into some really serious weeds and details.”

            And then sometimes they’ll go, “Time out. I don’t need that much information on it.”

            So it’s what information are you looking for, right? And what I mean by that is if you’re just looking for a quick overview, you can look Emergency Management Magazine, for instance. That’s online, and you can get some stuff that’s going out there. But if you you want to get a detail, what’s going on, really understand your craft, you need to read the journals.

CBD:   Yeah, I would agree with you on that kind of just general approach to figuring out what literature serves which purpose. Because on the one hand, there’s something a little bit intimidating about sitting down with a 15 or a 30 or a 50 page journal and thinking, “Wow, I’ve got to consume all of this.” For most people, it’s going to be a one, two, three-hour kind of task, depending on the length of it. And then if you want to actually absorb that information, maybe you’re taking notes, or you’re making kind of voice messages for yourself to remember thoughts of it, and it’s tough.

            I was in university for over 10 years, and ended up getting my PhD, and I still have that kind of, “Oh, God,” that feeling of like, “Ah, I’ve got to read this article,” or, whatever. And in some ways it kind of feels a little bit like a chore. And so I’ve been thinking, for quite a while actually, how is it that we can make that literature more accessible, more kind of digestible, in a way?

            So do you have any ideas around that? What’s a good way that, if somebody picks up a paper and they say, “Right, I know I need to read this.” What’s a good way that they can make that information stick in their brain?

TDV:   Well I do a thing, I actually take a long time to read. It depends what I’m doing, to be honest with you, right? I should probably say that. If I’m reading just a quick hit article, that I’m not trying to digest, I’m just trying to just get some quick information, I’ll read that really quickly and throw it away. Sometimes I don’t even… I might recall it, if it’s something that’s important or, I put it to the side, and go, “Okay. I have this information, it’s digested.”

            If I really need to digest. And for this, I’ll use you as an example. Reading your book, [inaudible 00:10:40]. I’m reading it, underline it, and think about it. Sometimes I take notes in the margins. I’m sure there are book lovers out there. They hate me because I write in my books. And I tag it, and put flags on it. I’ll go back. I’ll look at that again. Because I know at some point, I’m going need to that information.

            And it’s funny because my buddy Brian here, he’ll ask me questions sometimes, or my wife [inaudible 00:11:05]. She’ll ask me a question. I’m like, “Oh wait, I know where this is at.” And I go back to my head and I find it, and I research it.

            They’re like, “I didn’t need that detailed information.”.

            But I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s there and I have it. [inaudible 00:11:16].” So there’s two different ways of digesting that information. I have colored pens by my desk, or by my book that I read, so I write it down. So it depends on what you’re trying to do with it.

            So now I come from an academic side, right? Because I think of, “Oh, I could use this in my class.” Right? And so that’s why I get the information. I have discussions with the students in my class. And I have a little different approach to the way I read on some of those things.

            But on the other end of it, there are your blog articles and stuff. Sometimes I will use Evernote, right? And I’ll caption those, I put those into little folders I’ll go back to every once in awhile. And then I schedule myself time, at least once a week, to go through those blog posts. And to look at those to see if I want to keep them, or get rid of them, or need to read them, or whatever that situation is. So that’s kind of how I digest information.

CBD:   Yeah, I think that there’s definitely a lot of value in having a system for managing just the sheer amount of information that is out there. Because on the one hand, well, through school you’re used to just having books. And then the teacher says, “Okay, can you read chapter seven today. And have it by a certain deadline.” It’s almost like we’ve got to continue that in our own lives, once we’re out of educational training systems. We then have to take that responsibility on ourselves and figure out how we’re actually going to keep up in a kind of methodical way.

            Now, just as you were talking then, you reminded me of an article that I read and it’s called, How to Read. I’m trying to remember the author name. But I’ll find it and I’ll post it on the insights library for anybody that wants to access it and read it. But this article basically is about, it’s very meta, it’s an article about how to read articles. And the gist of it is the author saying, “Look, don’t start at the first line and finish at the end line. That’s not how to read.”

            Now, that’s most people is going to be like, “What? That’s exactly how I read. Have I been doing wrong all these years.” And what the author is saying is that, no, actually you should, you should be reading in stages. Now I don’t want to completely bastardize this and ruin the whole article.

            But the gist of it is that you start by looking at the title and thinking, “what is the author trying to make me get out of this?” Right? Because also as we’ll spend a lot of time figuring out their titles and there’s a very good reason for it. [inaudible 00:13:49] anyway. And so you know that almost is like that’s your deliverable. That’s what you should know by the end of the book or the article, whatever it is.

            So like my book for example is called, The Unlawful Refusal of Emergency Humanitarian Aid. At the end of the book you should know when it is unlawful for a state to refuse emergency humanitarian aid. Right? And it sounds very obvious, but we are trying to give a message from the very first few words.

            So read the title first, then reads either the table of contents, if there is one and get an idea of the big picture of the book. Or if there isn’t a table of contents, just go through and read the headings and figure out, even write them down separately, which is what I do. And then you’ve got your own little table of contents. And just get an idea of the big picture so that you know what’s coming. And usually at that point people find that a lot of the kind of intimidation of this big document is taken away. And you can actually engage with it a lot easier.

            And then the final stage is to decide whether you want to use this document as a reference. So you go and you say, “Okay, I’m interested in subheading X.” And you go in and you say, “Okay, I want to know about why FEMA was formed.” And then you read that and you don’t read the whole rest of the history about DHS. And then if you want to, you can read the whole article. But at that point you know what’s coming next. And if you know what’s coming next is this thing that happens in our brains. Science, don’t ask me. But something happens in our brains where we’re constantly reaffirming that knowledge that we’ve just got.

            And so I think that’s a really useful approach. And you’ve just reminded me of it with saying, “Read with a purpose, figure out what that purpose actually is.”

TDV:   What’s funny it is, I’m dyslexic, right? So reading for me was always a chore. And I learned tricks on how to get through it. And you can tell I consume book sandwiches. Interesting. But I also, I’m naturally left handed. And so when I pick up a magazine, I was told by this psychologist that this is one of those things that left handed people do. Is I go to the back of the cover first and I read backwards. So I flipped through backwards. And you’re right, you get to the ending and you go, “Okay, this is an article that I’m interested in.” And I’ll read the conclusion of your article first. And then I go back to the beginning. So it’s just a different process for me on how I have to digest information.

CBD:   Yeah. Yeah. That’s actually something that my supervisor at university told me, is there’s something called the accordion method, right? And you’ve got to imagine your article like, or this if you’re reading it this way. And you have your introduction, you have your conclusion and if you’re looking at the accordion, you can see an introduction and conclusion. You can see the start and end. So read your introduction, read the conclusion, and you’ll get a very good idea of what’s in that article.

            And then if you’re interested and if you want to learn more, you expand your recording, then you’ve got the full thing. So that sounds to me it’s similar to that. You’re just reading essentially the bits that matter. And then if you want to see the middle, see the middle. Because that’s actually what PhD examiners, and you know this of course being in your position. But like PhD examiners and masters thesis examiners will do that. They’ll read the introduction first and then they’ll read the conclusion. And sometimes actually they’ll even read the conclusion first and then see what the introduction says.

TDV:   That’s how I read it. Yeah.

CBD:   Right.

TDV:   Anybody taking my classes? And that’s how I read my student’s papers [inaudible 00:17:01] .

CBD:   Yeah, there you go, take note. Take note, because the professor is in and getting his secrets.

            Okay, brilliant. That I think is really, really valuable. Just that the very basic point here is just to have a purpose to what you’re reading and then figure out your approach for it. Right. Reading is not a singular linear kind of activity that you do in one session and whatever. It’s a very active activity. I think that will really help a lot of people to kind of concretize what it is that they are trying to learn. And then they of course can apply it a lot easier.

            Okay. Let’s, let’s move away from kind of reading and academia and talk a little bit more in terms of like the practice of training. So what are your kind of thoughts on the existing training landscape for emergency managers and responders? It’s a big question, but…

TDV:   Yeah and it’s interesting because I’ve been having some really deep conversations with people in the space for the last year or two. And I think EMI, FIMAs EMI is doing a halfway decent job of creating content for training. And what I mean by that is concepts and titles and what they want to get out.

            The execution of what they’re doing I think needs help. And I was actually talking to one of the people who developed the classes, and put it on. And we had a really good conversation about it. He’s like, “Well, we have restrictions.” I get that. I’m not slagging any of the authors or even the concept. Problem is today is that we jump online and we watch these basically PowerPoint slides that have an overview on the topic. And the training is not dynamic. I think we need some more dynamic, if we’re going to do online training, we need to do more dynamic online training. And you and I’ve had that conversation as well in the past.

            On the other end of it, we have so much more information coming in on researching things, that it’s going to be hard for people to necessarily keep up with some of the new concepts. I mean they’re revamping incident command system or [inaudible 00:19:08]. They’re revamping cause we have more information that’s coming in. And and so how do we get this information out to the general population? You want to say that to those that us that aren’t in academia, to the practitioner.

            And then there’s two different narratives, right? You have training, which is practical application. And then you have knowledge which is your academic side of it. Right? And I think we need to be able to bring both of those together, where we’re having somebody getting knowledge or having people getting practical applications and putting it together. I think we do an okay job on the training. Again, like I was saying, we definitely have some room for improvement. And it seems to be, you talk to people who go through them, it seems to be the same stuff just deliberated in a little bit different way. If you take ICS 100 to 400 right? If you take them consecutively. I’m like, gosh I did that, I did three and 400 back to back. Right? It’s realistically the same information, just delivered different ways.

            And then we ask them, we consistency, right? We tell people that, “Hey, we don’t want you to use an acronyms.” Right? So we go through ICS 700s. Okay no more acronyms. Right. And then I see it’s 800 it’s all about a bunch of acronyms. So, we have so many consistencies on that training as well. So I think those are just a little areas that we haven’t shore up. I think in general the information that’s there is good. I think basic is good. I think trying to get people up into the advanced levels of the executive levels, we definitely would have more there. Does that make sense?

CBD:   Absolutely makes sense. Yeah. And I would agree with you in terms of what FEMA is doing with the EMI. I also have this is not a slight on FEMA at all, the information that they put out for free for people to register for, is absolutely phenomenal. And I agree with you, this is not a slate on FIMA at all. But there’s something that we, and of course FEMA training is US-based, right? And our audiences is around the world. But it’s comparable. You can see similar kinds of things in the UK . There’s a lot of training that’s put out there and then it kind of stops somewhere and you go, “Okay, well what’s next?” And I personally think that one of the answers for what next is we’re not looking necessarily to find, as a collective, we’re not looking up to find an instructor anymore. We’re looking around us to see, “Okay, well what do you know? And what do you know? And how can we kind of mesh together and how can we learn from each other?”

            Now I talked about the experience that I’ve had at conferences so many times. Which is you go and you listen to these conference speakers and they’re absolutely brilliant. And then you come away and you’re thinking that your learning is done for the day. And then you go and you have a coffee or you’re going to have a beer or whatever it is that you drink with somebody. And you’re like, “Wow, this is amazing. I wish this was also in the conference.” So I think we’re moving away from that formalistic sort of Confucian hierarchical kind of structure and training. And we’re starting to look sideways in addition to looking up to our instructors. Would you agree with that?

TDV:   100% and I mean, and even at your training, you do a tabletop exercise, right? And you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to train my staff on this.” And a lot of times people, as a classroom instructor, you sometimes have to pull information questions out of people, right? And that’s part of the thing as a teacher you need to help, right?

            But would you see as during these tabletop exercises, You say, “Okay, we’re going to take a 10 minute break. Go get some coffee.” And the conversations that you hear people having, getting the coffee, grabbing the water, whatever they’re doing. Sometimes I jump in, I’ll have a conversation with them, because they are actually learning more there than they are doing tabletop. Because they are either one unsure of themselves to ask the question. Or they don’t want to look like a fool by asking question that they thing, everybody already has the answer to and they don’t.

            And so you’re right. And I think that’s one thing too that I miss about having a classroom class necessarily at times. Right, is that with EMI for instance with their online classes. Not their classroom classes, but their online classes. Is that you don’t have that interaction. Either one with the instructor or there’s nobody you can ask questions to. There’s nobody you can bounce stuff off of, it’s not there. And so I think creating a platform where you can either email the instructor and say, “Hey, this is the question I have.” Or, “This is, I think that you’re wrong.” It’s okay, by the way everybody. It’s okay to tell the professor that you think they’re wrong. Well you better have a backup to the reason why you think they’re wrong, because they probably have the research behind it that’s going to be able to explain something. So it’s okay to say that. So those conversations are really important to have. I think having a platform where you can do that is critical.

CBD:   Definitely, definitely. I mean I have been at plenty of conferences where I’m kind of sat there and I’m listening to the speaker and then I’m thinking about something. I’m like, “Okay, am I just being an idiot? Yeah. Am I actually understanding what this person is saying?” And then I’m kind of like looking around the room and thinking, “Okay, you look like an ally. I’ll go and ask you afterwards.” And actually that was one of my very good friends now who’s a former metropolitan police officer in London, well detective in London. We actually got talking for that reason. I was like, “You my friend, you’re going to be an ally.” And we went and we ended up talking about something and now he’s one of my best friends now.

            So these things happen in relationships come out of all of this. And I think again, it just kind of underscores how important learning is from each other. And I mean like I don’t want to make this big thing about the crisis company and what we’re actually doing. But one of the big things that I spend a lot of time on it in the beginning when I was building this platform, is making sure that there was a way to watch a video like this and have a discussion about it. Or to watch, a series of slides or a presentation and have a discussion about it. To be able to email instructors. All of that functionality is built into this platform. And I think that’s one of the things that makes it so great in a way if I may toot my own horn. So, yeah, I completely agree with the importance of that.

            Last thing that I want to talk to you about in terms of practical kind of training is, how should we organize ourselves? Because I know you put out on LinkedIn recently and if anybody needs to go back through and find it on your profile, because this is really interesting. But you put out an article and you put out some resources I think on planning and having a personal development plan and a professional development plan. So could you talk a little bit about that? Like if somebody is thinking, “Yes, this sounds like a good idea.” Where do they start?

TDV:   Well number one is, and this sounds cliche at this point, but to have some sort of idea where you want to go. And you know you’ve never jumped in the car and go, all right, “I’m driving some place.”

            “Okay. Where are we going?”

            “I don’t know. We’re just going to start driving and eventually we’ll get there.” So you have an idea of where you want to go. Whether it’s in the grocery store, movies. Even if it’s a Sunday drive down the coast, you have an idea of where you’re going. So that’s your plan, right.

            And then having those benchmarks to where you go, “Okay, this is where I’m getting to.” So your personal development plan for instance, in a little article that I put up. It really goes in the idea of creating those benchmarks. Going back and visiting those goals that you set earlier. And see, did you make them? Now it’s okay that if you set, I don’t recommend 10, but I’ll just use 10 because it’s a nice round number. If you set 10 goals, and you only made five. And you look at those other five that you set before and you go, “You know what? Those aren’t really what I want to do now.” It’s okay. The idea of setting those goals and putting them down on paper is to commit yourself mentally to that process. And then going back and checking them.

            So I actually moved from doing an online calendar and tasks, well there too, but moving to actually having a planner that I purchased that has goals, my objectives. And every morning when I sit down, I write out what my goals are for that day. And they’re very simple. They’re not like smart goals necessarily. The concept of like goal one, finish a paper. Yeah. Read more, something along those lines. Read two articles, along those lines something like that, for that day.

            So I set those goals and sometimes I make them and I go, “Cool.” And then at the bottom there’s this thing where I’d say, “Okay, where are my wins for the day? Did I do this?” And really just self evaluate and keep moving. And I do that at six o’clock in the morning normally. And then at five o’clock in you mean and then shut that. And then I write stuff for tomorrow. I don’t write my goals up for tomorrow. I do that in the morning. I sit with a cup of coffee, and I reflected on my morning.

            And it sounds wonky I suppose, but it really keeps you focused on that day. Because I think I got this process to where before I would set this grandiose, yearly goals. Right. And I’d write them down. And, “Oh, here’s my goal for the year.” And I’d put them away. And I would never look at them and then all of the sudden, I would get some those goals, like, “Oh, I never even got close to it.” Right. And I never looked at them. Now I’m looking at my goal, I’m looking at my weekly goals every day, I’m looking at the daily goals every day and that process. So for me it just, it puts me in that mental space to where I can get things done. And there’s different ways of doing it, but that’s just basically what I wrote about the other day.

CBD:   Yeah, it’s funny actually as you were describing the approach that you that is an approach that I’ve been trying since early July. So I haven’t been on this train for very long, but journey is good so far. And yeah, I bought a paper planner. I’ve, for a long time we’ve been like very like anti paper if we can avoid it kind of thing. But there’s something about having paper in front of you.

            And I sit at this desk. I work at that desk, which is my standing desk. But then every morning I will come here and I will just sit with my coffee and I’ll think about what I’m doing for the day. And I have a planner which is big enough so that I can put stick it, or post it notes on the pages or on the days, sorry. So that if I have something I know I need to do for Thursday, it goes on a stick it note and it goes on the Thursday thing and then I actually write it down if I’ve done it kind of thing. So it’s like a running tally of the things that I, that I have to do and I can move around if necessary.

            Like this today for example, we had a set time at a set date, so that goes in the calendar. But something like I have a piece of client work that could be done today, it’ll be done tomorrow, could be done Friday. And so I have this on the little stick it note, on a Post it note, and I can just put it wherever dependent on how the thing is. And I think that’s really, really useful to be able to do that.

            I also love the fact that you said it’s not a problem, it’s not an issue if you set yourself goals and then you decide they’re no longer relevant or you don’t want to do them. Because I mean this has turned into a therapy sessions. But I struggle with perfectionism big time and I say struggle now. I used to be like, “I’m a perfectionist, this is amazing” But I’m like, “I’m spending like five hours on something that doesn’t matter to anyone else apart from me.” And so I’ve been trying to move away from that. And I think that a lot of people have this perfectionism thing going on, even if it’s a little bit in the back of their minds. And abandoning goals is okay, right? You can say, “These are no longer relevant to me anymore.” And that’s it. And it doesn’t have to turn into this like whole failure thing. It could be “Okay, they’re no longer relevant. So what’s the point?” So I’m really glad that you said that.

TDV:   And going back to the road trip, right? I mean, you sit there and for instance in, and one of the things I like to do, I didn’t do it last year. But I like to go up to Flagstaff, Arizona for an event that happens up there every year. And so we know it’s about a seven hour drive, right? And we have an idea of the direction that we go by the Grand Canyon, right? I mean go through Williams and you go by the Grand Canyon. And every year for a couple years I’m like, “I want to go to the Grand Canyon. That’s always my thing to do. But it’s out of the way. Right. It’s an hour down the road. And so that was always on one of my travel trip goals.

            And so whatever year you’re too tired or too busy. And a couple years ago I did it, I was like, “Okay, we’re going down there.” And went to the grand Canyon. I was like, “Okay awesome.” But like I said, just because it’s on your list doesn’t mean you have to go off down that road. You can kind of keep it in the back and if it’s something that you want to revisit, keep it going with you. Right. Keep it goin, “I’m going to revisit this. There’s a reason why I can’t get there for whatever reason.” It can be financial, it could be, I’m just time management wise. Right. You just can’t get it in there. But you don’t have to abandon and go scratch it off and never do it. You can just move it along with you and maybe push down it down a little further.

            People want to have children or getting married or do these things that are very large. Right. And sometimes it’s just not set right now for them. And I think, I hate to use this cliche but, sometimes it’s not the perfect time to do something, right. And so you can move that down the field a little bit more.

CBD:   Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think just just affording ourselves that flexibility in our goal setting, and even even in our training. I mean that’s why most of the Crisis Academy lectures are between sort of like two to 10 to 15 kind of minutes long. They’re intended to be watched. And then if you need to come back to a lecture, you can pause it half wat through. Or you can just start it again and it’s not going to take up a horrendous amount of time. It’s not like you’re watching a singular three hour lecture and you go, “oh, damn, I don’t want to watch it now, because I didn’t know where I was.” You just don’t have to go through all of that anymore, you can just, you can just select what you want and get back to where you were if you’re like.

            Okay, let’s talk about reading. So you’ve mentioned that you are an avid reader. And I’ve seen the pile of books that you have next to your chair or your desk, wherever it is. What are you reading or what have you kind of read recently that you feel, “Yes, this is shifting the way that I’m thinking about this field”?

TDV:   Oh wow. I forget the name of the author. I’ll look it up for you. It’s basically on willpower, right? And the idea is, Willpower Doesn’t Work, is the name of the book. And it goes into the sense of the idea of going, if you have an issue, and I’ll use the alcohol as an example because it seems to be one of those ones that people go to. And you are an alcoholic, and people know this. And there is a beer or alcohol sitting in front of you kind of sitting there. And as much more power as you wants it, “I’m not going to touch it. I’m not going to touch it. Not going to touch it.” it’s hard, right? At some point you’re going to break through that.

            And then he goes through the process that willpower is actually physically hard, right? It’s a physical hard thing to do. And so if you want to win, you don’t want to drink that alcohol. You need to remove yourself from that situation. And it’s not about willpower. It’s about giving you the best ability to to win that situation. Whatever that is. It goes into a little bit about online addiction, not addiction is there like using Facebook a lot and things like this. And how you can remove yourself from that. And set yourself up for success. And so I think that’s a really, really interesting book.

            And then another one that I think is really going to make some changes here as far as the way that we look at things. Is, You’re It, by William McNulty… William sorry, Eric McNulty. You take a look at that book and what it says specifically about crisis leadership. And it defines crisis, the idea of crisis isn’t just emergency management type of stuff. It could be your business has something going on financially or the me too thing happens in your business. Those things along those lines. How do you move into positions where you can better yourself and your team? Right. And so, You’re It, is really you walk in the door that day and there’s something on, you have to act. I highly recommend that book and I think it’s going to be a paradigm shift, specifically in the mental set for emergency managers.

CBD:   All right, fantastic. Despite the fact that we were recording this, I’m making a note of that, You’re It, one because it sounds like exactly the type of thing that I like to read. So thank you for that. Okay, final question. If you had to give just one piece of advice to emergency managers and responders on training, what would it be?

TDV:   Do it.

CBD:   Brilliant.

TDV:   Attend it. Make it happen. Make it a priority that, and talk about goals earlier. Look at what you need to do for your training. Where do you feel that, number one, I don’t subscribe to the idea of looking at your weaknesses and trying to overtrain or weakness. There are things that you just, you’re not good at. Right. But don’t ignore them. Okay. So, but the other end is find out where your strengths are, and train most strengths and make that strength even stronger. Right?

            So if you’re a plan writer and you need to go in there and take as many classes that you can possibly do. Read what’s going on with plan writing and so forth and so on. Right? If you’re not a strong plan writer, I’m not saying ignore that stuff. But find where your strength is ain’t going to that. So if you’re a trainer, hitting those training blogs harder and you learn new techniques that you can do and what’s moving forward. So work to your strengths and get that training done.

CBD:   Fantastic. Well I think that is an absolutely brilliant way to wrap up this interview. So thank you. Thank you again for getting up really early in the morning. I know it’s 6:47 with you right now in the morning in California. So thank you very, very much indeed. We do appreciate it. And yeah, I’ll speak to you soon. Thank you.

TDV:   My pleasure.

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Camilla Barker-DeStefano

Camilla Barker-DeStefano

Dr. Camilla Barker-DeStefano (Oxon) is a disaster lawyer, author, and founder of the Crisis Academy.

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