The desktop computer that serves as the source for everything “On Pasture” is 12 years old and showing its age. It gives me the spinning beach ball of death dozens of times a day. Some of my old software doesn’t even work anymore because it isn’t compatible with system updates. When I have to restart it, I hold my breath a bit, because sometimes it doesn’t come back to life right away. With each little glitch I wonder, “Is this the day it dies?”
Fortunately, I have a new set up waiting in the wings. It’s a powerful laptop and a new display that will let me move with ease from working at my desk to hitting the road. And…it’s been waiting for me to start using it for a year and a half.
Yeah – The gal who constantly sends you ideas for new practices that will make your life better, your business more profitable, and your landscapes healthier, she can’t even switch from her dying computer to the new model that’s sitting in a box in her office. (Well to be fair, I’ve used the laptop a lot for business travel and presentations, but still…I haven’t set up the new system.)
But my failure to change seems like a good example of why change is hard for all of us.
Here’s why I haven’t changed. Can you relate?
1. I’m Too Busy
Like you, all my days are jam-packed. I’m searching for new information, writing and editing articles, creating new graphics, and responding to questions. If I’m traveling for work, I have to fill that week and the week after with articles, so there’s no time off. Meanwhile, I’m exploring new funding sources and putting information together for potential sponsors.
Whew! I feel like I just don’t have the time to make the change to the new system. It means a day, maybe two or more, to stop and transfer files, set up new backups, and…and… If you’ve worked much with computers, you know what I’m talking about!
2. Learning Something New is Hard
Because some of my old software won’t transfer to the new computer, I’m going to have to learn some new software. Though I believe life-long learning is a good thing, there are days when my head just feels too full to stuff another thing in there. And then there’s all the time involved, which sends me back to number 1 on my list.
And that leads to….
3. Better the devil you know…
Even though the old software is operating marginally, at least I know its quirks and how to manipulate my way around them. Yeah, it takes me extra time, but how much time will it take for me to figure out the new software? Which leads me back to number 1 in my list.
Still, I have to change if I’m going to keep going. My current set up just can’t last.
Nothing’s Going to Happen Unless I Get Help
So, that’s what I’ve done. And I highly recommend it!
In my case, I’ve got a tech guy living in my house – my husband! He’s done the prep work to make sure the laptop has everything I need on it to make the transition. There will still be new software to learn, but I’ve been fiddling with it a bit so it’s a little less scary. Plus he’s shown me how I can keep the old system up and running so if I’m having a hard time, I’ve got back up. Perhaps most importantly, he’s reminded me that he has my back if anything does come up, and that I’m not alone with the change.
Getting help can make all kinds of things possible. That’s why I’m constantly reminding you of resources that are available – generally for free! You can head over to your local Natural Resources Conservation Service or Conservation District office for help with conservation planning and technical assistance, or check in with an Extension Agent in your state. All of these folks can help you with another reason change doesn’t happen – MONEY. Ask them about financial assistance programs!
And remember, On Pasture is always here for you too. We’ve got really smart people writing for us, and a whole community of people who might have been in your shoes at some point.
We’ve got your back, and you’re not alone with your change!
I am reading a newly published book called, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and in the book the author discusses our unwillingness to drop our tools that have become so comfortable to us that they feel like part of who we are…we feel naked without them. It can go to extremes.
He mentions the tragic Mann Gulch fire in Montana in 1949, and the similar tragedy on Storm King Mt in Colorado in 1994, in which a number of highly trained smoke jumpers lost their lives when a fire suddenly changed and rapidly chased them up ridges. In both cases some of the smoke jumpers were able to make over a ridge and out of harms way.
In the analysis of both fires it turns out the ones who survived had one thing in common. They dropped their tools. The charred bodies of those who succumbed to the fire were found still holding onto pick axes, and chainsaws and/or carrying heavy backpacks.
One survivor mentioned how difficult a decision it was for him to drop his chainsaw…he had to fight with himself to do it, because it felt wrong to leave it behind.
Of course one of the morals of the story is that if your house is on fire, drop your old pc and run. But the other, is that he have to learn to recognize when the old tools are holding us back.
Those tools aren’t just physical tools, they’re the skills we develop and hold onto dearly, the processes, the habits, can all be tools that hold us back. It’s not that these tools are a bad thing, it’s only when we become too comfortable with them that we can’t or won’t imagine doing something differently.
You had no way of knowing this, but I was intimately involved with the South Canyon/Storm King fire. I was the Public Information Officer on Duty that day in 1994 when the fire blew up, and for several days after; I had to notify colleagues that one of their friends had died; and I spent a year working with the community and the families of the firefighters to build a memorial trail. (I shared some of my experience in this article.)
While the story that the author is telling may be convenient to the concept he’s trying to convey, it’s inaccurate. The firefighters on Storm King did not die because they failed to drop their tools. They were not found holding their chainsaws and pick axes (actually they carry pulaskis), and firefighters don’t carry heavy backpacks when they are on the line. One of my friends did talk about feeling like he couldn’t drop his chainsaw. We talked about that and the fire a lot since he was my room mate for a time.
The real reason these firefighters died is that they ignored many of the Ten Standard Firefighting Orders and all but two of the Eighteen Watch Outs. I’ve highlighted those below. This failure has repeated itself in every subsequent fatal wildland fire. I believe that if we hope to keep young men and women safe on the fire line, we need to be clear about their responsibilities and about what others have done that resulted in their deaths. We also need to provide them with alternative tools/habits to replace what they’re doing since numerous deaths have told us that what we’re doing now isn’t working as we’d hoped.
I guess that last sentence was really the message I hoped to convey with this piece. Starting with small steps towards the alternative future gets us there, slowly but surely.
Ten Standard Firefighting Orders
1. Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts.
2. Know what your fire is doing at all times.
3. Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire.
4. Identify escape routes and safety zones and make them known.
5. Post a lookout where there is possible danger
6. Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively.
7. Maintain prompt communication with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.
8. Give clear instructions and insure they are understood
9. Maintain control of your forces at all times.
10. Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first
18 Watch Out Situations
1. Fire not scouted and sized up
2. In country, not seen in daylight
3. Safety zones and escape routes not identified
4. Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior
5. Uninformed regarding strategy, tactics, and hazards
6. Instructions and assignments are not clear
7. No communication with your company or supervisor
8. Constructing line without a safe anchor point
9. Building fireline downhill with fire below
10. Attempting a frontal assault on the fire
11. Unburned fuel between you and the fire
12. Cannot see the main fire and not in communication with someone who can
13. On a hillside where rolling material can ignite material below
14. Weather is getting hotter and drier
15. Wind increasing or changing direction
16. Getting frequent spot fires across the fireline
17. Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zone difficult
18. Taking a nap near the fireline
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