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3 training villains: How to avoid being one

Bear with me. I am about to tell you a true story about the moment in my life when I decided to become a “learn it all.”

In today’s world, training budgets have been cut with machetes rather than scalpels. Keeping that in mind, when your agency does send you to training it behooves you to get everything you possibly can from the experience. You want to avoid the natural tendency of becoming a “don’t care at all,” a “know it all,” or a “damn it all.”

You’ll be robbing yourself of valuable knowledge and skills, because of your own attitude.

Three Training Villains to Avoid Becoming
Don’t Care at All: This person, for a variety of reasons has checked out of many things and reinforces this opinion by saying often in much harsher terms, “fugetaboudit.” They are a “don’t care at all.” They attend training to earn but won’t learn.

• Know it All: The “know it all” arrives in training skeptical that there is anything out there for him or her left to learn. This officer feels they have been there and done it all. If there is a new or different tactic or technique shown in the training they will find a reason that it is inferior to what they already know.

• Damn it All: The “damn it all” attends training because they have to be there. If they had a choice, they would be someplace else... “damn it all!”

The “don’t care at all,” the “know it all,” and “damn it all,” will partake begrudgingly in training, but since knowledge and skills are only transferred permanently into the long term memory by a mental selection process they have arrived at a point in their career, where their attitude is a major impediment to learning.

Be a “Learn it All”
I was not always hungry to learn.  Prior to college I was mostly a “don’t care at all.” What I did learn was taught by some excellent teachers because of their attitude (and in spite of mine).

In college, however, I had decided to try to be a better student, because I longed to be the best police officer possible. I found myself at one point in an emergency first aid class where my fellow students all literally had checked out mentally from the class as soon as the instructor entered the room.

A Lesson from an Old Master
The gentlemen teaching the class walked into the classroom with white hair, a white shirt, white pants, black bow tie, black belt and black spit-shined shoes.

I will call him “Mr. White” although that’s not his real name.

I remember the barely-suppressed chuckle that went through the class of irreverent 70s era “know it alls,” at the appearance of Mr. White.

The class judged instantly that this “old man” could teach them nothing and tuned out.

In feeble defense, the “know it all” could say, “Mr. White was hardly a dynamic presenter. He was not cutting edge in his teaching style and did not know how to lace humor and variety into his class to maintain the interest of his students.”

I chose to listen to this man however, which was not easy, for after every class my peers mercilessly belittled the “Old Man” for his monotone delivery, mannerisms, and outdated appearance.

“He’s a dinosaur,” they proclaimed.

It was the 70s and the youth of that time seemed in retrospect to be naively arrogant.

Because I chose to listen. I discovered that in spite of his appearance Mr. White seemed to be a perfectly humble fountain of knowledge and excelled when challenged by questions. One day I asked a question that truly concerned me. I queried, “What do I do when I have a car crash with multiple people bleeding, crying and dying all over the scene.”

Mr. White paused for a moment got a distant look on his face and said, “Young man...when you are as frightened as everyone else at an accident scene and you do not know what to do next, calmly take someone’s pulse. It does not matter whose pulse just bend down and take a pulse, while you calm yourself and breathe. As you do this, triage. Ask yourself what needs to be done first, second, and then third. As you take this pulse, others will see you perform this simple act and conclude that help has arrived. While calming yourself in this manner you will be calming others. When you have calmed yourself and you have formed a plan of action, proceed.”

He added in a fatherly tone, “Don’t worry son, you’ll do fine.”

A Skill Learned and Applied
At that time I was working fulltime nights as a police officer and attending school during the day. I was able to apply that technique instantly at a particularly chaotic accident scene. I discovered that Mr. White had passed along to me a precious gem.

I decided from that for as long as I lived, I would aggressively pay attention to the trainers who cared enough to share their knowledge and experience with me. I vowed to keep an open mind and never become a “don’t care at all,” a “know it all,” or a “damn it all.” I would not miss a tactic, technique, or a tidbit of knowledge from someone who was not an old man, but an old master.

As the last class ended, I walked up and shook Mr. White’s hand and thanked him for sharing the pulse technique with me. I told him that I had already used and it had worked with great effect. 

As I thanked him I asked, “Where did you learn it?”

Mr. White looked off into the distance, paused for a few long moments, and answered in a whisper…

“Omaha Beach.”

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