It’s not about being THE BEST, it is refusing to settle for less than YOUR BEST!

While monitoring the teaching an DT4EMS instructor class not too long ago a friend of mine, Jeff McMullen (pictured right),  was teaching his last required class to become an Instructor-Trainer with us. He had jeffjust finished presenting on “how to teach” our material, telling participants we teach differently. We present in a way we have found providers to learn information in a quicker format and actually retain it  longer. While giving the potential instructors a little pep-talk , after giving them their homework,  he  said something that blew me away.  He begged the group of potential instructors “Don’t be Kip”.

When he said it, you could see the bewildered look on their faces. The expressions were like ” Kip just modeled the program, the way he said he wanted it presented…and you are saying don’t be like that?”  Jeff was right, but not just for the participants in the room training to be instructors, but it hit home with me too.

Jeff clarified by telling them that DT4EMS was “Kip’s baby” and it would be difficult to ever “present like he does”. He was explaining to them about his own experiences teaching DT4EMS’ EVE and how he kept trying to “be Kip” and how frustrated he would get.(Ironically every time I ever heard Jeff speak, I thought he was one of the best speakers I ever heard.  You can imagine how humbling that statement was for me to personally hear)  Although that phrase was meant to motivate the participants to still present DT4EMS material with passion, conviction and tons of emotion… he was in fact telling them to just be themselves and to do their best.

Those words were exactly what the students needed to hear, more importantly I needed to hear them. Maybe you can get something from those words too as I explain why it was so important to me because it literally had nothing to do with DT4EMS. This was a part of my journey from physical to philosophical.

When I started in EMS, the feeling of competition, to be THE BEST, was present from the very day of 1st Responder class. The feeling of wanting to be the best in class was what seemed to be my drive. I wanted to be the best in EMT and Paramedic school alike. While finishing within the top few every time, I really did my best, but  I wasn’t THE best. That bothered me. It wasn’t until probably 20 years later that  I realized how bad it truly annoyed me and how it affected my entire life up until now.

The skinny is this…Don’t be like me and beat yourself up about not being THE best when you actually did YOUR best. So, like Jeff said, and I am saying it now.. “Don’t be Kip.

When training in martial arts, I would spend hours a day in the gym training. I can remember getting so angry when I would compete and could beat several opponents, only to lose one and end up taking  second place. Instead of being super excited about winning second place… all I could focus on was the loss. I was so focused on being THE BEST that I didn’t respect the fact I did MY BEST.

This attitude of competition was present when I went to the police academy. Finishing in the top percentage of the class (physical and classroom) meant I still wasn’t THE best even though I did my best.

Where the competition attitude started to really cause problems was early in my law enforcement career. It wasn’t until later I realized the feeling of competitiveness was really more about a search for acceptance by those around me at the time. You know, the acceptance of our peers.

In 1998 I had my shoulder tore while attending a police defensive tactics instructor course. I went from benching right at 300 pounds to not being able to do a push-up. I never turned it in, and didn’t tell anyone at work about it. I was afraid of not being seen as THE BEST if I was viewed as the dirty Workers Comp guy. Back them anyone on Workers Comp was seen as, well, less than stellar.

In 2001 I worked full-time as the Chief Deputy of a Sheriff’s Department.  I was moonlighting as a medic on the ambulance.  One EMS shift, while working with a new EMT, we were carrying a patient out of a mobile home . I was at the foot of the stretcher and was carrying the load backwards down the steps. There were no side rails to the porch and on the last couple of steps, I felt the stretcher turn sideways. Fearing the patient was about to fall sideways, I stepped off the porch, missing the bottom step and caught the full weight of the patient and the stretcher as I corrected the angle, keeping the patient from falling.

I felt immediate pain in my back. We transported the patient to the hospital. Upon arriving I could barely get out of the back of the truck. Fearing the sheriff would lose his mind if I told him I was hurt on the ambulance, just like my shoulder, I never turned it in. The fear of not being seen as THE BEST in my Sheriff’s eyes compelled me to keep quiet. Now, there has not been a day go by where I have not had back pain. Some days are better than others and those closest to me have seen what I go through( pain wise)  to be THE BEST when teaching a DT4EMS class.

I live every day and teach every class with shoulder and back pain. I don’t ask for sympathy, I am simply trying to prove a point. I never turned injuries in so I never sought treatment for fear of not being perceived as THE BEST.


I can sum this up by saying after spending my entire adult life training and striving  to be:

  • THE best martial artist yet someone was always faster, stronger  or more skilled not matter what.
  •  THE best cop yet someone was always cracking a bigger-better case, arresting a more high profile criminal.
  • THE best paramedic yet no matter how much I studied and researched, someone I worked around was always smarter and appeared to be a better, more prudent critical thinker on a much higher level than me.
  • THE best/ biggest guy in the gym yet I was always judging myself by how others appeared. I could never compete with most of them. There was always someone bigger, faster and stronger and as the years passed…younger.

While spending all those hours turned days, weeks, months and years doing everything else, I look back and see I focused on me and how important it was to be perceived as THE best in my careers that I didn’t focus on what mattered the most…  like being THE BEST Dad. You know, learning to actually focus on being THE BEST to others or THE BEST for others.

Yes, one could argue striving to be the best is healthy. I would have to agree as long as it is kept in perspective. There can only be one “The Best” of anything at any given time.  If a person has their priorities in order and can focus on being the best of something and:

  • it doesn’t take away from something more important in life AND
  •  they don’t beat themselves up (like I did so many times) when in the end they are not THE BEST.

When looking back, and putting things in perspective, although I was never THE BEST at anything I always did MY BEST.

While I am not completely over striving to be THE best, because I spend countless hours a day trying to make DT4EMS “THE BEST” in the world, I strive to keep things in perspective.  I can only do MY BEST be it in presenting or writing articles like this. I am not THE best, but I am sure giving it MY BEST. In changing my perspective, I am not THE BEST… I am just getting BETTER.

I am asking you, in your current position, to put things into personal perspective. What is most important to you? No, really… stop and ask yourself what IS the most important? Once you put things in order, simply do YOUR BEST at whatever it is. If it turns out you become THE BEST that is a bonus.  The danger in having focus to be THE BEST is truthfully, you can only focus on one thing at a time. So the moment you think about arguing that fact… Why is texting and driving so dangerous? Yup, because you can only focus on one thing at a time.

While the original statement Jeff made was to potential instructors, about teaching our material, for me it was actually much deeper than how to present our course material.  It was in fact a life lesson I took away from it and I hope you can too.

If a person would actually heed the advice of  what Jeff  McMullen, the bad ass, awesome instructor over everything EMS said…”Don’t be Kip”… that person would in fact be, well… better. I am asking you to not be me,  but instead to please be BETTER. Better to those around you by not always focusing on what others think of you, but by what we can do to  help others achieve the things to become better themselves.

Be better by striving to be your best and if it turns out you are THE BEST, that my friend is flippin’ awesome!