Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Motivates You?

I’ve been doing the Tuesday Night lecture thing at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD since the beginning of this year. If you’re not familiar with the EFO (Executive Fire Officer) program, check it out at

In this week’s lecture, I discussed fitness (of course) and the practical reality of maintaining a fit workforce when we really only have control over employees 10 days per month. Of course, the people reading this post are the very ones that “get it.” They understand that personal fitness is a personal responsibility and that duty extends beyond just the days that they’re clocked in.

As a card-carrying member and Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, I’m rightfully proud of the body of literature that has been amassed over the last five-plus decades. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of peer-reviewed research studies on how to get fit, stay fit; benefits of being fit. But, from a practical perspective, we probably don’t apply 10% of what we know. What we’re missing is that link, the trigger that creates the desire to be all that you can be. To know that you have the physical capabilities to get the job done. The self-confidence that comes from knowing yourself.

Ayn Rand wrote: “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." I would submit that this adage was never more in evidence than at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. People who are unfamiliar with our sport marvel at the camaraderie. Now, if we could just somehow figure out how to bottle this stuff and vaccinate the rest of the fire service- now that would be something.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Up In the Air

After World Challenge XIX, we administered a survey to all attendees and an unprecedented 400+ responses were received. I read every single comment and am now responding to a minority, but important concern about costs to attend.

Since the critiques were not specific, I can only adjudge that complaints about expenses were driven by airfares, since lodging prices were ridiculously cheap. Mike Medeiros and I did a little study, looking at R/T airfares from several major cities. Myrtle Beach was a very reasonable destination with round trip fares less than $300 from a number of cities.

The caveat is, “when?”

Answer, “Now.” By that I mean that if you have qualified, or are pretty sure that you are going to qualify, this is a good time to start shopping for airplane tickets.

As a member of a number of airline award programs with over 4 million miles on one airline alone, I know a little bit about how these tariffs work. The idea is to fill every seat on the plane before departure. Once the plane leaves the gate, that seat is now worthless. Airlines have very sophisticated software programs that track sales for every flight. A 737 might carry 140 people, with very few of the passengers paying the same price for any given seat.

What we know is that typically, the lowest price point is a couple of months ahead of departure. The closer you get to departure, the more expensive the ticket. For example, we saw a price bump on a flight jump 400% over night. Apparently there was a push after we checked the fare and the next thing we knew, the demand had pushed the price through the roof. There are exceptions. For example, if a flight is not filling up and departure is within a day or so, they may drop the price. If you purchased a ticket for more than the cheaper price, you are entitled to a refund of the difference (on most airlines like Southwest).

Where all the carriers get you is for changes (except Southwest). So, be reasonably sure of your dates. I realize that this presents a bit of a risk. Cancellations on non-refundable tickets are exactly that: nothing. But you are allowed in most cases to rebook, at a “modest” fee of more than $100. (Except Southwest.) And, of course, they nick you for checked luggage. (Except Southwest.) This is why we are partial to a particular airline (Southwest).

Speaking of this airline, they fly to Charleston. And, you can rent cars and drive to M.B. Just one suggestion on how to make your bucks go further. We want everyone to optimize their cash by getting as far out ahead of World Challenge XX as possible- at the lowest possible price.

I hope this has been helpful. I’d like to hear of any deals, thoughts or suggestions you might have that can be shared with everyone. See you in Myrtle Beach this November.