June 23, 2021

How to Have The Hard Conversations- Rayne Gray, Fireground Fitness Podcast


Rayne Gray has been a Firefighter for over 23 years, working in every rank and currently serving as a Division Chief for the City of Phoenix. He is the host of the Fireground Fitness podcast, a US Marine veteran, an avid outdoorsman, public speaker, Father and Husband.

Gray has spent his life pushing the boundaries of physical discomfort, running ultra-distance events of all types, climbing granite walls, getting choked to the edge of life in Jui jitsu tournaments and has stood on top of the highest peaks in the United States. 

Further, Gray also believes in pushing the mind.  With a commitment to lifelong learning he continues to attend courses and classes and is always looking for the next “good book”. Along the way Gray has completed a wide array of certifications and credentials to include a Masters in Public Administration.   

Gray has stated that “there are so many variables and complexities in life that it is imperative that we keep experiencing, learning and, in turn, sharing what we have discovered."

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Transcript

Welcome. The trials of first responders in their families aren't easy. Enduring the Badge Podcast is building a community to help them out. Introducing your host back by 30 years of experience as a first responder, Jerry Dean Lund.



My special guest today is Rayne Gray. How you doing? 

 

 

Fantastic. Thanks for having me. 

 

 

Yeah. And in studio all the way from Arizona to Utah. 

 

 

That's right. 

 

 

It couldn't be any better. Alright, we're breaking up COVID. And now we're getting to actually do some stuff face to face and makes an experience even better. That 100% 100% better. 



So thank you for coming up here. And I know you combining one trip into a couple other things. But 

 

Yeah, it's it's, I would say business with pleasure. But it's just pleasure with pleasure. So here visiting family, and I saw the amazing opportunity to come and hang out with you and took took advantage of it. 

 

Now. I appreciate that. Yeah, appreciate that. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself. 

 

Well see, gosh, where do I start? So I'm a professional firefighter. I've been on the job now for just under 24 years. And I also have a podcast called Fireground Fitness Podcast, which is fantastic. Go check it out right now. And see, I like I literally like long walks on the beach, I love to do endurance athletics. And interestingly, I'd love to talk to you about this today. I can, I don't know if I can anymore. So had some interesting physical issues take place over the last few years. And it's changed my ability to participate in the physical world the way I used to. And so it's redefining who I am and etc. But anyway, still love long walks on the beach in theory, and love to. Let's see, whatever, I have a couple of great kids that are out adulting learning how to adult right now. And I've got a beautiful wife of 28 years. And, and bless her heart she puts up with me. Yeah, that's pretty amazing to find one that does that. I mean, I'm I'm lucky that way. So yeah, it's I will say this. It's a work in progress. And you know, 20 years has come at a cost, which is we are learning learning learning how to love one another how to live with one another. And that never ends it constantly learning. 

 

Right? I'm only a year and a half into mine. But yeah, we're learning a lot at a rapid pace. Yeah. Well, so your benefit on the job for 24 years is Uh huh. And you've served in several different capacities. Yeah. So I have been a firefighter BLS firefighter, ALS firefighter, worked as an engineer for a number of years, or a chauffeur dependent on what part of the country you're from, and pump operator and worked as a captain for a number of years. And now I'm a battalion chief, and current currently serving in the role of a division chief, which is a basically the staff counterpart to a battalion chief, 

 

Do I dare ask which was your favorite, our which is?

 

You know that every level of the game has had its own unique elements that are loved. And I mean, that absolute sincerity, because you'll hear people say, Oh, I just this one job is the best job ever. But, but honestly, every element, every level has had its own enjoyment. There's something really special once you get some seniority, and you've had some experience, and you're in the backseat, and you know what you're doing as a backseat firefighter, that's a great job, right? All the fun. None of the none of the burden of responsibility for the day, right? You just get to come and have fun and do the job and kick doors and squirt water and it's fantastic, right? And then as an engineer, and you can see I'm trying to work my shit out right now. As an engineer, you get to be in charge of this apparatus and you know you from the minute the tones drop you ever responsibility to get your crew there and what it's a tremendous responsibility. And it's a it's a lot of fun. Driving a big red firetruck, you know, through the streets and honking the horn. And, you know, you know, when you pull up on scene, you hit that brake and your crew goes to work, the engineer actually is a very busy position. I don't think people really understand how busy the first like five to 10 minutes of a firefight can be for the chauffeur. So you're you're throwing tools, you're helping pull lines, you're getting a pump into gear and all that so that there's some technical savvy that comes with that that is a lot of fun. So, but the aspiration for most folks is to become a captain at some point. And I will say that that job for me has been one of the most fun positions that I've held in my career. I guess I find I found my spot. I love I really really enjoy being a fire captain and there's something really fantastic about the the opportunity to make decisions in really compressed timeframes, decisions that affect life and death. And it's it's a tremendous burden. But and then that responsibility is, is, is powerful when you recognize how important it is the crew, the folks that you have on your truck riding with you the burden of responsibility you have, for them the the stewardship that you have, as well as the stewardship you have for the community, the slice of the slice of the pie, we call it first do that is your response area of responsibility. Tremendous amount of empowerment that your organization puts upon you to serve that community to serve those men and women who are on your firetruck. I just really, really enjoy that level of game. 

 

Plus, you're living with the guys, right? Yeah. And you're in the mix, right? Yeah, you're in the station. So yeah, get up there a little higher, and start to slip away some of those things, right? Yes.

 

So as a chief officer, I'll tell you, what I love about being a chief officer is the expanded scope of responsibility. And I know that that sounds kind of counterintuitive. But I think that, you know, we all have an arc in our life. And as you're on as you're maturing and growing during your the course of your career, I think that you, you start looking for that next challenge, and you start looking for the next opportunity. And there was a time when I was questioning whether or not I wanted to become a chief officer, I thought man, I really enjoy being able to get involved with Mrs. Smith and be involved with a crew right at the tip of the spear. And then I began to realize how important it is to provide support to those folks. Right. And so as a chief officer, you feel like Oh, I'm not involved anymore. But the reality is you were directly involved with providing support, it's just a slightly different angle. So you are serving Mrs. Smith, vicariously through the frontline folks. And and men in right now I'm alarm room chief. And trucks don't roll if my shop is jammed up. Right, they are critical to the operation of the frontline apparatus. And I think sometimes when you're the firefighter on the frontline, you're riding backwards, like nothing else matters. And you lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of things that have to happen in order for you to successfully operate. So it's uh, so I do love being a chief officer. It's it's a different level of organizational responsibility. And, and some days it is not as fun. But but that's okay. Because I've I've learned to embrace the fact that sometimes doing things that are unfun is, is more rewarding at the end of the day. 

 

So it's harder to be a little more hands off on the front line of things like being in the mix of stuff. I mean, because you have to change your way you do things right, because now you're I don't don't want to say this, I mean

 

Talked to Mac n' cheese , I can go ahead not to say you're behind the desk a little more often, instead of being out in the in the middle. 

 

You're right, the real hazards are paper cuts and carpal tunnel. Yeah, like it's a legit concern.



So I have a drawer full of band aids. And some you know, you know, hand balm now keep the skin supple. Right? Now, that's it's a different set of your right, it's a different set of challenges. I think it's easy on the floor to, you know, to take for granted that all these moving pieces that have to have to happen are just happening with the I don't know, they were like, Oh, it's just just a happen. It's



 

just freakin mad. Yeah.



No, and that's, it is? Well, I will say this, my job as a chief officer is to facilitate the operation so that you don't have to worry about resources. Right, I don't want you to have to worry about do we have fire trucks? Right? Not my responsibility at this time, but I don't want you to have to worry about is a dispatch coming? Right. So those are the kind of things that you know, my expectation for my troops is that you are developing your skill set and focusing on the day to day operation, right, focus on your ability to deliver amazing service, whether that's, you know, kind of the the the pragmatic kind of Paramedicine type stuff, it's, you know, your ability to pull hose and complex arrangements, you know, all those different things, the ability to to affect self rescues, or do mayonnaise or to respond to a mayday, your physical fitness, all that all those different elements. That's your responsibility. My responsibility is to ensure that you have the lights on at the station, right to insert that the tones drop when a dispatch happens, right, I'm done talking about kind of all the different types of roles that chief officers play, you know, it's all a support function, right? Do you have tires with enough tread on your apparatus to successfully function? The firefighter in the station shouldn't have to worry about that.



And they do.

 

 

What they did, I will say this, I they do need to have a there should be a free line of communication back right. So that there is communication. And this is where we get into this a whole conversation about leadership and the dynamics right. The the folks who are in the trenches should absolutely have have some type of conduit back to their bosses. Because instead of instead of when they when they don't, what they do is they sit in the firehouse and fuss about the fact that the chiefs are out of touch. And nobody tells them anything. And everything's pardon my language, Everything's fucked up. Right? The whole world is jammed up. And and it clearly it's the Chiefs fault? Well, on one hand, it probably is the Chiefs fault. And if that chief officers not communicating effectively with their troops, well, you're going to end up with stuff like that, where you have a gap in communication, it's really important that leaders are present. And this is a big deal at every level of organizational leadership. But if you work in a separate section far away, and you don't get in with your troops, and listen to them, and hear what their real concerns are, and share perspective with them, then what are you you're going to get people who are disgruntled and frustrated because they don't understand the big picture.

 

 

And I know some people get wrapped around the axle, when it comes to asking the question why, right? I we're going to do this type of tactic or this 10 of hose polar, we're gonna affect this form of rescue on the mountain or whatever. Why? Clearly, in the middle, the operation is not the time to ask that questions. Great. However, there is a time to help people understand the strategic overview, right? What is the the large scale plan? What are we trying to accomplish your big picture. And we help if we help folks who are at the task level, understand the bigger picture, a, they're going to be more successful, and they're going to be developing themselves long run, and in that individual operation, they're gonna be more effective. So I think that, you know, I don't know how I ended up on this tangent. But we talked about the roles and responsibilities at every level, right? There's, there's leadership needed at every level, and the chief officers have to be connected to their people, you got to stay connected. 

 

 

Well, can you can you fix a problem you don't know about? 

 

 

Yeah, no. Yeah. Right. I think that's the AWARE 



Communication, right? There's that, that flow of communication up and down the chain. I know, our chiefs sort of know, when they come in sometimes or ask you a question. And like, we tell them, this is a problem that, well, no one ever told me. That's what happens in any organization and stuff like that. And it's just hard to have that good communication up and down. And especially when you're film, smaller departments feel more multiple roles, which means more emails, more responsibilities, and it's just hard to keep on top of everything. Right? Well, and I would submit to you also that organizations don't foster the culture of open communication.

 

 

You know, it can be hard to approach the boss, right, I have my head and nobody can see me. But there's this, there's this invisible force field that can be around the big bosses. And sometimes you're like, I don't think it's appropriate for me to bring my problem to the boss, or you try to take it up the chain of command, and it gets, it gets shut off, right? Because I was like, Well, I'm not interested in bringing that hard conversation up. So and this applies in every relationship, you know, husband and wife, Captain to subordinate, you know, chief to, to the troops, right, you have to foster an environment of open communication. As a chief officer, I have to be willing to have the hard conversation with my folks.

 

 

If we're not open to that difficult conversation, and I just shut you down. You're never going to come to me with anything. And that's not good. You know, the story of the emperor's new clothes. No, let's hear it. So. So there's this emperor. And I'm going to tell the story from Rayne's perspective, because I don't remember the original version. But there's this emperor, and he's like, I want the finest fabric to make my new clothes. Find it. So he sends out emissaries all across the country to find the finest threads. And people come back with all these refined silks and cottons, the most beautiful stuff. Finally, this one guy, enterprising young man, comes back, and he he his hands are empty, and he holds out to find opes. He holds out the finest thread. And they're like, I don't see anything. And then he goes on. Only people with the most refined, tastes most refined eye, can see this beautiful thread. And everyone's like, Oh, yes, I see it. I see the beautiful thread right now. And the kings like, yes, yes, of course, I see it. Please weave me clothing out of this amazing thread. So the guy goes away for a handful of weeks or whatever. And he comes back, and he holds out his arms with the invisible robes and draped across his arms. And he's like, here, here are the finest clothes again, only the people with the most refined, tastes most refined eye can see the robes. And so the king takes a robes and he goes and he dresses in them and now he's been naked, and it comes out and he sits on his throne with his legs crossed and his hands out and he's like, look at me in my fine apparel. But nobody had the courage to Say, Hey, King, you're naked, right? Because they all wanted to match the eye that the that the big boss had, right that the that the king had, and so that we see that same paradigm happen in the fire service. Right? Actually, I would submit you that we probably see it in every form of organizational leadership structure right in different degrees.

 

 

And that is if the, if the boss is not willing to allow people to be not willing to be vulnerable and say, Hey, I'm open to challenging the conversation challenge me, give me you know, say no, say we'll say the idea. See, I see this iPhone 12 is the best thing ever, and say, well, actually, boss, I prefer the Android and here's why. And that's would be wrong. But oh, maybe. So, the the Hope The point being that it's, it's leadership is a really tricky situation, right? What gets in what do you think causes bosses to be so resistant to people's ideas? 

 

 

I think it's the way it's presented. A lot of times for me. I mean, I think it's just the the way the approach the approach to it. I think you can do a lot of things with you say in the right way and come up with the right approach. But I think it's if if you just come and dump something on me without a solution, that also is a problem for me. 

 

 

Yeah. I think there's a couple things that lead into it, too. One is the relationship that exists, right? So you have to have a you have to develop that relationship, and you have to build trust. Right, right. I think that's a huge component of it. And then the other part is ego. Right? If you I was told once, when I was a, I was a firefighter, I had brought an idea to the table. And I had a chief, I went and I said, Hey, Chief, this idea got squashed. Can you please help me understand, I just want to be I just want to grow, I just want to learn, I want to learn how to participate in this organization. How do I do this? And he points to the rank on his shirt. And he looks at me, and he's like, when it says firefighter. You're an ass, right? Because once that says captain or chief, you become an asset. And I said, Hey, Chief with all disrespect. I mean, what's your head?

 

 

Hold on? Yeah, with all due respect, that has made me sense. He's like, Hey, I'm not telling you. That's, that's right. I'm telling you, it's how it is. And that caused me to, to really step back a little bit and think, man, what is? What is it that gets in the way of our ability to take a young firefighter who comes in with a brilliant idea, and I'm not saying my idea was brilliant, I'm just saying, you know, insert firefighter a, who has an idea or thought that could help the organization and we go, I'm reluctant to listen to this person, that person might have an advanced degree might have special subject matter expertise, and we shut them out. Why do we do that? Is it because we're not willing to subjugate our ego, we're not willing to allow someone else space to be smart in that area? I don't know, 

 

 

I can give you a number of reasons. I see it as they happen. I can't say ever not been guilty, you know of, you know, not listening to other people's ideas in my career.

 

 

100% 100%. No, and that's, and you can't we don't always have time for every single idea, right? Yeah. And this is a delicate balance. But I think that we have to understand that if you're that young firefighter, and you have this thought or idea, consider your approach, right? You talked about like, considering how you bring an idea to the table, and then don't get all bent out of shape. When someone says no, right? Some people like but this is absolute BS, I'm done with this organization. They don't they're friggin a bunch of morons at the top Hold on, maybe you don't understand the big picture. Right. So that's, there's a lot that goes into it. And if you're that, you know, if you're that senior staffer, you may not have time for every, every single idea that comes down the pipeline, because you have much, much higher strategic level things you're worried about or dealing with. So I think that it's a, it's a tricky balance, but understanding that understanding that we leaders have to be receptive. And maybe that is when that young firefighter comes to the senior guy. And he says, Oh, hey, man, I got this wonderful idea, hey, have you gone through your chain of command? Tell me about the process that you took to get it here, and you vet it a little bit? And you push them back a little bit? Give them something to work on? You know, instead of just shutting them down? 

 

 

Right, right. I think a lot of people are afraid of feedback, too. Even though you may think you have the most brilliant idea. I know I have lots of times, and like it, sometimes the feedback is is not what you want to hear. Right? 

 

 

Yeah. Hey, maybe it's not the right time. Maybe before you came to this organization 10 years ago, we tried that. Right and it didn't work. And here's why. And you don't have to necessarily have the institutional knowledge to to to know what well, what didn't maybe? 

 

 

Yeah. Is there been other points in your career that you have had, like hard talks? And how, like, how have you gone about that? Yeah, I need this down. I'm sure there's been lots.

 

 

There's been a handful. Well, there's been a couple times when one in particular the hardest ones removed for word the, the emotional ones, right, right guys going through a crisis. And we'll go sit on the, you know, on the on the big on the bench out back, and the conversation starts with, "Hey, man, are you okay? Because you're not, it's not I don't normally come in and go, Alright, man, here's the laundry list of things that are jammed up in my life. Right? They come in, and they're brooding or they're not participating fully, or they're distracted, or there's any number of signs, right. And so I've had a couple of those hard conversations where it's just a sit down and listen, man, I, I want you to be successful. I want you to be healthy, organizationally, I want to be healthy in your personal life.

 

 

I don't need you, you don't have to tell me everything. But are you okay?" And that's a that's a hard conversation to have. Right? The the other conversations I have from a leadership perspective that are always challenging, there's one that comes to mind. That was really one of my very first moments where I had to take a stand. I was an acting captain. And I had an I was an engineer at the time acting out of class as a captain. And job right there. Oh, and some other engineer who had probably as much time off on the job, if not more than me, was visiting for the day. We call him roving here, roved in for the day. So I was moved up in my own station, he was in my spot, so to speak. So 8:05, we do shift change at 8:05, we get a call. And he is racing to this call on people's bumpers like he is he's being a prick, and dry and driving like a real jerk. And so we I get to the call, and I turned to my bro, I need you to slow down, but you're driving just a little bit too much.

 

 

And he's like, so we do our call. I didn't remember what the call was. Because I was all I was driving. 

 

 

We survived and made it here. 

 

 

Yeah, we get back to the station. He's driving. You know, just as fast back to the station, we pull into the barn, the two backseat firefighters jump off and I go Wait, can you wait a second. And he looks at me and he's like, shuts the door sits back down. And I said, Hey, man, listen.

 

 

I'm over here, completely white knuckled. And that's super uncomfortable for me. I'm an acting captain. And the last thing I need to do is learn how to write paperwork today. So what I need you to do is drive a little bit more conservatively. And he says, Hey, so I always drive and I said, yep, yep, I know. But you're outside the boundaries of the code, three driving rules. And, dude, I can't defend that. I just can't defend it. If you follow the rules, and we get into a collision. That's defensible. Right? You were doing your job within the boundaries of our organizational guidelines. But if you start getting that, and I sound like a chief, right? If you start getting outside those boundaries, I can't defend that. And because why because you just you know, the extra, the extra couple of seconds that you think you save on the way to this call, dude, it's not worth it.

 

 

And now here's the when he we dismount the truck we go about our business. Later on that day, this cat pulls me aside and he says, Hey, man, thank you. And this is us. I don't want give way too much information here because I say who this guy is. But this guy had been military was very seasoned Army veteran, and at some tenure on the job. So he pulls me aside and he says, Hey, thank you for doing that in private. Thank you for calling, correcting me, because I just was in a groove. I was driving the way I always drive. And he was I see your point. It took him a couple hours of reflecting right to kind of Oh, really, to really embrace it.

 

 

And so so from a from a leadership perspective, that was one of a couple of times I've had to have kind of a tougher conversation. I have a I have a little model that I like to use. So I'll share with you. I start with any kind of problem behavior or problem that arises. I immediately stopped the bleeding. Right? So if that's I'll use an example that is really easy when you're on your way to a firefight. And most trucks have seatbelt alerts, right simple buzzers or whatever. And you hear the seatbelt tone go off and you look over your shoulder and you see your firefighter in the backseat dancing around trying to get their gear on. And, but they're out of their seatbelt.

 

 

And I don't know about any other organization, but our organization has a zero tolerance policy for seatbelts you wear your seat belt on the way to a firefight on the way to call you were in the moving apparatus you wear a seatbelt period.

 

 

Okay, good. I'm glad

 

 

I think so. Well, although organizations I've been in.



Yeah, I know there's a lot of variables around the world but here we are. So the the firefighter stand up doing it as putting the gear on, don't ever don't back there.



Stop the bleeding. So the first thing you do is Hey, bro. seatbelt. Now move. Right?

 

 

Then you then you go to the call, right? You find the fire, and then you begin to do some investigation. What really happened. And there's really three things that could be going on here. One is in this particular case, we'll say that the firefighter got was trying to get dressed real fast. They got their arm tangled in their headset cord and their their headsets jammed through their coat. Okay, it was a it was an accident. Yeah. Right. So he was trying to unscrew the accident prior to arrival so he could go do his job. It was a righteous thing. But he made a mistake, right. The second thing that could be in your investigation.

 

 

He didn't know I didn't know this policy about seatbelt. I have no idea. Oh, show me the policy. Oh sweeps MP 1021 Dash 321 B. Okay, now I know. Thanks. Okay.

 

 

Three, defiant I don't wear a seatbelt in my POV I don't give a crap about your seatbelt policy. I'm not wearing freakin seatbelt. So you stop the bleeding on the way to the incident. Right? You address the problem right away. And now you do a little investigation, you figure out what the source of the behavior malfunction is. And now you correct you either. You either figure out what kind of engineering problem took place that caused a guy's headset to get jammed through his coat, right? What structural issue is in play, right? You figure out what training gap is present. And then you fill that gap with knowledge and you help that person move along. And then the last part is behavioral right now this is when you get into like, we have to correct this behavior with discipline process. Whatever process you have in your organization that you know, now you put it into play, you write a memo, they get discipline, time off, whatever, wherever false, but, but really, for the longest time, when I was kind of approaching leadership discipline to me was really kind of a scary thing. Like, how do I correct grown people's behavior, right? These are freaking grown men and women, I'm going to come in and tell them how to behave. That's insane. But I realize that we are all on a continuum of learning, right? From booter, through selfie, senior firefighter, right? We all learn things at different times in our career, and different on this trajectory that we're all on. And so you have to have a little bit of grace, because you don't know what took place. If you just if you just let's just say we went on that fire, and I get off the truck, and I immediately mount that guy in front of everybody else and just rip them a new one. How dare you not wear your seatbelt edited a Baba Baba. And he and he's like, Hey, man, it was an accident. I didn't know. And let's say you sincerely didn't know the policy. Seems like a far fetched thing. But let's just say, if you can, you can overlay any circumstance here. Let's say that guy just didn't know. And you just completely mount them in front of the whole crew? Did you you just gave away a whole mountain of leadership collateral. Yeah. And that's you're going to lose losing ground. So you have to give yourself Buy yourself some time, some discretionary time to really think through the problem. And the way, again, we talked about trust way how much you trust this person's commerce part of the conversation, when they say, Hey, I got tangled up my head said, do you trust that's true? Is that real? You know, where's that? Where's their integrity? Where How well do you know this person, you gotta weigh all that stuff. So I love that you asked me about making this the kind of the decision making when it comes to having hard leadership conversations, because it really can be distilled down to a pretty straightforward process. 



Yeah, I like that process. I tell my guys, I got this from John Maxwell was like, Hey, we're gonna, we're gonna have some high five moments, and we're just not gonna have some moments that are just not high fives, they're just gonna need to take some correction. And I think setting up that expectation with them. I mean, you can even do that, you know, with our kids and other, you know, family members and stuff like that. And it's true. It's like, there's some great moments to celebrate. But just, you got to remember, not every moment is great. Like, we're gonna have to have some corrections and stuff. And I think that's very difficult for people.

 

 

Because I think far too often, we think we're too perfect. You know, and we look at other people, like we could do a better job or they don't know as much as I do. And so they're like, I don't know why that wasn't a high five moment. And you go through this process, the outline here and you're like, oh, that's that's why, you know, and then, you know, I think when you do, you know, have the tack that you dealt with that is you don't keep that respect and you earn more respect back from those watching outside, I think it's, it's very hard in the fire service what what happens when you lose trust and respect? Do you? Do you get that back very easily?



But the answer is no, you do not right.

 

 

It's Can you ever get back?



Yeah, absolutely. I always operated on the and this may be completely overreach here, but I feel like no man is irredeemable. Right? Like there's although I will say this. A good friend of mine says I, nobody's useless, they can always serve as a bad example. Thanks, Chris. Yesterday, credit for that one. I think he got it, he stole from someone else. Anyway, the the point is, is that it when you lose trust, because of the actions that you've taken, you have to it takes a lot longer to repair that than if you had that, you know, give it away in the first place. Right. Right. There's a great, you know, Simon Sinek? Yeah, yeah, we put out a great talk. And there's just he has a whiteboard, he draws a graph on the white board on on the, the up access his performance, right, and the bottom axis is trust. And he says, You can have that person who has really high super high performance capabilities, and low trust, nobody wants that guy, right. It's I would frame it like trust is or sorry, high performances, I would trust you with my life. And then trust is with my money and my wife. Yeah, right. And the the person who is, you know, high performing high trust, of course, we want that guy that the guy who's super tight with, he's a super high performer, we want that guy. But the reality is that we'll take somebody who has super high trust, maybe slightly lower performer, we really want that guy, because it's all the trust is the most important component. And if we, if we start to give away that trust, if we start from a breach of our integrity, or because as a leader, we're not thoughtful about the way we engage with our people, and they lose trust in us or they or they fear that they're going to get railed every single time they make a slight error, you're you're going to lose the ability to influence your team. And at the end of the day, the as a organizational leader, whether it be at the captain level, even if it's as a senior firefighter, your ability to influence and shape, the direction that you're traveling in your company, or the out of the junior firefighter is really important. And if you if you violate that relationship, and you give up for whatever reason, now you don't have any influence. And at the end of the day, as a leader, your whole job is to shape the direction that you're traveling right to to influence folks to go a certain way. Whether it be on the fire ground, whether it be in a firehouse or whatever. It's huge.

 

 

Yeah, yeah, I've, yeah, we could head down a huge hole in that. It goes on. Right. Yeah. On and on. And on conversation there. In throughout your career. Have you had some times where you've just had some like ups and downs, and with you know, we've gone through some crap that maybe would

 

 

You mean, like in a personal emotional kind of way? Yeah, for sure. So, a few few years ago, so of course, now, after all these years, I don't even know where to begin. So after I've never had, what I would consider, like, a moment where I was like, That's it, I'm screwed. I'm done. I can't do this anymore. I just haven't had that moment. Right. I've always been able to be fairly resilient in a lot of ways. However, one day, I was driving across the city, just running errands, I came in what I was doing, I was off duty, and I'm driving across the city. And it just came across an intersection. And it dawned on me that at that intersection, I had run a pretty gruesome trauma. And I was like, Huh, interesting note to self. And that's now that now that call is circulating in my brain again, right? And that's also this, these calls that we run, leave indelible marks in our brains, right? Like, it's just yeah, you can't get away from it. They get buried. And then sometimes they surface so here I am driving across the city. And I come across another area where we had a fatality fire. And this this happened like four times as I'm driving across the city, and I'm like, holy crap, one day. Yeah, just as I'm driving and this one trip across the city, I get home and I'm a wreck. And I start talking to my wife and I just burst into tears. And it was a it was a moment of just weakness for me, I felt like I had lost control. And I you know, I'd for years later people say hey, man, he's like we should we as firefighters should go to therapy, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, Man, I'm good. I don't need that and good until

 

 

you're not good, right? This



Guy was just like everyone else right? And then I had someone describe it to me, it's like a cup and you fill the cup up and all of our cup is right to the brim and is you know, it's just barely hanging on. It just takes one more call and push it flows over the edge. And that and now you're it's out of control, right? Yeah. And so that was this moment I come home, I'm telling my wife, I'm like, I don't know what happened today. No, today, was it any more significant than any other day. I don't think I ran anything more unusual on on this shift. You know, I forgot to say this, I had come off shift and was exhausted, physically had a pretty generic shift. But like I said, I had this moment, and it just flipped in my head. And so suddenly, I'm telling my wife about all these things I'm perseverating on she's like, oh, gosh, I had no idea that you were carrying this burden with you. I'm like, I didn't either. I thought I thought I was managing really well, like I, you know, I have all these outlets, I do a lot of physical activity. I have, you know, church that we go to, and a broad social circle outside of the fire service. I thought I was managing really, really well. So that moment for me, it caused me to really recognize how important it was to start thinking more about my mental health. Did I start going to therapy? No, no, I did not. Not right then. And then a few years later, I had a really and this has got nothing to do with work. But it has everything to do with a not recognizing not knowing how certain circumstances are going to affect you. So I was on a FEMA deployment. And I started to tell you this earlier, I'll tell you now I'm going to tell you for real. It's the last ever deployment, we're in South Florida. This is during Hurricane Harvey, and Irma up, and we're way down in South Florida. And I get a phone call from from my uncle, Hey, your brother coded. And my brother was like five years my junior, fairly unhealthy guy. But didn't know he was this sick. He had some he had a heart condition apparently. So he codes and he's on life support. And I go to I I'm down on the the arena floor of this big horse arena where we're being housed for the time being. And I walk up to where the the head shed where the bosses are at, and I pull on the bosses side to go, Hey, my brother just died. And I don't know what to do. I'm kind of stuck here. I just don't know what to do. And he goes, go sit down and go, I can't sit down. Okay, stand right there. So stand there and I, I, I'm on the edge of tears. But I'm also on the edge of just like, I don't want to be, I don't want to break down in front of all these people I'm on I'm on a deployment with 80 of my peers, right peers on my bosses. And I'm like, I don't want to just break down I don't know what to do. So stand, they're just sort of pivoting in my in my boots, and they come back out and go, we're gonna take care of you. We'll get you out here tomorrow morning. We'll work on it. Go sit down, go find it, go do something. So I walked down to the arena and I mill about night, start packing my trash, like I don't know what to do with myself. So I pack all my stuff up and sit there and they come back and go, Hey, okay, we're gonna get you out of here at four in the morning. So they get me out. I fly to LAX. I'm still in all my FEMA regalia. And I show up in LA, and I land. And my family meets me there. We go to the hospital. And my brother had been they had already they had terminated life support. And, you know, interestingly, I told my family and this is a weird, maybe this is a medic thing. I don't know. I don't know, I told my family. I said, Hey, do not pull the tubes. Do not pull the IVs I want to see everything. I don't know why. But it just felt the need for that. And when we landed when I arrived in the hospital, they had pulled everything. And the docks right standing there kind of put their hands class, I looked at the dock and I said "Are you freaking kidding me?" I said the one thing I asked of you was that you wouldn't pull the tubes. I wanted I needed that. I don't know why, but I needed it. Well, we're, we're the experts. We know. Yeah, so we go. So this is a long story. We we have our family, we spend the weekend together. We plan Hey, we're gonna have his funeral in 30 days. While you guys fly home, get your affairs in order. Go change your clothes. So if I get ready to leave LA, I'm staying at the airport, and I get a phone call. And hey, this is Dr. Lee, I'm your dad's oncologist. And my dad lives in Oregon. And I'm like, oncologist, what does he need oncologist for? Well, he's got he's got liver cancer. And it's terminal. He needs to go into hospice right now. 

 

 

Okay, so I'm the rock right? I can't I gotta handle my I gotta handle my business. Awesome shit. Yeah, I gotta have my business. So you eat the poor guys up there by himself in this hospital. I gotta go figure this out. So I fly home to Phoenix, change my clothes, pack a bag fly to fly to Portland, or sorry, fly to Eugene, Oregon. Rent a car, go to the hospital where my dad's at and get him in hospice. So get him. We get him home and I'm there for about a week. Get them all set up, I fly home. And I'm like, Alright dad all, he did not look good. He was not good. He was definitely dying. I fly home, I'm home for 24 hours, I get a phone call, your dad's gone. And I, I just fell into bed and spent the next 72 hours or so just in bed. And I will tell you that I was shocked I was I remember thinking myself to just get up, you need to go for a run, Hey, get up and go, you need to go do something. And I couldn't do it. And I was shocked by the overwhelm and the cloud of depression, I had no idea what that was gonna feel like because all up until this point, I have dealt with death and dying. Repeat hundreds of times, I've helped people held held other people's dead babies in my hands are trying to resuscitate them. I've, I've, you know, pull people from vehicles where they're just the life was smashed out of them. Like I have been with death a many times. But it wasn't until it came right into my household that I began to understand what depression really look like. And it shocked me, it really shocked me and overwhelm me. And the the word got out in the firehouse in the station in the apartment, and my phone exploded text messages, Facebook messages, all of these just I don't know what to call them exactly, just messages of solidarity. And it was hugely supportive, and a little bit overwhelming. But it was I needed I needed people to just to say, hey, I don't I know you're going through a shitstorm. And I don't know what that's like, but just know that I'm present. Yeah, that mattered. That does matter. It mattered. And it was a for me, that was a profound lesson in recognizing that there's nothing that anyone individual can do, I can't come in and just go, Hey, man, I'm gonna take this off, you can't do it. You have to walk through it. But I can go, Hey, man, I'm just gonna sit here and just be with you in the pit of despair, right? I'm just gonna sit here in this pit, and be next to you and recognize that you're hurting. And that I can only just put my arm around your shoulder. So I got. And so for me, it's it. I have since started going to therapy going to counseling. And interestingly, it is. I can tell you what the one pivotal differences like "Why suddenly just it feels good. But it's what it does". I don't know. And I know everybody who goes to therapy says yeah, hey, it's good. It feels good. I can't put my finger on exactly. But I know it's helpful. 

 

 

Yeah. And, um, that's a lot to process. And I just kind of want to go back a little sure like that. 72 hours in bed and just not wanting to get up and do something. And I just from knowing from what I know about you and talking with you, I just I can like, that's just hard for me to imagine that you can get to a place like that. And we go on calls, right? And we see people that are going through the same thing and we're trying to like, wrap our minds around, why can't they get over this? How come they can't help themselves? How can they can't get up? You know, and it's just, I think it's just a good perspective of knowing just how you are and even in you know, as strong you are, is still times that, you know, your shits gonna happen and get you down, and you're gonna have a hard time getting up out of the hole.

 

 

Right? Yeah, you know, there's times I look back on my life and Okay. They use this example a lot. But when I was great in Ironman triathlons, in my very first Ironman, I was physically like, had muscle cramps in places that I didn't know I had muscle fiber, right. I was in so much physical pain, but I willed myself through it. Yeah. And I couldn't get out of bed. Right like that was different. And, you know, I was able to will myself ignore pain and drive on. But I couldn't get past the depression that fell over me.

 

 

I think that's pretty common. Yeah, I've been there myself too. And just like I can will my self through an extreme amount of pain. But the mental pain is just so much harder. I don't know. I'm sure there's the exact reason why that is out there. But I don't know it and quite yet, but I mean, it's just it's just different. And it's just a paralyzing in a in a different way. Yeah. You can't get your mind and emotions didn't start moving you forward.

 

 

Yeah. It was shocking for me. And I've heard so many people, you know, tell people I've heard many people tell other people. Hey, man, just suck it up. Cowboy up, man up. I got this. Toughen up. Amen. You say that? It's just that's, that's too easy, right? Is it? It's too easy to say that. And it's really disingenuous to the person who's suffering to come in and just be like, Hey, you just got to get up. You just got



 

Do this. Okay. Easy for you to say, yeah. Right. And it changed my perspective on depression a lot. Now. I was it was weird for me because, for me, it resolved kind of kind of spontaneously almost as much as it kind of came in and crashed on me. And then it kind of pulled away. And then I remember, you know, there's kind of got up and got moving and was lucky in that regard. Right. I've heard other people who just couldn't, it just didn't go away. Yeah. And I was lucky because it backed off a little bit they like kind of just get it down, if you will. And, and then there were moments when I would be driving along if for no reason burst into tears. What in the hell? I've been talking myself, What is wrong with you, dude?

 

 

What is wrong? Damn emotions, right? Where did that come from? Because I wasn't thinking about it. But something something would trigger a thought a moment that an emotion or whatever, I don't know. I can't explain it. And, and even you know, I think even to this day, when you when you have for me, it's been three and a half, four years now. I can't remember exactly. And yet, you know, I think that the you get further away from the event, and the discomfort gets further away as well. And you slowly it's slowly, it's like it slowly thins out and never goes away. It just gets thinner. And you can see past it, you can get past it that way. 

 

 

Yeah, yeah, I know. I think everybody listening to this right now is thinking of those moments that they've they've had just kind of flashing back to I'm sure, in therapy, I've just recently done some EMDR therapy. And it's not anything I thought it would be far as like, it's not talk therapy. It's like the light therapy, where you're just kind of watching the lights go back and forth, and your brain starts to process memories. And you really, he really just don't do a lot of talking with the therapist that's there. But it's just amazing how your brain processes things. And things came up in that session that I had, like, not even thought about for, I don't know, 25 30 40 years, probably. And they just popped up and I'm just like, Hmm, I didn't know that was an issue or bothering me. And then as fast as interest was an issue, like and then I kind of like you kind of like drill down like why was that an issue and then you just kind of move on and you just, you feel better? And I think this type of therapy just works for me because I don't I personally don't like to do a lot of talking about my feelings. My psych listening? Yeah, that's That's true.

 

 

Right? Yes. That's clinically significant. Yeah. Well, you know, I remember thinking to my wife, my wife was one of the biggest proponents of me going and going to therapy. And honestly, you know, I think Kevin's for her over the course of my lifetime, she's been really encouraging and very strong in her stance on things which has been good because it's really very helpful to have her be willing to offer some thoughts and direction and say, I don't know what your problem is, but this is what I suggest. And I'm gonna get in trouble cuz life on podcasts, apparently, chord in my life. So I can't go too deep there. But I do call her do remember the movies. Dances with Wolves. Little bit, do remember the character that the girl he calls her stands with a fist? That was her name? Yeah, that's my wife. Anyway. The, the, you know, my wife, the phrase that she used was you need to go unpack your shed. Yeah. And what does that mean? Like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm fine. I don't have to unpack anything. I, you know, there are things in my childhood where I'm like, I wasn't really traumatized. But the more you think about your without so little trauma, right? So, for example, my dad, not the most loving guy, and I don't want to disparage the poor guy, he's gone. And but he he was doing the best he could with what he had. And I remember one time coming home and I speaking of trust and vulnerability, I was not willing to tell him what I was feeling or thinking because he didn't have space for it. Right? He would, whatever, I'm standing there, and he's yelling at me about something. I don't even remember what it was. It doesn't even matter. But he ends it with stop standing there looking so stupid. And that phrase circulated in my brain for ever. And now it's funny, because now I laugh at it. But I still feel that like, sense of insecurity, this little boy who, you know, in elementary school, I was afraid to go to the chalkboard and write anything down because I might make a mistake. Yeah, and I might look stupid, right? And that does stop staying there looking stupid was what rattled through my head. And so I go, Oh, there's a micro trauma, right? There's a little granular, you know, a little grain of problem that was planted into my brain at a young age. And I've separated ever and ever since.

 

 

Yeah, those little seeds can you know, either just stay dormant or just pop up all the time and it's it's amazing how you get those little traumas and they just last through a lifetime. And like said you either deal with them or you don't want them. When you don't deal with them, they they control your life. You know, going back through you know when you're traveling through town and you're starting to like relive all these memories i i live in the same town I work in the same area that I've worked in my personal my entire career over 30 years. So just Yeah, traveling through town, there's some days that just like, hit you more and more like this intersection that accident, you know, this, this house and it just, I don't know that those things ever just fade and go away? I wish they would I wish I would just like jump in my truck or car and just drive and not think about anything and think about all the other things, but maybe it just does fade away after you retire? I guess?

 

 

I don't know. I don't know. That's a, that's a really interesting question. When you get therapists here to ask, I don't know that it does. I think you just learn how to manage it better. Yeah, you know, really, I think you're always, the word that I like to use is indelibly marked, right, your brain is marked forever, I don't think you get rid of it, it becomes a part of who you are. And shapes the way you think about things and the way you behave and etc. But we can learn to manage it better. And I think that it's you know, I think the earlier you start that in your career, the better. I'm so glad that the fire service has become more welcoming of that conversation, you know, and more willing to have that, you know, all across the nation, you know, we're willing to have this conversation more frequently. And, you know, that's huge. I think we still live on dark humor a lot, right? But but individually, we're all starting to be more willing to process our stuff, and work it out. So it doesn't become problematic, right? Because a lot of a lot of people cope by drinking alcohol or doing you know, kind of reckless behavior and things like that and just doesn't. You take it out on your spouse and you don't know why. Yeah, you know, it's 

 

 

Or all the above. Right? Yeah. Do all those things at a cocktail in a horrible cocktail?

 

 

Yeah. Yeah, it's as the years go by and just thinking about like unpacking unit your shit and and I had a great guest on, you know, talk about make sure you pack your shit before you retire. Cuz a lot of people don't. And then the way they retire, they unpack their shit. And it's not good. Retirement after a first responder, like when she hit your pension and stuff like that, there's a lot of people take a huge slide in their lives. And I think that's probably, you know, one thing that we can do better is unpack our shit, and then have something to look forward to after, you know, we leave the fire service or leave, you know, being a first responder. Yeah, I think we're, we love this job. And we're so passionate and dedicated about it. But what happens when you can't do that anymore? Yeah, where do you go?

 

 

Good question. You know, I've heard a lot of people talk about mission, right? And I frame it, you know, a lot of military guys come and go, what's your new mission, right, you leave that you go in, you get exposed to horrible crap for for years, particularly in the last, you know, 20 years or so. And then you get out. And then what I want you to do, right, that do that job is a CPA is probably not going to be have the same level of kind of reward, right? It's going to be there's something about that, and certainly for public safety after 20 to 30 years of public service, you know, in a job that is very rewarding on a lot of levels and is aspired to by many and and how they want and respected in the community. And then suddenly, that's gone, right? And I know so many people, like watch my identity is not that of a firefighter. I'm not a firefighter. Yeah, you can't help yourself. You can't help yourself, right? It's woven into what we do every day, you get up and you, you know, you strap on this uniform, and it's it's a part of who you are. And you can try to deny that but

 

 

it's just over 30 of your life there. 

 

 

Yeah, exactly. I was with you. Right. So I think it's important to recognize that we have to have, I mean, I will say this and just in general terms, whoever you are in your life, you have to have purpose. And that is very, very specific for firefighters, you come in you have a mission, but you know, what is your purpose in life beyond the fire service? Right? You have to continue that figure what that is and find a find a way to spend that time and work toward a purpose. Give yourself something to do so many people who I've seen this and you see this in retirees, right? They don't have any family, they don't do anything. They just sit around and they slowly wither away, right? Because they have no sense of no real purpose in life. 

 

 

Yeah, yeah, I know I've looking at the tail end of my career and just and I looking for something to leave. It would be just as rewarding as this job is. I don't want to leave and be like I'm just doing a job. That's like it's never been part of me. I like yeah, for as long as I career I've never done just a job like this has always been more than a job to me, 

 

 

Bro, you've got a dope podcast. 

 

 

Yeah, yeah, I appreciate you did too. You do too, or you're going, 

 

 

you got it, you got the routes laid, man, you're good.

 

 

But about a week ago, I just came to, you know, this question. And I was just listening to some other podcasts. And it was just like, you know, I keep thinking, like, how can I serve the world, like differently do that. But it's like, and they reworded it. And I really love it. It's just like, what does the world need from me? And that's kind of like my direction right now. It's just like, what does the world need for me and how that appears? I'm not really sure. But I'm open to it. I think that'll be the thing that leads me away from being a firefighter, police officer. Alright, next adventure.

 

 

I love that. I think that, you know, when I was early in my adult life, you know, when I came out of the Marine Corps, I was like, Okay, what am I going to do now I made it now like, you know, young and trying to figure it out, I started going to school and started working in the service industry, right, I started doing construction for a little while. And then I got into retail. And I'm like, I wanted this I had this sense of desire to provide service to the community, right. I didn't know what that looked like, but I want to serve. And I don't know where that came from, necessarily. But it became a part of who I was. And as I was looking for different ways to serve, I stumbled across the fire department, right and fell into that. And, and it's been incredibly rewarding, but I love the, for me finding ways to serve in the community is hugely rewarding. And it is never been about getting rich. Certainly did went the wrong path for making that happen. But it is, you know, it's about being able to make a reasonable living, but get something more out of it. I don't want my life to be just a series of days that I got up and went to work and came home and with my family. I mean, I love my family. But it's, there's, there's no my kids are grown now. And they're moving off to do their own thing right. Now, what do I do with my life? Right? Is it just about the kids like you have to make you have to find your individual purpose, If it's, if it's just about your kiddos, then what happens? Right then what? And I think it's for me, I've always, it's always every stage of my life has always been okay, now what? Okay, now what, what's next? And how am I going to fulfill this need, I have to serve in the community. I don't know what that looks like. And I find myself going, Hey, I, I can do more. I need to find ways to do more in the community. And, you know, for years it was serving with young men doing scouting stuff and like all Mammon teach these guys how to make fires and carry heavy packs and, and and learn how to suck it up. Right. That was my, that was my gift to the community. And, you know, I had the pleasure of serving on a budget, this is gonna sound really horrible. But as Citizens Budget Committee for my city, not see I work in the city I live in. And it was surprisingly, it was very rewarding. 

 

 

That is surprising.

 

 

Yeah, you don't want to talk about three plus nines, and go down a rabbit hole here. But it was a an unusual way to participate in the community. And what was really fun for me was when my neighbors and everyone found out what I was doing, they're like, oh, wow, that's, that's cool. Thank you for doing that. And I'm like, No, you're welcome. Right, I felt kind of dumb and silly. But it was, it was an interesting way to contribute back to the community right? Now, I have no desire to get into politics, or do any of that nonsense, or sit on city council or anything like that. But there's, there are lots of organizations that we can contribute to and serve in our communities, you know, Boys and Girls Clubs and scouting and, and I own a youth center, because I the youth is our future, right? But there's other you can go to a soup kitchen and just volunteer your time for a little bit, right? Just anything like that. But if you can, if you can get if you can serve your community and make a living at the same time. For me, that's no, that's a win.

 

 

Yeah, I was gonna wrap up the podcast, and I was gonna ask you this, but I may have just heard it, what impact do you want to leave in this world?

 

 

Oh, man. Yeah, I think I, I well, I, I love giving back as much as I can. And so, you know, one of the things that I tried to do, I pick this up about four or five years ago, I tried to have a mentoring group that I do with young would-be company officers. And I get by probably get more out of it than they do. But I love being able to share some of the institutional knowledge that I've gained. And some of the lessons that I've learned the hard way and, and to hear their perspective as we talk about as we talk about what it means to be an organization, an organizational leader. So I love I love being able to do that I love being able to impart on youth, some of the things that I figured out along the way, and I think if anyone you know I don't know what what I leave it up to, you know, those coming behind me to tell me what my legacy is. But I hope that people feel that they're loved and cared for by me in whatever aspect of life that we're in, whether I'm there, their chief officer or whether I'm their scout leader, or whether I'm there. Father, I hope they feel and they care, and that I love them, and that I'm invested in them in what they're trying to accomplish in their lives. That would be for me, that would be my legacy if I could leave one. 



Awesome. Well, thank you, Rayne, for being on the show. Thank you so much for having me. Hey, we need to get out where people can follow you and get your podcasts. 

 

 

So my podcast is the Fireground Fitness Podcast. And it can be found in all the various podcasting platforms. So go check it out, subscribe. The podcast is dropped in the middle of the night. And of course, I'm on Instagram @firegroundfitness and Facebook same and Twitter and all that jazz. Awesome. 

 

 

Well appreciate you being on. Thanks so much. 

 

 

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.



Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcasts. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our hosts Jerry Dean Lund through the Instagram handles @jerryfireandfuel, or @enduringthebadgepodcast. Also by visiting the show's website, enduringthebadgepodcast.com for additional methods of contact and up to date information regarding show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show, solely represent those of our hosts and the current episodes guests.




Rayne Gray Profile Photo

Rayne Gray

Firefighter/US Marine Veteran/Podcaster

Rayne Gray has been a Firefighter for over 23 years, working in every rank and currently serving as a Division Chief for the City of Phoenix. He is the host of the Fireground Fitness podcast, a US Marine veteran, an avid outdoorsman, public speaker, Father and Husband.

Gray has spent his life pushing the boundaries of physical discomfort, running ultra-distance events of all types, climbing granite walls, getting choked to the edge of life in Jui jitsu tournaments and has stood on top of the highest peaks in the United States. 

Further, Gray also believes in pushing the mind.  With a commitment to lifelong learning he continues to attend courses and classes and is always looking for the next “good book”. Along the way Gray has completed a wide array of certifications and credentials to include a Masters in Public Administration.   

Gray has stated that “there are so many variables and complexities in life that it is imperative that we keep experiencing, learning and, in turn, sharing what we have discovered."