Fire Fighting in Canada

Features Leadership
CornerStone: May 2018

Perhaps the title of this column should be “A Time for Change.” I say this because after more than 10 years of writing for Fire Fighting in Canada, I feel it’s time for me to put my pen away. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I feel I don’t have more leadership lessons to share, it’s just time to focus on other challenges and more travel in the RV.

April 19, 2018 
By Lyle Quan

Over the years I have enjoyed writing columns about leadership, risk management, change management and more. I have promoted countless books and programs over the years because I have learned from these books and programs and wanted to pass on these learning opportunities to my friends and colleagues. Most recently, I’m proud to say that I co-authored a second book with my friend Les Karpluk. Both Les and I hope that you enjoy Leadership Prescribed 2.0. This builds on the information and lessons promoted in our first book. Of course, I would remiss if I didn’t say thank you to the folks at Fire Fighting in Canada and Annex Business Media for their support and encouragement to complete our second book. All of this leads me to this article, which is all about your mindset.

The book I’m promoting is titled Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, written by Carol Dweck (2006). I wish I would have read this book when it first came out because it explains in a common-sense manner why some people have a “fixed mindset”, while others have a “growth mindset”.

A fixed mindset is the result of a belief that your abilities are set in stone; such as, you are who you are. A growth mindset is the result of a belief that your abilities are not permanent and you can grow beyond them. Growth mindset people adapt when needed and crave a challenge. Fixed mindset people see criticism as an assault on their character and start avoiding challenges in fear of failure, or perhaps having to move outside of their comfort zone. When you start to believe you can get better at something that is when you find the real desire and motivation to learn. Growth mindset people take criticism as a step towards achieving their goals. The thing about the growth mindset is their stick-to-itiveness no matter how far-fetched success might seem.

According to the fixed mindset, smart people succeed. Therefore, success naturally makes you smart. As such, fixed mindset people gravitate towards choosing the easier problem, so success can come quickly and can validate their smartness. By choosing a difficult problem a fixed mindset person may jeopardize their chances of success thus increasing the possibility of failure, which may eventually reveal a weakness. To highlight this previously noted concept, one of Dweck’s studies offered a choice to four-year olds of either doing an easy jigsaw puzzle or taking the difficult one. What surprised them was that even at such a young age, children with a fixed mindset opted for the easy option as they believed in smart people not making mistakes. Dweck also noted that when they increased the level of difficulty in the jigsaw puzzles, fixed mindset children made excuses as to why they didn’t need to do the new puzzles. Whereas, the growth mindset kids, jumped into the new puzzles with even greater energy.


Ultimately, Dweck discovers that people with a growth mindset are comparatively happier, satisfied, healthier and more likely to succeed. The good news for those with fixed mindsets is that switching to growth mindset is just a book away.

The message, as noted by Dweck, is that you can change your mindset. The book leads you through topics like, inside the mindsets, the mindset of leadership and of course changing mindsets. I strongly recommend if nothing else that you read the section on the mindset of leadership. It will offer you some valid information that I’m sure will advance some new perspectives. You won’t be sorry you did because I’m sure you will take a new outlook on mindset.     

Mindset, The New Psychology of Success is published by Ballantine Books can be obtained through Indigo/Chapters and Amazon.

It has been a pleasure and honour to write for Fire Fighting in Canada and to receive the feedback from my peers. I’m sure you will still hear from me both in the world of consulting and instruction at the Ontario Fire College. My “growth mindset” will not allow be to stagnate and be comfortable with “just good enough”. All the best in your future endeavours.

Lyle Quan has more than 30 years of experience in the field of fire and emergency services. He presently consults for emergency services around the world. He facilitates fire officer programs at the Ontario Fire College and instructs the bachelor of business in emergency services for Lakeland College. Contact Lyle at and follow him on Twitter at @LyleQuan.

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