Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Between Alarms: April 2018

By Arjuna George   

Features Hot Topics Leadership Arjuna George

Some of the world’s most successful people all have one thing in common: they are all fanatical readers. Reading provides a multitude of benefits to your personal life and your career. Before I joined the fire service, I was far from an avid reader, but once I found my calling and developed a strong passion for the trade, reading was easy. Reading became interesting and it was fun.

Whether you prefer paper books Some of the world’s most successful people all have one thing in common

I am sure my love for reading has brought me to where I am today: a proud father, husband, and fire chief. Reading has also opened up opportunities like writing for Canadian Firefighter magazine.

There is one common denominator among great leaders – they all read a lot, and I mean a lot. Many of today’s most successful people read multiple books a month. For example, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told The New York Times he reads 50 books per year – about a book every week. Just think about the number of ideas that could be generated from reading four books a month.

If you have a problem in the fire station or a task that is challenging you, it is almost guaranteed that someone out there has already experienced it too. They may have even written about it. Some of the greatest minds have most likely already delved deep into the subject and researched solutions that might help or inspire you. Use reading as a means to learn from tried and tested experts, and accelerate your career and your life goals.

Reading is a perfect and affordable tool for self-development, giving you information to help push you ahead of the pack in a very competitive world. The knowledge you can gain from reading is limitless and within everyone’s reach. Famous innovator Elon Musk taught himself rocket science by reading everything he could on the subject, with no formal schooling. Reading is an opportunity to consult with the greatest thinkers and innovators throughout history. Especially today, with access to the internet, we have an unprecedented volume of knowledge available at our fingertips.


Whether you’re reading content related to the fire service, or business, self-help, fiction, blogs, or magazines like this one, every word you read will further fuel your passion. To be successful you must pursue knowledge from leaders in your field. If reading a paper book seems outdated to you, try an audio book or e-book –or try all three. I have a massive personal library of paper books but I also have a wide selection of e-books and audiobooks for learning on the go. Audiobooks are very affordable and are great for long commutes or traveling, while providing a different way to learn. Everyone has a preferred method of learning. Some soak up the information by reading, some by watching, and some by listening. If you are serious and committed to becoming the best you, there really is no excuse not to benefit from the vast array of information and formats out there.

Over Christmas I was fortunate enough to have been gifted over $200 in gift cards at an online bookstore. Within a few days, the cards were empty and my new books were en route. Finding the right book has never been easier or more convenient.

I have such a large collection of business, management and leadership books I have had to record my collection on a phone app. The app keeps a log of all the books I own, and ones I have on my must read list so I don’t repurchase books I already have. Online bookstores like Chapters and Amazon have millions of books for sale on every subject imaginable that can be in your hands within days.

Amplify the usefulness of books, by making side notes, marking, highlighting, and adding sticky notes, whatever works best for you to increase retention and allow for a quick review. I have also made summary notes in some of the greatest books I have read at the back of the book, which include all the important nuggets of information for future reference. Use whatever tools you feel comfortable with, but find ways to make the most of your time spent reading and learning.

Reading provides you with deep knowledge that increases your vocabulary, provides you with ideas and insight, and is a great way to unplug and relax.

As Harry S. Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” So if maximizing your leadership potential interests you or you’re looking to excel in your fire service path, now is the time to read, learn and grow.

So next time you are between alarms, pick up a book that really interests you and give it a try.

Arjuna George is chief of Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue in British Columbia; he has served on the department since 1997.  

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