Many of us are familiar with the phrase “What’s Important Now.” Personally, I have heard it multiple times, providing me with a solemn reminder. It is referenced in motivational and leadership presentations, but its emphatic warning fades away soon after in the whirlwind grind of our daily lives.
For those in public safety or the military, this phrase can reference life-and-death decision points; for the home, it can help keep a family together; and for any organization, it can make the difference in financial success. Each case brings a different perspective to what’s relative, but in each one, it creates a proverbial pause.
So you might ask, how did we get here, and how does it relate to public safety? Well, my concern starts with overstimulation. In our world, there is more information available than we sometimes can digest. Just to give a quick rundown: hundreds of TV channels and apps, search engines, community events, sports to watch, sports to participate in, schools to attend, degrees to earn, festivals, associations to belong to, etc. There are billions of choices, which has been a blessing in many ways. It has given more connection points than we ever could dream of having.
How could something so awesome be detrimental? How could the plethora of choices be harmful? The first thing that comes to mind is a song that was popular in the ’70s — “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band. The lyrics say a lot: “… sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”
At some point, all this available information can become clutter, lead to confusion, create a sense of loss and build a world where we don’t fit in or don’t have an identity. It’s more difficult for parents to keep up with their children — so much to see, so much to read, so many dangers. It really can overwhelm us into an unrealistic, unhealthy and unsafe world, but only if we let it.
Personally, I feel that things like substance dependency, mental health challenges, roadway distractions and the “got to have it now” philosophy not only create independent dangers, but they also endanger those who share our world. These dangers can lead to bigger concerns and challenges that create compromises, and those personal compromises easily creep into others’ lives, endangering public safety.
So, what can we do? I think it begins with personal choices. I believe we have to be intentional with prioritization. We have to focus and refocus our vision continuously on “what’s important now” to maintain our personal values and avoid the slippery slopes of trouble.
Until next time, stay safe.
– Bill Westenberger has served as chief since 2008. He was given the 2019 Kennesaw Citizen of the Year Award.