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Balancing the Grind with Sean Robinson, Volunteer Firefighter & Author

Meet Sean Robinson, a volunteer firefighter, author, and advocate for personal transformation. With over 20 years as a volunteer firefighter and a successful career in managing an electrical business, Sean dives into his daily routine, the importance of work-life balance, and the lifestyle changes that have significantly improved his quality of life. 

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

For more reasons than I am sure I understand, I have always been driven to provide for myself. From a very early age, if I earned my own money, I would be able to spend or save it how I wanted. Having a newspaper delivery route at 12 years old and the commitment to complete my route rain or shine showed me responsibility at an early age.

Growing up, my father was a mechanic and I always helped work on vehicles with him and would eventually work on my own as I became old enough to get a drivers licence. Although this was helpful, it also helped me realise I never wanted to be a mechanic. I joined a volunteer fire dept at 19 years old and thought it was what I wanted to do full time.

I was already committed to taking law and security at my community college and would see the program through even though the more time I spent responding and training with the fire dept, the more it became my goal to do it full time. Already having spent a bunch of money on schooling, I couldn’t possibly have made post-secondary education work for firefighting financially, so I decided to look into a trade and continue to volunteer all while taking as many courses as I could.

In pursuit of preparing myself to be the best applicant, it was instilled in me early on from a trainer that there was a huge demand and I would have to do everything I could to be better than every other applicant. To do more than the next person to stand out would almost guarantee that I was successful.

I carried this mentality into everything that I did and do. When I was in law and security, I took self defence courses, acquired my firearms licence, worked with young offenders at a group home, and volunteered. Starting my apprenticeship, I went to many seminars, researched the trade, ensured to move through different sectors of the trade to be well versed before I was licensed and my cost was too high to learn new things, become a master electrician, took estimating, supervisor and leadership courses. Firefighting I took everything I possibly could and became certified as a firefighter, including hazmat and special rescue response and becoming a trainer.

While I grew and decided that I didn’t want to be a full time firefighter any longer, I have just passed my 20th year as a volunteer. I have also grown through my electrician career and have recently moved up into managing an established electrical business.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

A typical work day includes waking up around 5am. 430 if I can help it. I try to read, exercise, drink water and leave my house by 6am. I have an hour commute to work where I rotate between inspirational self-help audiobooks and podcasts.

At work I have a mixture of meetings, estimating reviews, and managing project and business needs. With so many things happening there is a constant distraction and time management has become one of my biggest tools. Some days are easier than others. Having a great team has been the key to helping with my workload.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Work life balance has been very difficult for me at times. Responding to fire calls during family dinners and events. Growing up in that environment, as my father also was a volunteer firefighter, and missing things because others needed him was a challenge. Managing career, education while responding and taking courses became tough and when I started having my own family it posed an even bigger challenge.

Currently my work life balance is to make sure my needs, the needs of my family and my career are all scheduled as best as I can, with room for where life just happens. This is best achieved for me in turning my phone off, removing email and work apps from my personal phone, and not immersing myself in work when it is time to hear about my families’ day. It is tough at times to make sure everyone is taken care of but we can only do what we can. I try to remove the pressure of being perfect and take things in stride.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Over the past 3 years, I have experienced massive changes. I have worked on completely changing my mindset and attitude. In the past year, I have adapted more control over my schedule both personally and professionally so that the important things are not missed. If I don’t schedule it in, it is too easy for me to run out of time and miss the things I want to do.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

My favourite books are Atomic Habits by James Clear, Mindset by Carol Dweck, Peak by Anders Ericsson and The Mountain Is You by Brianna West. (Also my own book about my journey, Going Dry – My Path to Overcoming Habitual Drinking).

Podcasts are: The school of greatness, The Ed Mylett Show. I have also been on almost 50 podcasts and try to follow each of the creators as there are some great other podcasts out there. I post all of my interviews on my website. Newsletters, I look forward to the 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter by James Clear.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

My biggest piece of advice is life is short and time is not guaranteed. Work hard, pursue greatness, but be nice to people and always enjoy the small things. Your kids won’t always want you to read to them and you won’t always be able to take long walks.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.