top of page

Why Grounded Truths?

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

I love words and phrases with multiple meanings ("polysemy" which itself, surprisingly, does not have another meaning), and "Grounded Truths" definitely fits that bill. Back in 2021 when I began very seriously contemplating leaving the Forest Service, the phrases "boots on the ground" and "ground truths" were being thrown about with gleeful abandon. Government insider insight: the "corporate buzzword" thing isn't restricted to the actual corporate space; I'm fairly sure we have more buzzwords, jargon, etc than the Fortune 500 combined.

As is typical in the buzzword realm, these turns of phrase were antonymical: "ground truths" consisted of "what the models say" with a heavy dose of confirmation (perhaps "conformation" is more apt?) bias blended in, and the "boots on the ground" were present to do as-told, not provide useful or relevant feedback up the chain, and certainly not to question the models or Conformation Bias of The Agency (no not the CIA. I think we all refer to our respective/former Agencies as "The Agency").

Being the fan of "Genghis" John Boyd that I am, my destructively creative mind went to work, and I wondered: what if we really did emphasize the "ground truth", while still being respectful of the fact that others experience facts and their own Truths in their own ways? What if the "ground" truth really focused on the facts as experienced by the "boots on the ground"? What if we "grounded" our "truths" in a mix of the psychological understanding of bias and acknowledgement of the reality of how people think, the humanistic aspect of vulnerability in questioning it, and a dash of outside-the-box Eastern philosophical thought, a la Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu?

I pondered numerous other names. At one point "The Tenth Man Group" was a strong contender - the "Tenth Man" doctrine is taken from the Mossad, that "whenever nine agree on an interpretation or course of action, it is the duty of the tenth to question and [play "Devil's Advocate"]." While I've consistently filled the "Tenth Man" role throughout my life and career, always happy and eager to question the interpretations of facts and the decisions that proceed from them with honest examination of self and others, it's just one small aspect of my personality and what I intend to do with the business.

Thus, Grounded Truths took the lead, easily. It's about the facts on the ground, the truths that we derive from them, and the truths of the changes we want to see happen. Most importantly, it's about the actions we take and impacts we have "on the ground" that we leave behind for others.

If you think this is all just "more cool buzzwords", this philosophy has led me successfully through a fatality fire, a successful defense of not one but two communities under "impossible" fire conditions, building an interagency cooperative, as a Fed, in "sagebrush rebellion" country, management of a Rainbow Family National Gathering (tens of thousands of hippies out in the woods for over a month), and then a Total Eclipse response that late summer.

For four years, I led daily management and facilitation for fire and law enforcement response across a geographically huge area (thousands of square miles) with numerous resources, in a place where a marijuana grow site could (and did) spark a fire that threatens at least one town and thousands out recreating in the Forest, requiring hundreds of firefighters, dozens of LEOs, and handfuls of aircraft, to "contain" the situation... and that, my dear reader, was known as "Tuesday".

bottom of page