More and more learning from dogs!

This was sent to me by neighbour Jim Goodbrod.

(Jim also wrote the foreword to my book!)

It comes from a post over on The Brandbuilder Blog: here is a link to the original article.

ooOOoo

Twenty-one things my dog taught me about being a better man.

June 7, 2010 by Olivier Blanchard

sasha003

We had to put our golden retriever to sleep this weekend, our friend of fifteen years, our family’s faithful guardian and companion, and one of the kindest, most loyal and giving souls I have ever met. True to her breed, Sasha was courageous, tender and selfless until the end.

I was trying to figure out how to give her a worthy send-off here on The BrandBuilder blog, and settled on some of the things she taught me over the years. Or rather, the things I didn’t realize she had taught me until this past week, much of which I spent caring for her, as she could no longer take care of herself. She and I had some long chats, in our own way, and the old girl was much wiser than I gave her credit for.

Are there business lessons in this list? Yes. There are. But all are deeply human lessons at the core. If being human can make a business better, if it can fuel its soul (or even simply give it one), then yes, let these be business lessons. But don’t ever forget that what makes a business truly great isn’t technology or design or a fancy logo. Those are expressions of something deeper. Something more visceral and powerful and true. What makes a business great, what makes it special, worthy of a connection, worthy of trust and loyalty, admiration and respect, even love, always starts with a beating heart, not a beeping cash register. (One is the cause, and the other one of many effects. Don’t lose sight of that distinction. Horse before cart: Soul drives love. Love drives business.)

It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s important in our lives. And this isn’t me being overly sentimental because I just lost my dog. I mean, yes, sure, okay… But there’s also something to this: That sentimentality, that emotion, these things that make us connect with other souls is at the heart of EVERYTHING this blog has been about these last few years: Business, design, marketing, social media, communications, corporate responsibility, best practices… No company can ever be great unless it can tap into the very essence of what makes us want to connect with each other, and no executive or business manager or cashier can ever truly be great at their jobs unless they also tap into the very thing that makes genuine human connections possible. If ever there was a secret to successfully building a brand, a lovebrand, the kind that people will fight for and whose mark they will tattoo on their bodies, it is this. The rest is merely execution.

If you only walk away with one bit of wisdom from this post, let it be this: You cannot build a better business unless you first become a better human being. Everything that strips you of your humanity, of your empathy, of your ability to connect with others is bad for business. It’s bad practice. It is doomed to fail in the end.

As my good friend John Warner noted yesterday, “If more people were as loyal and loving as dogs the world would be a better place.” (source) And he’s right. How do you become a better human being then? Well, that’s up to you, but if you had asked Sasha, she might have given you a few pointers of her own. Granted, she was never a Fortune 500 C.M.O. She didn’t design the iPad. She didn’t invent the internet or write a book. She never presented at a conference. All she did was hang out with me and Chico. We went on car rides. She watched me work. She lived the simple life of a dog, uncluttered by Twitter followers and Hubspot rankings and the drive to publish and present case studies. She was a dog, and so her perspective is a little different from what you may be used to. At any rate, here are twenty-one she and I discussed at length last week. I hope they will be as valuable to you as they now are to me.

Twenty-one things my dog taught me about being a better man:

1. Be true to your own nature. There’s no point in faking it. A golden retriever isn’t a chihuahua or a pug or a greyhound, and for good reason. Being comfortable in your own skin is 90% of the trick to rocking out your life. Not everyone is meant to be Rintintin or a seeing-eye dog or an Iditarod racer. It’s okay. Find yourself and embrace your nature. That’s always a great place to start.

2. Be true to the ones you love. Your friends, your family, your tribe, your pack. A life lived for others is a life well-lived. Selfish pursuits aside, ambition often grows hollow when turned inwardly instead of outwardly. It’s one thing to want to be pack leader, but there is just as much value and honor in serving than in leading. When in doubt, see item number one.

3. Never say no to a chance to go on a car ride. When the days grow short, I guarantee you’ll wish you’d have gone on more car rides.

4. Leashes are the enemy. Avoid them at all cost.

5. People are strange. So much potential, yet here they are, doing everything they can to complicate rather than simplify their lives. It’s puzzling.

6. Belly scratches.

7. The end isn’t pretty, but if you can face it with dignity and grace, none of your body’s weaknesses will matter. Your heart, your courage, your spirit is what people will see and remember. This isn’t only applicable in your last days and weeks. It’s applicable every day of your life. Adversity happens. It’s how you deal with it that matters.

8. Forgiveness is easier for dogs than for humans, but humans have opposable thumbs and the ability to speak, so it all balances out in the end.

9. Your bark is your own. No one has one quite like yours. Own it. Love it. Project it.

10. Trust your instincts. They rarely steer you wrong. The feeling in your gut though, that’s probably just something you ate.

11. Just because you’re meant to live on land doesn’t mean you can’t feel at home in water. Play outside the safety zone. Swim in the deep end. Dive in. We’re all designed to do more than the obvious.

12. Play more. The game is irrelevant. Just play. Tip: Exploring is play. Having adventures is play. Finding out what’s behind the next hill is play.

13. Your body growing old doesn’t mean you can’t be a puppy at heart. Actually, the first should have no impact on the latter. If you find that it does, take a step back, regroup, and restart. Always be a puppy at heart.

14. Humans aren’t all bad. But they aren’t all good either. Choose yours wisely.

15. Always keep that 20% wolf in you. If you ever give it up, you’re done. A dog without a little wildness in the blood isn’t a dog. It’s a furry robot. The beauty of a great dog doesn’t lie in its obedience but in its loyalty. Loyalty is a choice. Dogs choose to be dogs and not wolves. That’s what makes them so special.

16. Running full bore across a field in the rain.

17. There are no mysteries. Take cats, for example: Half rat, half badger. Crap in a box. Eat rodents. Where’s the mystery in that? If you look hard enough, you can figure most things out for yourself. The world isn’t as complicated as it sometimes seems.

18. Sometimes, you have to back up your growl with a bite. Go with it. Some people like to test your bark-to-bite ratio. With those “inquisitive” types, a little education goes a long way. As much as it sucks to have to go there, it is sometimes necessary. (It’s what the fangs are for.) Your territory, your space, your safety… They’re worth defending. Make a show of it once, and chances are you’ll never have to teach anyone a lesson again.

19. Being alone is no way to go through life. We’re pack animals. Humans, dogs, same thing. We need others to make all of this worthwhile. As an aside, if we live through others, why not also live for others, even if only a little bit? It isn’t that much of a stretch.

20. When you chase the ball, CHASE the fucking ball. Two reasons: a) It’s a chase. You don’t half-ass a chase. You go all out. It’s what you do. It’s the point. b) You don’t want some other mutt to get to the ball before you and slobber it all up, do you?

21. In the end, you will revisit your adventures, your battles, your chases, your voyages and all the excitement of your life with bemused pride, but it’s the quiet moments with loved ones that your mind will settle on. The comfort of those days when all you did was spend lazy hours with them, your head on their lap, their’s on yours, taking in the afternoon sun and the hundreds of fleeting stories carried like whispers on the breeze, those are the memories that will stay with you to the end and beyond.

Never give up on your thirst for life, on the beauty subtle moments, and on chasing that ball as hard and fast as your legs and heart will carry you.

Godspeed, Sasha.

Sasha (1995 - 2010) R.I.P.
Sasha (1995 – 2010) R.I.P.

ooOOoo

Shortly after completing today’s post, I read the following. It seemed appropriate to include it today.

When you talk, you are only repeating what you know,

But if you listen, you may learn something new.

It is one of the Dalai Lama’s sayings.

You all take care out there.

9 thoughts on “More and more learning from dogs!

  1. The last reflection inspires me to write an essay:

    What do we need? Correct, or, at least, less erroneous thinking. How do we get there? By rejecting yesterday’s all too simple thinking. It will have to start with simple sayings, and trite dichotomies (presenting the world as black and white conflicts of opposites).

    Let’s consider one of the Dalai Lama’s sayings:

    “When you talk, you are only repeating what you know,

    But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

    Yes, well, and then? Is that supposed to be true? When people talk they do this according to a method peculiar to themselves, as different individuals, handling differently different subjects, either human or theoretical.

    The speech spectrum has two extremities: on one end, brainless slogans repeated with the intelligence of a recording. On the other end, talk can be used to weave a meta discourse bringing together disparate elements of one’s mind never united before. So the spectrum of speech goes from brainless slogans, all the way to its exact opposite, to the creation of new logic.

    Thus speech can bring something new to the one proffering it. Indeed, this is what honest to goodness papers on theoretical science do. The best example there is probably Einstein’s famous paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”. This paper of 1905 is generally seen as founding the Theory Of Relativity. However, I don’t think it contains one original element: not one original equation, nor even an original thought (Poincare’ and Lorentz, plus at least a dozen other lesser, yet still important. authors, had contributed before; Poincare’ demonstrated E = mcc in 1900…)

    So what did Einstein do which was original? He weaved all preceding efforts in just one discourse. He repeated what he knew, and many others knew, but organized as one (apparently) simple logic (which swept under the carpet some of the difficulties Poincare’ was bothered by).

    So there is an alternative to the dreary opposition of talking versus listening: DEBATING. Then the back and forth between talking and listening can bring new logic not suspected before. Even debating fools can be useful that way: the method was used by Socrates and Plato, or by Galileo Galilei (in the latter case, it made his friend the Pope furious, as it suspected that he was the fool Galileo had depicted in his “debate”).

    For example debating climate deniers was useful to me: their brainless opposition helped me point out the irrefutable, and go around their irreducible simplemindedness. We went from 280 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 EQUIVALENTS to 450 ppm of CO2 EQUIVALENTS (CO2 + CH4 + NO + NO2 + Fluorocarbons, etc… in 200 years. Obviously not something one can brush off: these gases have physiological effects, if nothing else.
    [More incoming on my site.]

      1. The Dalai Lama makes a dichotomy, a Manichaeism, a total opposition between “speech” and listening. That’s erroneous. He compounds the mistake by telling us that speech cannot be creative. The Dalai Lama views mental exchange mostly as listening (religiously?) and then mechanically reproducing what one has listened to. In other words, be a Tibetan monk.

        Speech HAS TO be creative, it’s a question of morality.
        I (try to) explain much more in the essay I am finishing.

  2. I LOVE this article Paul. There is so much wisdom, love and humor rolled up in it! I ordered your book for Don’s Christmas…. can’t wait to read the real thing 🌞

  3. [Co-posted on Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts.]

    Dear Paul: I see, Buddhism is not a religion? That’s a popular approach in the West, where only Abraham is recognized as the founder of religion. Yes, I guess, for the Christian, there are only 3 religions (Judeo-Xtianism-Islam) However, in my world, there are more than 10,000, and some are superstitious, while other are secular…

    Dalai Lama is as much a follower of a religion as the Pope is. The Dalai Lama is the Tibetan Buddhist Pope, no less! Not only Buddhism is a religion, but it is much more varied than Christiano-Islamism is. (The 2 extreme are Tibetan Buddhism and Zen.)

    As a philosopher, I know what the “popular interpretations” are. I deconstruct them. I also know what was been conveyed. I attracted attention to what was ALSO CONVEYED. I am more than a bit familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, an amusing kaleidoscope of all sorts of deities, and its rote learning. So the DL was promoting precisely as a panacea, an ultra major defect of Tibetan Buddhism.

    After all in Tibetan Buddhist, children are selected, from various “signs” to talk in the name of the deities… And we have to listen to these toddlers, like they were gods or something.
    Well, sorry, little “deities”, but we believe your grandiose influence only brought the loss of Tibet to the PRC…

    Speech is not just a noise. It’s how logic is built. I explained that this process of construction, well done, goes “meta”.

    Learning from dogs is good. Learning from the Dalai Lama, as if he were a dog, even better.

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