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  • Nancy Lewine

3 Life Lessons I Learned from Tracker

The patriarch of our dog breeding program, Tracker, taught me several lessons that I applied in my professional life. My avocation, breeding and showing top ranking Golden Retrievers, runs parallel to my consulting practice.


All of my life I have had dogs, usually multiple dogs. I quickly observed that each one would bring lessons for me to learn in my life. What I didn't expect was how many of those lessons also impacted my vocational life. Tracker, our larger-than-life, nationally ranked Golden Retriever came into our life with what we thought were high expectations. HA! He had other plans and blew those out of the water catapulting us into a world we never knew existed. Along that rollercoaster ride, he taught me many lessons. Here are three that apply to the "real" world of work:


1- Sometimes you imagine a goal to be the biggest you've ever conceived, and on the path to that goal you find there's something much, much larger that you never could have imagined in the first place! The Lesson - Go for it! Struggle through the tough times and embrace the new vision. Tracker shared a bigger picture that I had to be willing and open enough to embrace, even if it was uncomfortable.

If you encounter an opportunity larger than you envisioned and your instinct whispers to you that it's right, follow it. If you are uncomfortable, afraid, or unsure, take steps toward it and upward to it. Do it one step at a time. Listen to yourself. You'll have to rely on your own internal guidance for the speed and size of those steps. Others may or may not support you. If we had listened to all of the "advice," about Tracker, we would still be in our backyard cursing and chasing an unruly and mischievous dog, with amazing potential that we couldn't understand until we lived it. He would have wilted with that "boring" life. He needed the limelight. I've seen it with my own eyes. A small percentage of dogs have the "it" factor, or "rizz," in today's lingo. I know because we have a wide range of dogs, and Tracker had the IT factor in spades. That did not make him better than any  of our other dogs, because we have a wide range. No, it didn't, and our Skye was there to teach him that. :) (She's another one with Lessons, for another article). It made him well matched to a life that suited him. I had to follow him and what my gut was telling me to do.

What about you? Are you being presented with an opportunity that you are uniquely suited for? Is it time to take a step toward it rather than standing still, or worse, moving away from it?


2- The second lesson Tracker taught me was perseverance to a level I had never known, but thought I knew! My years of training and practicing in two nationally competitive athletic careers, collegiate basketball and martial arts, taught me self-discipline and perseverance. However, Tracker's path straight up his own personal Mount Everest, offered me the opportunity to go further in sticking to the goals he routinely surpassed, and finding new solutions needed to reach the next level of accomplishments.

The Lesson? Tenacious Perseverance. Develop the tenacity to pursue that higher rank and understand you'll have setbacks and new challenges that will test your resolve. The higher you go, the faster those obstacles and challenges present themselves, and it is exhausting. Acknowledging your fatigue and need for rest is not the same as quitting. You may need to slow down a bit, but not TOOOO much (according to Tracker), because you are on a mission and staying in motion is imperative. Yes, you can regulate the pace, but that also means speeding up when things are progressing quickly. Ride the big wave alllll the way, even if it feels scary. Stay the course. Get comfortable with the variable speeds with which you'll proceed. You'll have much to learn from the experience and more success than you may have imagined!


3- Tracker was a dog who was surrounded by many dogs during his life. It's a myth that all Golden Retrievers like other dogs. Many do, but, alternatively many don't and Tracker was one of those dogs. He loved ALL babies, kids, people, but not ALL dogs. It was our job to ensure that he wasn't overloaded with dog-dog interactions during his life. He communicated those likes/dislikes in a language we had to learn. The Lesson? Respect Boundaries!  Learn to read your own body language, thoughts, and feelings. Know yourself well enough to determine how much people interaction is just right for you. Know who you like and don't like. In business, we need to work with many people, some we do not like. Hone your skills enough to be respectful and professional with those people that rub you the wrong way. But, don't sacrifice your physical/mental/emotional needs and boundaries. Just like Tracker, define your boundaries and limits and honor them. It's a delicate art, to skillfully interact with difficult people; however, it is a part of the working world, just like in Tracker's show career. We have to deal with it in the dog show world, and we have to deal with it in the human world. Learning what works best for you to get the job done with the least amount of aggravation is a critical lesson to learn.


Putting into practice these three lessons has helped me in both my personal and professional life, not only in the world of dogs. While you go about your life and career studying well-respected theories about continuous learning, consider another source, your pets! What lessons can you learn from your pets? My dogs teach me every day, how about yours?

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