Let me start off by saying that I have never been a pet lover; never grew up with animals in the house. However, over the last 10 years of enjoying the companionship of Pico (my terrier), he has taught me a lot about business. Here are his words of wisdom.
1. Always be ready to respond when an opportunity presents itself. Pico sleeps most of the day and when he is awake he is largely off in his own world. However, when it comes to food, he is alert and ready. My wife and I food shop on Saturday mornings. When we arrive home, we spend several hours preparing meals for the next 2-3 days. Our activity is a combination of cutting up a variety of vegetables for salads as well as preparing meals that can be refrigerated and then popped into the oven during weeknights. Pico will race around the kitchen, back and forth between the two of us ever ready for us to drop some food. Even though he knows he is supposed to “leave it” (a command we had taught him so he will not gobble down our medication should we accidentally drop a pill), he is still ever vigilant in his quest for food. We seldom feed him as we are preparing food and never feed him from the table; but he is still ready, waiting for the opportunity to get food. If he wasn’t “at the ready” at all times, he would have missed out on the rare occasions when a piece of vegetable will fall to the floor and he gets the opportunity to obey the command to “leave it” and ultimately gets rewarded with either a treat or a different piece of vegetable.
I’ve learned to be ready for opportunities that come my way, whether it is a chance meeting with business contacts, or being able to learn something from an article, book or conversation. Pico has taught me to be alert for opportunities at all times in all circumstances.
2. Don’t wait to show appreciation. When I pet Pico, he instantly licks me in return. He doesn’t just sit there and enjoy being petted and then think to himself, “Aaah this is so nice; maybe I will show Alan I really appreciate him showering me with all the attention tomorrow”. Instead, his response is right there and then. It is inherent in Pico’s nature that he will show his gratitude immediately to someone for what he is receiving.
There are many ways that I receive help from my daily interactions with people in the business world, ranging from big collaborative efforts to small kindnesses shown to me. Just observing how good I feel to be appreciated by Pico when he reciprocates immediately to my petting, I learned how much more so my business associates will like it when I let them know not minutes, hours or days later that I not only noticed their help right away but also appreciate it. In return, I will also start thinking for ways I can give back either to them or pay it forward to others.
3. When you are genuinely happy to see people you know, show and/or tell them. When I come home whether I have been gone for 30 minutes or 3 days, Pico is always there at the door, wagging his tail, jumping up and down, ecstatic to see me! He doesn’t care if I brought anything home for him nor does he wait to see my reaction to him before he responds; he is just glad to see me and lets me know it.
I think about people that I am happy to see again but too often just get by shaking hands or utter a weak “hi”. When I am really glad to see someone, let them know – I don’t have to jump up and down with joy, but my focus should be to let my friends know I am glad to see them and not in how others might see me as silly if I get too animated or show too much enthusiasm.
4. Forgive and Forget and Move on. Pico is the most forgiving dog I have known. There are occasions when I had mistakenly harshly chastise him for misbehavior. He will shrink from me with both ears drooping down to show how sorry he is. When I realized some mishap is not his fault and apologize to him, he is quick to forgive and forget and bounces right back to his happy and loving self. He doesn’t go to a corner and pout for several hours as I have heard other dogs do. He immediately moves on, probably hoping I will give him a treat for no other reason than he is so cute! He doesn’t expect me to give him anything, just hopes I will.
5. Be grateful. Pico is grateful for everything I give him – whether it is a small morsel of food or a big tasty treat. He wags his tail so fast to show his gratefulness that sometimes I am afraid it may just drop off! He is thankful for whatever he gets, even if it is just a pet of the head.
Likewise, I have learned to be grateful for all things big and small that I am blessed with.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask. While Pico doesn’t beg for food at the dinner table he has found me to be fairly consistent in giving him a treat after my dinner. So much so, that when I settle in for the evening he stands in front of me, vigorously wagging his tail, asking for his treat. When he first started this course of action, I thought he needed to go outside and couldn’t understand why since I had just let him outside. I give him a treat and after he devours it, he settles down for the night, lying contentedly on the couch with a sigh. Pico is never tentative when he asks; he sits in front of me, looks me in the eye, wags his tail, and will keep doing that until I give him the treat. Did the lesson learn here? Be direct when asking and quiet persistence pays dividends!
7. It’s Never Too Late to Learn. Up to the age of 7, during our meal times, Pico would stand under the table, hoping to share in some of the delicious-smelling food that we were having. One day, I decided my wife and I should be able to eat dinner without a dog circling around our feet. I started teaching him to go to his “chair”, a place designated for him to wait until we are done with dinner and he is released. When we release him he would get a treat. I was skeptical that he will learn this new command; after all “one can never teach an old dog new tricks”. Pico was 49 in human age and I held no hope of him getting it. It took a while for him to understand what “go to your chair” and “stay” meant, but treats and my persistence in leading him back to his chair whenever he jumps off before we finished paid off big time. Now he goes to his chair and stays there while we eat dinner. He gets released with an “all done” command and he is rewarded with “Bacon Bites” his favorite treat! All is well at the Wilson household at dinner time!
Pico taught me to disregard stereotypical thinking and “never say never”. If a dog, who cannot reason, can learn new “skills” at an age that intelligent humans think is not possible, we humans can definitely do it faster and better at any age. We are never too old to learn new skills. I embrace life-long learning not just for the “Bacon Bites” that may come with learning, but more importantly for the pure joy and satisfaction in taking on a new challenge and succeeding in having learned something new.
Pico has taught me a lot over the years that I have applied to my business and personal life. Uh, gotta go… I see Pico is again staring at me and wagging his tail… let me find out what he wants to teach me today.
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