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Going to the Dogs

Going to the Dogs
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What Singing Dogs Can Teach Us About Success

I really like coyotes. They’re tough, adaptable and always themselves, without concern for what anyone else—especially any so-called civilized human being—thinks of them. They’re original, authentic, proud, and expressive. And they can also teach us a lot about being successful in this world.

Where I live, in southeastern Arizona, coyotes are common. I see them often and hear them at night too, joining in one of those impromptu choral gatherings that has won them the nickname of The Song Dog. Like foxes in Europe, coyotes have learned that there are richer pickings to be found around people’s homes than out in the desert. So they live in the arroyos between our homes and on the lush golf courses, set down in the desert by courtesy of many millions of dollars and a year-round supply of recycled water. We’ve stolen their habitat for our master planned communities and malls, so they’ve moved in with us and stolen ours.

Of course, sometimes they’re bad as well. Round here, they have a regrettable tendency to eat people’s small pets (as do our resident bobcats). In Native American lore, Coyote is a sort of deity, but one who is tricky and liable to mess you up if you don’t watch him very closely. But, hey, these singing dogs are also playful and spontaneous, and—best of all—they’re never dull.

I said that those coyotes can teach us something.

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The first coyote lesson is to take a few risks. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a serious purpose in life—even some perfectly pleasant people have one—but too much seriousness and playing by the rules does tend to block any willingness to adapt. What’s made the coyote so successful is adaptability. These coyote guys are realists. Their motto seems to be: “If you can’t change it, exploit it.”

Besides, it’s conventional thinking that has gotten us where we are today. It may have produced some benefits, but it’s produced some really massive problems too. We won’t solve those problems by using the same approaches that created them in the first place. Nor will conventional thinking produce many new ideas, especially if it’s been worked to death by everyone from marketing gurus to media hacks.

Take some risks. Try something new. The coyotes have tried living among people and it’s working for them. The ones I see around town are sleek and well fed. Some I see out in the desert look pretty scruffy in comparison.

Have some fun. Sometimes those little coyote boogers wake me up in the middle of the night having a riotous party somewhere in the wash behind my house. Lots of singing and probably a few beers. They really know how to have fun.

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Corporate America has lost that skill. Most companies aren’t fun to work for. It’s all so damn stressful and heavy. Yet fun is the best source of creativity. Stamp it out and innovation goes along with it.

All intelligent forms of life play. Coyotes seem to play more than most, especially with their cubs. Play is the very best forum for learning and getting new ideas. As children, we play to learn about life and how to deal with it. As adults, we attend training courses instead and sit there, often bored and usually passive, listening to some guru telling us how to behave.

Who would you rather listen to? A guy in a suit or a singing dog under a wild moon? Would you rather attend a lecture, or have some fun playing around with a few ideas?

Always be yourself. Heck, it’s tough to be anyone else, but some of us spend a lifetime trying. As Shania Twain says in her song, “That don’t impress me much.” It don’t impress anyone else much either. You are who you are and you won’t change that. You don’t need to. Just be the best version of who you are and you’ll be fine. You’ll also be authentic instead of a fake.

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It’s okay to be bad sometimes too. Not nasty and vicious, or downright evil, but just a little mischievous and rough around the edges. Who would you trust more? Some person you know is inclined to be a little tricky on occasions, or a city slicker who pretends to be so-o-o honest, but would stab you in the back as soon as look at you?

When I was young in England, the really interesting girls were usually described as “no better than she should be.” That sounds about right to me. Why should anyone be better that they should be, except to create a false image to cover something worse?

Here’s to being just as good as we need to be . . . and not even one tiny bit more!

As this new year starts, spare a thought for forgetting all the serious stuff and enjoying the life that you have. You won’t get another one, so you might as well make the most of what’s there today. Let my friend Coyote be your guide: smart, cunning, adaptable, fun-loving, tricky, playful, creative, and always ready to take a few risks. He’s not respectable and he’s certainly not conventional . . . but he usually has the last laugh.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. His new book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)
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    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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