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Going to the Dogs

Going to the Dogs

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 March 31, 2020

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why We Procrastinate After All?

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    Is Procrastination Bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How Bad Procrastination Can Be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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    Procrastination, a Technical Failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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