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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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