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Thursday, April 19, 2012

What my dog taught me in 5 seconds about failure

My youngest dog, Apollo, is an American Eskimo. He is a beautiful dog, and according to the AKC, is supposed to be the most intelligent of all dog breeds, being very popular with circus trainers for their ability to learn complex tricks. Now those of you who know me well enough to have met Apollo would generously describe him as “not exactly the brightest crayon in the box.” I’m convinced that whatever intelligence the poor thing had was converted directly into energy shortly after he was born.
Apollo is no stranger to failure. There is scarcely a day that goes by that he doesn’t jump up on his back legs only to find his head under the table, or spin around at light speed with a toy in his mouth and discover that his face was closer to a wall than he thought. Really, the dog could fill an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, but it’s that reckless abandon that leads me to my 5 second life lesson.

Every morning one of the first things I do is take the dogs out. When it comes to Apollo’s turn, he jumps. And jumps. And jumps. He gets so excited to go outside that I’m sure his brain just shuts down so his muscles can take over, and once the door is open, he pulls on the leash with every ounce of power he has. A few days ago, that power caught me off guard as he was going down the back steps and I lost his leash. As soon as that tension was gone, his chest smacked the ground, his face pushed sideways through the mud, and his front legs spread out flat flailing as fast as they could to catch up. That didn’t faze him. His back legs had a job to do, and they were firing on all cylinders. Those back legs propelled his face through rocks, grass, and mud puddles like they weren’t even there, until his front legs has a chance to catch up.

After laughing at his expense for probably 10 minutes, I realized there’s a lesson in it all. He had his eyes on a goal, and even though he faltered on his approach, he not only recovered, but attained it. I’m sure our goals in life are a little more complex than finding the nearest bush to relieve ourselves on (most of the time, anyway), but how many times do we miss the mark, and let the discouragement dissuade us from going all the way? Set your goal, and go after it with your whole being. Even if it means picking yourself up out of some mud along the way.