Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Golden Rule

Have you ever heard of "The Golden Rule" otherwise known as "Ethic of reciprocity"? 
I've come to know the dog community as family. There are tightly knit agility, obedience, herding, and other dog sports families (local & statewide, regional, and national). It's never a surprise to me when that community comes together to help, to support, to celebrate, or to show that we care. When it is needed, there are people that organize ads and parties, teach classes,re-homes dogs that need special care, cook, clean, help take care of family & dogs, and other examples - too many to mention.
But what about the times between celebrating successes and supporting someone's challenges in life (loss, health, etc)? How do you treat the people you come in contact during a typical trial or training class in your favorite dog sport? Do you intentionally withhold compliments from someone's performance just because you don't like them, because your opinions differ on some subject, because they are having lots of success and you are jealous, or just because they have never spoken to you or give compliments to you?  Do you criticize someone because of the way their dog is trained or how they handle a particular sequence? Do you secretly feel good when someone else fails or has a bad run because of some disagreement you have with that person?
My Dad has always stressed following the Golden Rule. He has been very successful in raising some pretty talented and well adjusted kids (if I humbly do say so myself) as well as coaching some very talented teams to become the winningest college football coach. He has always stressed that you don't need any rules, except the Golden Rule (see page 74 of  _No-How Coaching_ by Jim Collison).
The Golden Rule has been described in slightly different ways, depending on the religion or culture, but basically it states that you should treat others the way they would want to be treated.
When you simplify your life and try to focus on what is good, it is easy to train yourself to treat others with respect, to be friendly and courteous even under trying situations, and to overcome prejudice. But if you find yourself in a world of negativity, excuses, time constraints, lack of patience, and stress, it's easy to find temporary feelings of power and gratification when you criticize, laugh/joke at a person's differences or point out their failures. 
There were times in the past where I deviated from the one rule in life that now keeps me grounded. While it used to take constant readjustment of my mental outlook, it's becoming easier for me to pay attention to the great things that people are doing. Even if I witness something that I don't like, I can still find a way to quickly draw something positive from it (if I know what I don't want, I most certainly know what I do want) and then focus on that.
The amazing thing about living the "Golden Rule" is that it brings more happiness and joy into your own life - as well as bringing joy into others.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sometimes in the winds of change, we find our true direction

Last weekend at the agility trials, there were a few conversations about the difficult times - losing jobs, financial adjustments and juggling in order to be able to do some of the things we still enjoy.
I lost my corporate job in 2002 as a senior software engineer after I took a chance and left my job of 20+ years to join a small start up company in the telecommunications industry. I had always been a valued hard working employee, so the news that my job was being cut (along with many others) felt like my world had collapsed at the time. But the tears and the major adjustment passed quickly as I felt a little better about the change as each day passed. I was sleeping 8-10 hours every night and getting up refreshed in the morning. I didn't want to admit to myself at the time that I actually felt relief and even joyful not having to be anywhere that I didn't want to be each day. 
My previous employer hired me as a part time contractor, working 3 days a week.  So, I had Mondays and Fridays off and instead of working 10-12 hour days on a salary, I worked 8 hour days on an hourly rate. I started a small dog training business, Endzone Dog Sports, Inc., giving private obedience training lessons and some herding lessons during the daytime to help pay for my dog expenses and entry fees.  After a little over a year of contracting, I decided to take a break from software development and focus on what makes me happy - training dogs training people to train dogs. And I've never looked back.
Although, I no longer do herding lessons (I didn't want to keep the extra dog broke sheep that were useful in teaching new people & dogs herding), I love the obedience lessons that I do each week.  My students are incredible teachers for me as they allow me to find creative ways for the dogs to learn various skills. When students don't understand something I've described or they have questions concerning the details, they ask for clarification and that helps me to continue to develop better ways of describing the process. I love challenges in training and even more so, I love it when a student decides to put their trust in me to help them with a handling or training issues.  
So, I just want to thank all the devoted students and friends that have been training with me - some just a short time and some for a very long time.  You guys have kept the wind in my sails and I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoy working with each and every one of you and your wonderful dogs.