A few years ago, my family rescued a wire fox terrier. Maisy had been a puppy mill mom for the first seven years of her life and came to our family after finding refuge in an amazing organization in northern Iowa.
Life in a puppy mill—it can’t get much worse for a dog.
We often say Maisy is broken: she doesn’t play with toys or balls; she flinches when touched; she sleeps most of the day instead of bouncing off the walls with typical terrier energy (maybe that’s not a bad thing?).
But even with all her broken bits, she’s taught me a lot about being human as I’ve watched her blossom in a normal environment…well, as normal as our home can be.
I work for a Fortune 500 company in the financial services industry. There’s a standard disclaimer in this industry: “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” That’s good news if your past isn’t so great, like Maisy’s. So what’s the bad news? Even if your past was good, it’s over, and there’s no guarantee it will be that good again.
But let’s get back to the good news! Every day is a chance to start over. Heck, you can start over every minute if you want or need to. That’s what I do when fear has me its grip. I talked about that here.
While that starting over can be frightening and disheartening, it’s the opportunity to improve your “just okay” self and hone your best skills. You can’t rest on your laurels. Or on a chair covered with porcupines. But with a willingness to move forward and not look back (unless it’s to pull porcupine quills out of your butt cheeks), you’ll have many opportunities to create success in your life.
Maisy has corprophagia. I’ll let you look that one up, but for those of you who don’t want to, let’s just say she has a favorite “snack” that’s pretty disgusting. The good thing about this distasteful habit is that she takes care of her own messes. Most of the time.
Everyone has times in their lives when they mess up. Sometimes more than once. Some of us are professional messer-uppers. The mess doesn’t even have to be a big boo-boo—sometimes the little ones cause as much muck as the big ones.
Maybe you made a promise and broke it.
Maybe you gave a half-a**ed effort, and it showed in the end product and people were let down.
Maybe you forgot to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.
When faced with the feelings of guilt that come with messing up, it’s easy to point to someone else as the cause of your error. Takes a little of the sting out.
Don’t do it.
Take responsibility for your actions. One of the best ways is to start with an apology.
Roberta “Bobbi” DePorter, President of the Quantum Learning Network, outlines the following steps to an effective apology:
Acknowledge that you are at fault and did something wrong.
Apologize for your actions and their negative consequences.
Ask “How can I make it right?”
Explain your plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Personal accountability breeds respect, which results in deeper relationships and higher self-confidence, oddly enough.
And one of the coolest things about stepping up and owning up is that it often diffuses the situation immediately. It’s hard to keep arguing with a person when that person says, “You’re right. I messed up, and it was all my fault. I’m sorry.”
Maisy greets every new dog she meets like a long-lost friend. This is significant because in the puppy mill she never had a chance to socialize with other dogs. If leading a fuller, growth-fueled, experience-filled life gets you jazzed up, you need to do the same (but not like dogs—bad form).
Take writing, for example. I’ve been doing it for a long time and recently started submitting some of my creative nonfiction pieces to literary journals, magazines, etc. If you’d like to read my first, but certainly not last, formally published piece, fly on over to Lunch Ticket and read The Call. And as you can tell from a quick perusal of the my What Kelly’s Working On page, I’m in the first stages of sticking my head out of the lonely fiction writer’s cave.
Now, I know I can get better at writing by writing more, and I’m no where near the gazillion bad words I supposedly need to write before I get to the good ones. But since I’m serious about sharing my writing and, by extension, myself, I have to put myself out there. Hence, this website/blog and hurtling myself into the world of social media.
What’s the most awesome part of putting yourself out there? You get to meet encouraging, generous and fascinating people, sometimes ones with all three characteristics. Over these past couple of months that’s what’s happened to me. And those people are not strangers anymore, although some of them are strange, which is a-okay with me.
Maisy used to be afraid of my husband and daughter. But now that she’s learned they won’t hurt her, she gladly lets them pet her. When she learned that parked cars were not her enemy, she stopped bolting from them. When she learned better, she did better.
I’m a baby blogger, so I have a lot to learn. It’s a good thing I like to research, read and repeat. Problem is there’s so much information out there it’s easy to give into my self-diagnosed ADD. I want to look at all the pretties. Now!
That’s a bad idea.
And it’s just an extension of the multitasking myth, multiplied exponentially. It goes a little something like this:
Technology creates a mirage—it lets us think we’re doing a bunch of stuff simultaneously. But all we’re actually doing is rapidly switching our attention between tasks or interests, never giving any of them the focus they need.
This is especially true for me now as I’m trying to manage multiple social media platforms, my blog, editing my novel and various creative nonfiction pieces at once. Oh, and working a full-time day job at the Fortune 500 company I mentioned above. What I should be doing is picking one, maybe two, to focus on at a time.
Easier said than done.
Here’s the problem: novices are often told to copy or imitate the style of people they admire or strive to be like (think apprenticeships).
It makes sense. We take Maisy to doggy daycare and dog parks so she can imitate what other dogs are doing and become more like a “real” dog.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m reading everything I can about the best ways to blog and engage on social media. I’m following the influencers, and taking virtual notes on what they do.
But I’m ultimately going to do it my way, in the way that works best for me. Gotta be authentic, people, in everything you do.
When Maisy comes home from doggy daycare or the dog park, she collapses. It takes a lot of work for a broken terrier to act like a fixed one.
Right now I’m in a tornado of activity, and it’s all my own doing. Part of me likes it—I’m energized by starting down new paths. But I can also get a bit manic (yeah, okay family, I hear you…a LOT manic).
So I make sure to end my nights, every night, lying in bed reading a book for pure pleasure.
I know that wrenching my hands away from my keyboard will not mean the end of all the good stuff I’m working on. Hunkering down in my tornado shelter of bed and books rejuvenates me. And it’s those forty-five minutes or so that make me better in everything I do.
So what do you think—any of these resonate with you? Who’s been a nontraditional teacher to you? What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from him/her or others? What’s one lesson you’d like to share, and to whom? Anyone else think my dog’s cuter than s#@t??