Behaviour and Bella

Bella, our six month old Golden Retriever, is always learning. Anything we do (or don’t do) tells her something and she learns from it – for better or worse.

Raising and training a puppy has, for us, involved lots of reading and watching videos in an effort to “get it right”. I’ve come to believe that a lot of it comes down to the particular disposition and personality of the dog you choose. However, we certainly have learned some key lessons that seem to make the biggest difference. The core of our approach comes from the teachings of Cesar Milan.

Here they are:

  1. Your own tone and energy is important. Be self aware and manage your emotional state. Exit a difficult situation, when you feel frustrated.
  2. A tired dog is a good dog! Find ways for her to get lots of exercise everyday and she will be happy, healthy, and well behaved. She will tend to get into mischief when she is anxious from pent up energy. This can commonly manifest itself as chewing, barking, or digging. Swimming and wrestling will burn more energy than walking, however, dogs are hardwired, based on their genetics, to walk in a pack everyday – so make sure you do this. And make sure you are leading on the walk or your dog will take the lead, resulting in her having anxiety associated with being the leader of the pack.
  3. Redirect from undesirable behaviour, such as chewing a shoe or hand, to a toy or chew rope.
  4. When she bites your hand, even just a bit, say “ow!” and pull your hand away. This is what her litter mates did to tell her she was playing too aggressively. If it happens a second time, turn your back and even consider leaving the room to ignore her, thus letting her know that rough play means play time is over.
  5. Reinforce desired behaviours. Use treats and praise for good deeds. Even when she does them on her own – for example, when she automatically sits at the curb, before crossing the street on a walk.
  6. Be the alpha. Go through doors first.
  7. Be the hand that feeds – and takes away. Practice taking food and toys away, while she is eating or playing. Then return the food or toy, so she associates the removal as something temporary and thus not something she needs to get anxious about.
  8. Use lures, not force of pushing or pulling. Present opportunities for her to make choices, but stack the deck, so the chances of her making the “correct” choice are better.

I’ve found that I have a much more attuned sensitivity to behavioural cues and responses, as a result of paying attention to our interactions with Bella. It’s also made me aware of the challenge of always “being on” and making sure we are following the rules ourselves – never mind Bella following the rules.

Consistency is so important. Consistency is critical. Consistency means making sure these rules become habits – just as much for us, as for Bella.

Gen Y’s Audacity of Hope

In July of 2009, Tammy Tsang, Founder of My Loud Speaker, and I were discussing an interesting topic: the experience of the Gen Y’s who at that point were just starting to leave university and enter the white collar workforce.

We are now 3 years further along and this topic is still getting a lot of attention.  By way of example, Tammy is also the Executive Director of XYBOOM, a conference that “raises awareness about the importance of intergenerational dialogue and collaboration in the context of youth unemployment and the baby boomer exit”.  Here is a XYBOOM Conference 2012 commercial (video) for the inaugeral conference held on January 20th, 2012.

My July 2009 response to a post on Tammy’s blog may have collected 3 years worth of digital dust, however, when I stumbled on it today, I found the ideas were still indicative of my current thinking.  So, for your perusal, here it is…

It’s certainly an interesting topic, Tammy. 

I think that one consequence often missed during discussions in this area is ‘lost opportunity’.  Many ambitious NewGens do have audacious hopes and dreams, as you pointed out.  These hopes and dreams represent an enormous reservoir of untapped potential energy and talent.

It’s unfortunate that the cultures of so many organizations are extremely efficient at crushing the spirit of those with the ‘audacity of hope’.  We often hear, “don’t try to motivate people, focus on what already motivates them.”  Perhaps there is some relation between people’s hopes and dreams and their motivation…  perhaps at least a slight chance there’s a connection between the two? 

If energy is analogous to motivation and talent is about ability, we can setup an equation to look at performance potential.  Degree of motivation + degree of ability = performance potential.  [Motivation + Ability = Performance]

It doesn’t take a degree in mathematics to understand what happens to the performance of young professionals who find themselves on the teams of older experienced managers that are unreceptive to their hopes and dreams.  A decreased degree of motivation among young workers is equivalent to lost individual and organizational performance – and destruction of stakeholder value. 

But can it be recovered? 

The research says that the most resilient people possess (1) good self-esteem, (2) a sense of control over one’s destiny, and (3) a strong dose of optimism.  Many NewGens are entering the workforce with all of these, from the way you have described them. 

Some ‘OldGens’ (?) that are encountering these resilient NewGens believe that these dreamers need a dose of reality.  To know that nothing comes easy.  That there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  That an expectation of immediate gratification is not socially, environmentally, or economically sustainable.

And they would have a point…


Eat That Frog! Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress

I’ve learned a great deal from Brian Tracy over the years.  One thing in particular stands out from all the others.

This “thing” – call it a concept, an idea, a technique, a metaphor, a suggestion – has been huge in helping me increase my productivity, while also reducing my stress.  Sound pretty good?  It is!

Tracy has developed and popularized the idea of eating frogs for breakfast.  Not the frog’s legs that they supposedly eat in France, but a metaphorical frog.

What he proposes is that we all have things on our ‘to do’ lists that cause us anxiety until they are completed.  These are often important tasks that will create positive results for us, but we delay taking action, because there is something that holds us back.

In this short video, you can learn not only why we struggle to “get stuff done”, but also what you can do to improve your productivity and reduce your stress:  Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy (video).

With respect to the anxiety we experience when we have a frog that we haven’t eaten, I believe that the source of the anxiety stems from two things: (1) having an unmet commitment to ourselves or others and (2) fear about the anticipated pain associated with the impact of not yet having completed the task.

For example, if you said you would send a client or boss a report by a certain date and time and now that time has passed, you will likely experience anxiety.  (1) You will have an unmet commitment, since you have said you would do something and then didn’t.  (2) You will worry about having a difficult conversation with your client or boss, who may be upset or at least less trusting of your integrity and reliability.

I would suggest that the benefits of alleviating (or at least reducing) this kind of anxiety and tension from your daily life is equal to, if not greater, than the benefits of “getting your stuff done.”

For me, my frogs are often things like writing a client a proposal, dealing with a complicated email question from a student, or writing a reference letter for someone.

Breaking it down into smaller more (psychologically) manageable chunks certainly helps.  What can also help is gathering archived information, so I realize that I’m not starting from a blank canvas (e.g., past proposals, emails, and reference letters).

My wife and I now commonly use the phrase “I’m working on a big frog right now” to let the other know we are proud to be making progress on completing something that we, for whatever reasons, felt a great deal of resistance to doing.  This also lets the other know that we would like some time and space to be able to focus on the task at hand to make sure it gets completed.

At the office, I keep a picture of Kermit the Frog on my bulletin board as a constant reminder to reflect on the question, “what are my frogs that I’m currently avoiding?”

It’s easy to busy yourself with an inbox full of emails, attend unnecessary meetings, and to be drawn towards tacking all the easy things on your ‘to do’ list (assuming you’ve even taken the time to make one).  However, you only arrive at the end of the day never having really done the one or two things that would have made the day feel like a success.  Made it feel productive.  Made you feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Also, once you’ve eaten your frog, you’ll feel way more energy and enthusiasm for all the other things you do throughout the rest of the day.  They’ll feel easy!  You’ll feel light!


What’s your biggest frog right now?

Why is it important for you to eat this frog?

How will you feel once you’ve eaten this frog?

What are you tempted to do instead of eating this frog?

What will you chose to do?

Great!  Now get to it!  Here’s a napkin, for when you’re done…



Good People are Good to People

I woke up this morning with the words, “Good People are Good to People” in my mind.  It rang true to me, so I thought I would see what the rest of the world thought.

As you might guess, my first stop was Google, which ironically has an informal company motto of “don’t be evil” – it seemed like I was already on the right track!

I learned that Jack Johnson had written a song called “Good People“, in which the chorus is:

Where’d all the good people go?

I’ve been changing channels

I don’t see them on the TV shows

Where’d all the good people go?

We got heaps and heaps of what we sow

My initial thesis, that good people are good to people, wasn’t yet substantiated, however, I was now aware that according to Jack Johnson, we had a global shortage of “good people”.  In the midst of this “good-people crisis”, I was glad to be on the case and optimistic that I would get to the bottom of things.

Good People Brewing Company provided me with just what I was looking for – no, not a frosty pint – but rather their mission statement on their Facebook page, which implies good people are those who do good for others in their communities and beyond.  You can read it for yourself and see if you agree with my analysis.

To create quality beer as a celebration of the eclectic fabric that makes up who we are and our great Southern culture while supporting those good people who do great things in their communities and beyond.

In September of 2009, Esquire magazine actually published a list of the 75 Best People in the World, citing the “talent, achievements, [and] virtue” of these “do-gooder” men and women as the criteria for selection.

In a very interesting TED Talk, Dr. Philip Zimbardo (of the Stanford Prison Experiment) Shows How People Become Monsters… or Heros.  Zimbardo asserts that, “Evil is the exercise of power to intentionally harm, hurt, destroy, or commit crimes against humanity.”  In contrast, Dr. Z says, “Heroes are ordinary people whose social actions are extraordinary.  Who act.  The key to heroism is two things.  A: You’ve got to act when other people are passive.  B: You have to act socio-centrically, not egocentrically.”

Aha!  This is exactly what I was looking for:  For someone much smarter than I am, with decades of research behind them, to back me up.  I agree, Dr. Z – good people aren’t those who act egocentrically; good people are those who act in ways that are good to people.  These are the heros.

In terms of the debate regarding whether we are facing a shortage of heros, I’ll leave it with you to decide whether Jack Johnson’s question is relevant… “where’d all the good people go“?