Sunday, January 3, 2010

Schutzhund and Mary Kay

Did I get your attention with that? Good! I'll bet you are wondering what in the world could schutzhund possibly have in common with the Goddess of Women's Cosmetics? Well, let me tell you!

It was my intention to write a post about goals and dreams, as they relate to our upcoming year in dogsports, particularly schutzhund. As I put pen to paper, my mind immediately went to quotations I had read in Mary Kay Ash's book, "Miracles Happen." As anyone familiar with Mary Kay Ash knows, she took adversity and created a lasting tribute to her hard work and commitment. Why can't we apply the same principles? Every year I ask that our schutzhund club members dedicate a few minutes to writing down what they accomplished during the past year, and recognizing that as a group, and also writing down and sharing their goals for 2010. I considered that some people might shy away from making their goals too big for fear of embarrassment when they are read the following year.

Mary Kay Ash writes, "you wouldn't start (a trip) without a road map. The same should be true of your life. Without a plan-- a road map--- you will never get where you want to go. To accomplish anything significant, you must sit down and decide what you want from life." What is your schutzhund "road map?" Clearly, it must involve knowing the rules, for without that you do not know what it is you do not know! Everyone should own a current rule book.

Continuing, she wrote, "Often, when people list long term goals, they seem overwhelming. But as the old Chinese proverb relates, "The longest journey begins with a single step." At the same time, a good goal is like a strenuous exercise-- it makes you stretch. Goals should be slightly out of reach, to be of maximum value. Remember, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you will still be among the beautiful stars."

When you write your goals, make them stretch. Let it be something you are willing to work for but slightly scarey in how big it is. If you are thinking of a SchH1 why not say you are going to be the SchH1 Regional Champion? If you fall short, you still will have put the pieces together to go to the Regionals. You will have studied the rules and practiced and exposed yourself and your dog to things outside your comfort zone. If you miss, you're still among the beautiful stars of experience and support.

However, to reach those big goals you need to put them into a manageable size. Inch by inch, it's a cinch, but yard by yard, it's hard. Mary Kay told a young entrepreneur that
" she should set her sights on short-term, attainable goals. Otherwise, that great big lifetime dream would be overwhelming. It's great to think big-- but take care to break that big goal into smaller goals or plateaus that you can achieve by stretching yourself. You can eat an elephant, one bite at a time."
How will you plan those manageable steps? By consulting your road map, your rulebook. At times, I have literally broken down a goal into each behavior I needed to train, with plans on how I was going to approach it. Put in simplest terms you have a means of checking off the steps you take toward the goal, and measuring your progress.

Mary Kay writes, "The world is full of people who are very quick to dream and very slow to act. Often it's because they have failed to break big goals into manageable goals, but more often, it is a fear of failure. Many people are so afraid of failure, that they never try anything.... The death of fear is in doing what you fear to do. Yes, you're going to make mistakes along the way, but you'll also be learning. And as I said earlier, we fail forward to success. You will make mistakes, and sometimes you will be frustrated as you work toward your goals. But for every failure, there's an alternative course of action.... Have confidence in yourself, and you'll find another route. Remember that obstacles either "polish us up" or "wear us down." A diamond was once just a hunk of coal until it was put under pressure and polished to perfection."

Get out there and do it! You will never recognize the potential of yourself or your dog if you do not risk failure. I should add here as well that you must risk embarrassment. For some, the fear of being embarrassed is immobilizing. If you handle a dog for any period of time, one or the other of you is going to do something to cause embarrassment. Or perhaps it is just in learning--and admitting-- that you don't know everything. Or that what you did, or thought you knew, was incorrect. In the years I have been in the sport, so many things have changed. I've been willing to learn new methods and adapt. Had I clung to what I did twenty-odd years ago, not risking embarrassment by refusing to attend new seminars, well, I would be where I was twenty-odd years ago. Those are people we refer to as "having had the same experience for twenty years" rather than having twenty years of experience. I've been in National events, and I've both passed and failed there. Failure has inspired me to reevaluate, regroup and keep trying. And in those experiences, I have met some wonderful people. Nothing is lost in that. I think it is also humbling to know that there, by the Grace of God, go I. Dogs are not machines and despite training and expectations, sometimes they just do things that defy explanation.

Mary Kay Ash wrote of attending a convention that changed her life. "Among the things they told us that day was "Hitch your wagon to a star." .... Another principle they taught us was to "Get a railroad track to run on".... The final lesson I learned at that convention was "Tell somebody what you are going to do."

What does this mean to you? Those are probably the most important words I can share with you, from the pages of Mary Kay Ash. When she writes to "hitch your wagon to a star" that means to seek out the person who has reached the level you want to achieve and learn from them. Ask how they reached their goals and what advice they might give you . Watch and learn. If you want to improve, you don't take lessons or advice from a person who knows the same as you or who has not accomplished what you want. "Get a railroad track to run on" means to pull that rulebook out and study it. That is your railroad track. It provides a path to the place you want to be. Frankly, if you don't know the rules of the sport you want to participate in, you will never be among the stars.

Lastly, "tell someone what you are going to do" is reflected in many businesses and motivational seminars, and is something I like to follow for our schutzhund club. When you speak the words "I WILL.." outloud, you give those words validity. You are also advising your support network that this is your goal and that you will need their help and support to get their. Not only that, but you are asking them to hold you to those words, and remind you of them when you are tired or disappointed, and to tell you that you CAN do it. Say it out loud. Write it down and tape it to your mirror or refrigerator so that you see it every day. Visualize what it will look like when you are successful.

As I reviewed the goals I had set for myself last year, Mary Kay Ash's words rang true in my ears. In my next post I will commit my goals for next year to writing. Feel free to hold me accountable!
In the meantime, sit down and put your own goals for 2010 to paper. I found beautiful hinged ornaments at Stein's this year and filled them with chocolate and trinkets for my nieces and nephews. One thing I thought to do was to save one for myself and to place inside a note with 5 things that happened during the year, 5 things I want to accomplish in 2010 and 5 things I want for the future. Won't that be interesting to look at in another year? Or ten?

Go now and take the first step toward making your goals a reality. As Mary Kay said, "inch by inch, it's a cinch!"