I initially wrote this as a newspaper column focused on advice for the high school graduating class of 2014. Then I tweaked it a little for dog folk.
WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD (OF DOG TRAINING)
• Follow your passion. Don’t do something just because everybody else is doing it.
• Not everyone you meet is going to be supportive and encouraging. Most will, but a few won’t be able to think beyond their own insecurities. Don’t take it personally. Grudges are just one more thing you have to haul around and if you’re involved in dog sports, you’ve already got enough gear to schlepp.
• Every time someone is rude or downright nasty to you, pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. Especially people you don’t even know.
• You never know how you can touch someone’s life with a smile or small act of kindness.
• If it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, it probably isn’t.
• You’ve only got one body. Take care of it. You’re not going to be 18 (or 38 or 48) forever so start making good habits now. You’re breakable. Medical science can repair, replace and prevent a lot of things but it can’t cure stupid. Don’t be stupid. This applies to your dog’s body, too.
• Practice tolerance. There is a whole planet full of people out there who may not share your world view. You’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of misery by disapproving of everyone who doesn’t agree with you.
• Keep your mind open and your mouth shut.
• Smile, laugh, sing out loud. Kiss your dog. Kiss your partner. Hug your friends.
• Don’t be so worried about tomorrow that you can’t enjoy today.
• Be responsible. You’re an adult. Your actions have consequences and you have to live with them.
• Judge not. Unless you have a license and a club has hired you.
• Be determined. Be persistent. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you refuse to give up.
• No one owes you anything. You want it? You make it happen.
• It’s okay to be frustrated, pissed off and disappointed. Go sit in your car and pound on the steering wheel and shed some tears, but don’t take it out on your dog or your friends. Nobody wants to see it. Then let it go and figure out how to make it not happen again.
• You’re going to make bad decisions and screw stuff up. Learn from those mistakes. Make new ones next time.
• You can't fix a problem using the same thinking that created it.
• Be yourself. It’s who you were meant to be. Trying to be someone else doesn’t work. If you’re trying to be someone else to please someone else, that especially doesn’t work.
• You are a unique individual - celebrate the gifts you have been given. Share them with others whenever you can.
• If you have a job, good health, a sound dog and disposable income to spend on dog sports, you have more than a lot of people.
• Count your blessings and never take your support network for granted.
There’s a popular graphic circulating on Facebook that reads, “When I was little, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. This shit isn’t what I expected.”
Yeah, there are days when being an adult (dog trainer) is overrated, but it’s a journey that’s going to last for the rest of your life so look for the good stuff and you’ll find it.
The door has been opened, walk through it with your dog and begin that journey.