When you realize you don’t know what you think you know
Today I’m writing about my journey as a dog agility instructor and how my perspectives have changed over the years.
When I first started teaching, I felt like I had something to prove and for the most part I actually did. Gaining the respect of a group of adults when you are 16 years old was a difficult task, and I think I had to be a little arrogant to convince them that they really should listen to me. With success, my ego grew and to be completely honest, my people skills diminished.
I had little patience in my classes and would sometimes even get angry with my students when I figured they weren’t listening to me. I attempted to motivate others by holding my accomplishments over their heads. I remember telling my students that if they didn’t want to do things my way it was fine by me…it would just make it easier for me to win.
Lesson: to truly inspire others you must build them up first, and as a result you will find that they lift you higher as well. This leads to a positive support system where everyone involved benefits. Now who wouldn’t want that?
Before I learned this valuable lesson I honestly didn’t enjoy teaching all that much. I was teaching for me and not teaching for the benefit of others.
I’ve since realized that I don’t know as much as I thought I knew.
I heard a speaker yesterday say, “If you’re green you’re growing, if you’re ripe then you rot.”
Imagine if all of us set aside our egos and focused on learning from those around us, especially our dogs. How much more would we learn without the ignorance of trying to prove that we are right while others are wrong?
This brings to mind my snooker run with Heist on the weekend. Now I have always preached to people about putting it on the line and going for maximum course points. When I looked at the snooker course I realized something. Going for maximum course points would not be good for my dog. He needs to gain confidence in the ring and confidence in me. Running him long distances with no obstacles in between would be detrimental to us both. Even knowing this, do you know what my first thought was? How are others going to see me if I don’t practice what I’ve preached for so long?
Then I realized something profound.
I was wrong. I have pushed people to follow my example by being more competitive. I haven’t taken into consideration that sometimes it’s not about winning right now. It’s about building up your dog’s confidence so that he can win later.
I chose to run a path I figure would give us both a boost of confidence. As it turns out, it still didn’t go to plan, but I am very happy that I made that decision and didn’t try to push him beyond where we both were comfortable.
It’s interesting how you can be so sure of something one day and then realize that your theory was flawed all along.
Lesson: Always be open to the ideas and opinions of others. Most of the time “right” and “wrong” is all based on perspective.
Today I’ve decided to become stronger by admitting my mistakes. What will you choose?
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training