I was out jogging through my neighborhood when I rounded a familiar corner to find an old acquaintance waiting. This particular “friend” is a miniature dachshund dog who seems to spend most afternoons tethered to a thin, frayed rope in the unfenced front yard of a little bungalow. I don’t know his name so I’ve taken to calling him TM, short for Thunder Mutt. From what I can tell about canine communication, he didn’t appear to like me very much.
As I came adjacent to TM and his half-rotted rope he went through his typical greeting. He charged, throwing his 12 pound body against the limits of his leash, angrily yapping in a voice far too loud for his little mouth. He flailed about, yanking and pulling, doing whatever possible to break free.
Lesson One: TM had a goal. He wanted to eat me. Since I am about 15 times his size it was an exceedingly large goal but he was passionate about achieving success and barked about it incessantly each time I went by. As leaders it’s ok to have oversized goals and to battle against the barriers holding you back. We should all be more like that in our pursuits.
On this day the inevitable happened. TMs big break finally came through … and when I say “break” I mean that literally. During one flying leap against the limits of his tired worn leash it snapped, sending TM tumbling into the grass free and unrestrained. There was nothing between him and his long sought goal, my ankle. He scrambled to his feet and glared at me, deciding whether to go straight for my leg of spend a few minutes shredding my beat up running shoes first. His eyes narrowed into a snarl as he took a step forward. Then his gaze moved up my body all the way to my sweaty hat. I don’t consider myself an intimidating sort but when looked at from the perspective of a tiny pooch no more than 12 inches off the ground I’m downright monstrous.
TM balked, whined, put his tail between his legs, and scurried away back the safety of his porch.
Lesson Two: Barriers, by definition, limit us. Sometimes we become so familiar with those limits they become comfortable and we stop thinking about what we would do if we ever got beyond them. The point of setting a goal is to move beyond the accustomed and push into the unknown. To do this we must be ready when we are given an opportunity to act. TM had a goal, he wanted to eat me; but he had never stopped to consider how to make that happen when the moment came.
In the movie The Grey, Liam Neeson battles with a far more sinister group of canine antagonists … wolves who have solved the “how to eat you” quandary. As he approaches the climactic confrontation he recites a poem by author Joe Carnahan which captures what to do when the chains holding you back fall away and you are faced with the opportunity to charge after your goal:
Once more into the fray…
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live and die on this day…
Live and die on this day…
No hesitation. Committed. Recognizing the importance of the moment. All in to capture the prize. Seizing the opportunity. Holding nothing back.
I am quite glad little TM lacked the resolve to achieve his dream and hadn’t learned the methods of his distant wolf cousins. I’ve grown rather attached to my feet and ankles and would much prefer they not be turned into a dachshund snack. I will admit to being a bit saddened when a few days later I once again found myself in front of TMs lawn. He was tied to a new, thick nylon woven climbing rope that weighed more than he did. As I went by he lifted his head and looked but nary a snarl or yap left his throat. Instead he only laid there and watched, no longer interested in conquering life beyond his limits.
Should a dream be so easily lost? Or should we be ready to act as if we are in the last good fight we’ll ever know when or efforts place us in a moment of opportunity? TM abandoned his goal. I hope we all fare better when faced with a similar dachshund dilemma.