I ran across an interesting post by Celestine Chua titled, “Are You a Howling Dog?” She begins the post by stating that there are different variations to this story. Go read her variation, and then come back and read mine – along with some commentary.
Her’s is a good version. And her comments and analysis are excellent.
That said, here’s the story as I have always known it:
A traveling salesman made a call on farm one day. As he was chatting with the farmer, the salesman found himself getting distracted by an old hound resting on the front porch. Thing was, every few minutes, the hounddog would lift his head, let out pitiful whine before putting his head back down. Finally, the salesman asked the farmer about the dog:
“Something wrong with your old dog,” inquired the salesman.
“Yup,” answered back the farmer; adding, “reckon that nail he’s been laying on all this time is bothering him.”
The salesman thought for a minute and said, “so why doesn’t he move?”
“Well, he does – you can see the dog shifting his hindquarters every now and then – but reckon the nail will always be there – somewhere.”
The salesman thought for another minute and said, “why doesn’t your dog just move to new spot?”
“Well, I reckon it’s too much trouble for him to move.”
“Didn’t you say he was laying on nail.”
“Well, he is, but I reckon the nail ain’t long enough nor sharp enough,” replied the farmer.
Don’t wait until the nails really hurt before you take action. Because when that happens, that usually means it’s too late to do anything.
But in the story as I have always known it, the nail will never really hurt that much. And that is a far more insidious situation to be in.
A lot of us are in a rut, and many of us know that we are in a rut. And we know that we should do something about it. The challenge is that we become, not so much comfortable; but rather, resigned to where we are at.
And that resignation is because the nail isn’t long enough or sharp enough to make us move. We just squirm instead.
A life of mediocrity comes from acceptance.
But it doesn’t have to – and you don’t have to accept it.
Tony Robbins, I think, has taught that pain or the avoidance of pain is a great motivator.
Yet, fundamental change – a profound paradigm shift doesn’t have to come from avoidance of pain or because the poking got too painful. It can come just as easily by focusing on how you want your life to be scripted. At the end of your days, what would you want your loved ones, your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors to say about you (as taught by Stephen Covey).
Is the life you lead now; the life you want your most important people to remember you by.
If it is, then so be it.
If it is not, then what must you do to achieve that life?
That nail, in and of itself, will never propel you to your life’s destiny. It will be there as a dull and constantly reminder of the rut you live in, but that is all.
What will propel you to move can only be your desire to live a life that you want your most important people to remember you by. (By the way, that’s not to say that you should script your life to others – I’m not talking you becoming a puppet. Rather, you want to live your life, the way you want to live it; but hopefully, a life worth remembering well by others)
- Take a weekend to write out the eulogies that you want your loved ones to say about you.
- Write down the things that are most important to you.
- Write down the things that you most want to do.
- Write down the things that you are most proud of.
- Write down the values that you cherish most.
- Write down the the people you admire most and why.
- Write down what you believe to be your strongest skills.
Then looking at all that, discern the common traits, or ask your mentor for help in discerning the common themes. Once you understand themes that run in your life, write a personal mission statement for yourself.
And let this mission statement be your guide. You may decide to abandon your rut dramatically. Or you may decide to transition gradually to what you really want to do. Or you may decide that you need to stay where you are. Your mission statement may guide in determining that you are where you need to be.
If that is what it tells you, then be strong and make the most of the rut you are in. And then, it no longer becomes a rut.
In the end, I agree with Celestine – you must act. You must make a conscious decision to move on or stay – and if you stay – then do it willingly, not by resignation.
Do not resign yourself to laying on nail – shifting your butt now and then – just because the nail ain’t long enough or sharp enough.
But if you do – then accept it consciously – and stop howling for sympathy.