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Animals (the non-human type) are all about speed and efficiency, two great traits for self-employed business owners. Here's 5 things I've learned from animals that can help you in life and in your small business.
1. Be unstoppable.
One of our former dog-children, a Norwegian Elkhound named Eric Loki, let no physical barrier get between him and what he wanted. He simply climbed over, chewed through, or dug under. Fences never once stood in his way. During all the years we tried without success to keep him reined in he paid us no mind whatsoever, and went straight where he wanted to go. I've often thought that if us small business owners would develop the same single-minded purpose as Eric had, we'd be richer for it. And once or twice, when something seemingly impenetrable has stood in the way of what I wanted to do next in business, I've though about Eric and how he always found a way over, under, or through. He inspires me to do the same.
2. Relaxed approaches are best.
One of my current dog-children, Jake the Tough Boy, taught me how to yawn and loosen up my jaws – useful when I'm all stressed about meeting a deadline, or dealing with someone who is not being cooperative. Jake has a small little mouth, but he can yawn and stretch open his jaws so much I fear they will come unhinged.
Jake also reminds me every morning of the benefits of yoga, for he wakes up and stretches himself forward and backward, doing a perfect downward dog. Our other dog, Phoebe the Huntress, reminds me to lay on my back and stretch a few times a day. She routinely gets on her back and wiggles this way and that. While it looks cute, she's not playing. Come to find out, dogs lay on their back with paws in the air to give themselves an adjustment to their spine. Relaxed muscles and backs feel better.
3. Being adaptable pays off.
Years ago, I peered into a microscope in a high school lab, and got a lesson about being adaptable. As I stared at a hydra, I obeyed the teacher’s instructions to cut off its head. To my amazement, the tiny creature immediately grew another head and went on its merry way. I remember watching how easily it simple went off in another direction and did its thing. Totally adaptable, without complaint, it lived its little hydra life. Hydras grow what they need to survive. While we can't grow another head, we can grow our skills and spirit to the point that we are persistent and adaptable, no matter what.
4. Make play out of your work.
One of our most beloved dogs, P.V. Cousteau, taught my husband and I the value of indomitable spirit and the virtues of play. Cousteau, as you might guess, had a thing for water and another thing for balls. For seventeen and a half wonderful, happy years Cousteau found a way to put play into the most mundane of household tasks. The minute I pulled out our vacuum cleaner he ran for his ball, delightedly dropping it in front of the vacuum, knowing I would soon have to shove it out of my way. It was a great game to him.
To Cousteau, folding laundry become a game, too. He quickly dropped his ball in the middle of whatever I was folding, then waited until I impatiently flicked the ball out of my way. And Cousteau loved to make a game out of wrapping presents, too. He would lumber into the middle of the mess on the
floor, sit on the wrapping paper, and hide his ball under the bows and ribbons, then furiously dig about to find it again. No matter the work, Cousteau made it into humorous play. Sometimes that's what we need to do in business, too. Levity can almost always help a situation.
5. Make friends with those who shun you.
My husband doesn't like cats. But every single time we visit a house with cats, he ends up with one or two in his lap. Cats are great at sensing unfriendliness, and they will slowly work their way into your good graces. Rather than reacting with disappointment or annoyance at being shunned, they reach out to connect. Even though it might feel awkward, if we as business owners can look beyond a person's behavior and seek to connect, we can win customers and build our business. Cats don't take no for an answer. We can be the same.
We limit ourselves when we think we can only learn from other humans. Animals get on with life, self-care, and their business without complaint and efficiently. Be curious and watch. You’re sure to learn something from an animal that serves the business of your life. If you've had a life lesson from an animal, I'd love to know about it, so share it in the comment section below.