What walking my dog teaches me about life and leadership

My dog and I headed out for a walk on a gorgeous September day in Maine. Our path took us through the woods and along the shoreline on the Down East coast. We were in a remote area with no people, dogs or cars, so I allowed him to go without his leash.

Watching him as he walked and explored reminded me of some valuable life and leadership lessons.

jbeachThere is more than one way to get there

We faced some challenges, often in the form of steep rocks, slippery seaweed or wet marshy woods. I would choose a path to get around them and he would take a completely different route. The results were the same. We both got to where we needed to go — just in our own way.

I was reminded that just because I choose to go one way doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to get to the same goal. If you manage a team of people, keep this in mind when leading others toward achieving goals. Be open to allowing them to find their own way to get there.

We all bring different skills to problem solving

As I watched my dog on our walk, I realized that most of the time his nose was to the ground. Dogs have a keen sense of smell and he employed it to take us to where we wanted to go and to sniff out who or what might have been there before us.

I employed sight and hearing to see where we wanted to go and to listen for clues that would bring us out of the woods and onto the beach.

Whether human or canine, we all have strengths in certain areas. Think about your team and the people you surround yourself with. Identify everyone’s strengths and make the best use of them to get you to where you want to go and to achieve your goals.

Unexpected detours can be a good thing

During our walk my dog would become distracted by a certain smell that peaked his interest. We would end up lingering in one area a little longer than I would have lingered had I been walking alone.

This happens in business and in life, too. We make a plan to get somewhere and the unexpected happens. Things take longer than planned or problems crop up that we didn’t see coming. It can be discouraging and frustrating to experience delays and setbacks.

But as I stood there growing a bit impatient as my dog had to sniff around a tree for what seemed like forever, I discovered a beautiful spot of ripe wild blueberries that I picked and enjoyed. I would have missed them had it not been for my dog forcing a timeout.

Delays and setbacks can lead to new discoveries. Embrace them as opportunities.

Enjoy the journey

Every time I take my dog for a walk, whether it’s just the two of us along the coast or he is on a leash walking through our neighborhood, he acts like it’s the first time he has been there.

Each time it’s new and exciting. He seems to approach it with an “I wonder what I will discover today” attitude.

Remember this as you go about your life and workday. Although you may be walking the same path every day, each day is a new day full of possibilities and new discoveries to be made.

Deb Neuman

About Deb Neuman

Deb thinks Maine is a great place to do business and loves telling the stories of Mainers proving that it can be done! An entrepreneur at heart, she enjoys helping others with the same drive to create and innovate!