I continue to learn from my four legged friend, Louie, and you can too!
The last few months for me could best be described as transformative. After 28 years of practicing law in established, formal settings (court system, large law firms, and in-house), I have started my own Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practice. While exciting in now helping people settle disputes rather than fight, the transition has been eye-opening. To be candid, I had little idea of the detailed work necessary to set up my own shop (from business formalities, tax concerns, and regulatory filings to website design, marketing, and learning not to be fearful of social media). The one constant of this temporary at home arrangement has been my canine pal, Louie.
Louie is an inquisitive, friendly, semi-neurotic Golden Doodle. No squirrel, leaf or vehicle dare pass our house absent a good, terror-inducing barking fit. Yet, start a lawn mower nearby or hear a clap of thunder, and brave Louie dives below the nearest bed.
In this transition, Louie has been my constant companion. I cannot move room to room without Louie as my shadow. Trading in co-workers for a co-canine has surprisingly taught me much in these few short months. Perhaps it took leaving the more structured business environs to see what has always been in front of me. Here are some highlights of lessons learned from Louie.
You May Not Need the Next Big Thing
I admit it. We spoil our dogs. Louie regularly receives new toys. However, Louie routinely pulls from his basket his old, stuffed hedgehog. That poor toy has been sewn more than the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Time and again, Louie will search for this toy out of the abundance of options.
The latest and greatest squeaking octopus as well as the innovative monkey with rope arms and legs are each passed up for the well worn hedgehog. For Louie, the hedgehog is like a pair of comfortable jeans. New toys may not impress and certainly may not be necessary. Similarly, for us, we should be reminded that which works may be just fine. We do not always “need” the latest squeaky octopus.
Be Excited About What Life Gives You
At rare times, Louie will dig deep in his basket and arise with a bone which has not seen daylight in months. Louie will strut around with the bone proudly in his mouth. He will come to me to show off his find. He then takes a break from gnawing on the bone only to look at me, look back at the bone and wag his tail.
Rediscovery of this simple object makes Louie’s day. He lets everyone around know of his happiness. Louie sharing his joy is infectious and I feel better as well. In the same way, we should feel good about our own small victories. Be happy about earning that free drink at the coffee shop. Get excited about the little things, at least for a short while. Others will recognize it and may feel better too.
Show Affection to Those You Care About
Upon my return home from an errand or meeting, Louie greets me as if I had been away at war for years. The ritual includes licking, whining, and running between my legs multiple times. Louie wears his affection on his hairy sleeve.
Societal norms may not permit the type of greeting among us as so freely shown by Louie. Nonetheless, Louie teaches us not to be afraid to say I missed you and I care about you when we greet those important to us.
All these small things in front of me every day make me feel happy and better about myself. Just take a moment to recognize them in your own day.
Editor’s Note: Michael’s Blog is generally dedicated to ADR practice tips and insights. At times, Michael will write on more general topics which, hopefully, you will find of interest as does he.