Lessons From a Puppy Dog

Since I will only be home for a couple days over Christmas, I decided to take an extended visit over the Thanksgiving holiday – it was a great opportunity to enjoy a change of scenery and to spend some time with my fam! While I wouldn’t say that my time at home was completely “relaxing” – Greg and I have already begun to build my training in preparation for 2016, and owning my own business, my work follows me wherever I go – it was definitely refreshing to have my Mom around to cook delicious dinners and not have to worry as much about house cleaning, laundry, etc. etc.

The other MAJOR highlight of going home was hanging with my parents’ new puppy, Tessa…. Or as we like to call her, “Trouble Bunny!” Even though Newfies tend to be more mild-mannered than other breeds, (not-so) little Tess is your quintessential high-energy, shoe-stealing, jumpy, nippy, fluffy, lovable, hilarious puppy. She provided loads of entertainment – and maybe a littleee frustration – over my 2 weeks at home.

Little Tessa-Bear at 3 months old!

Little Tessa-Bear at 3 months old!

Photo shoot with my little fluffball! Just a typical interaction between us ;-P

Photo shoot with my little fluffball! Just a typical interaction between us ;-P

As I depart from home and head down to Team IE's Florida camp, I realized that in the process of training Tess with my Mom, she also trained me, providing some valuable lessons and reminders that I am applying to training, work, and life in general. I thought I’d take a minute to share my top three lessons from Ms. Tess:

1. The Power of Living in the Moment

Tessa provided the ultimate example of living in the moment. She would be completely immersed in destroying her favorite pink squeaky ball (see fetch vid below!) until she heard the crinkling of a bag in the kitchen. Then, bam! No interest in the ball anymore. We could almost hear her calling to us, “Food! Food! Food!” That is, until I grabbed her stuffed pig, named “Baby,” when her focus would again turn completely; this time, to playing with Baby.

Tessa and her Baby!!

Tessa and her Baby!!

Of course, I’m not saying to never reflect upon/learn from the past or prepare for the future. In her couple months at home, Tessa learned what it meant when we dropped food in her crate (she’s not the biggest fan of crate time), she’s learned good behaviors that result in rewards, and she’s internalized bad ones that yield negative results (well, sort of!). Similarly, I am a big proponent of making time to reflect on both successes and failures to learn and grow. I am also a big believer in the saying, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” But I am definitely working to channel my inner-Tess by embracing the present and not leting my past experiences or desires/fears for the future hold me back in the here and now.

2. The Cheetah Principle

An extremely common mistake in triathlon training – and, I would argue, in life – is that there is not enough change of pace. In hard workouts, they don’t go hard enough; in easy workouts, they don’t go easy enough. Everything is done in an in-between grey zone, a no-man’s land, which just wears them down and creates a sense of monotony.

Tessa’s days are a roller coaster of energy extremes, alternating between RUNAROUNDANDPLAY and sleeeeep. There is very little middle ground. When she goes, she GOES, and when she rests, the rests hard. Greg, Adam and I call this the Cheetah principle, because they do the same: lounge, lounge, lounge, the SPRINT; repeat. As I seek to develop as a high-performing short-course triathlete and strive to become the fastest triathlete I can be, I am working to be more like the cheetah. More like Tess.

3. A.B.C. (Always Be Curious)

Tessa is exceedingly curious – not one thing evades her gaze. Even running at the speed of light around the yard, she would grab sticks and leaves to take back to her safe spot for inspection. She’s constantly jumping up on the counter just to survey what’s going on up there (… and whether there might be a little treat she could nag! …. We’re admittedly working on that habit). We could almost hear her thinking, “Ooo what’s this? … what’s that? … WHAT’s THAT?!” as she would do a round of even the living room, which I would personally have expected to be kind of boring at this point, since it's where she has presided since she came home with my parents!

 Just seeing what's up at the kitchen table! (Plus a subsequent guilty puppy face since she knows she's not supposed to jump up!)

 Just seeing what's up at the kitchen table! (Plus a subsequent guilty puppy face since she knows she's not supposed to jump up!)

It can be easy to get so caught up checking things off in our daily to-do lists that we don’t take the time to be curious; to stop and ask questions; to wonder “why” something is the way it is and could some change create a better product, situation, result, etc. than the current status quo. But it’s this curiosity that leads to learning, which empowers us to become better athletes, managers, professionals, leaders, and members of the community.  So I’m taking a page out of Tessa’s book and allowing myself to let go of that to-do list/schedule just a bit to make time for questions and curiosity.

On alert - "HEY! What's going on out there?!?"

On alert - "HEY! What's going on out there?!?"

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your furry friend(s)? Would love to hear from you!