Lessons in Life and Leadership from My Dog, Jack

It might seem surprising to think of a pet as a role model. But when reflecting on the 10 years that I was fortunate enough to share with this Corgi, I recognized a number of character traits worth emulating.

Jack. 2000 - 2015.
Jack. 2000 – 2015.
  1. Know what motivates you. Pursue that with passion. Like most Corgis, Jack was “highly food-motivated.” His nose was a relentless sentinel in pursuit of the next snack. A good belly rub was a close second. Key point: Reflect and understand what deep, internal drive motivates your actions. Don’t get caught in a mindless routine.
  2. Be fully present and focused on the task in front of you. Ignore distractions. Whenever Jack was playing his favorite games or practicing his (admittedly limited) commands, nothing could break his concentration. Squirrels, cars, kids, cats, seagulls – none could elicit a wiggle of those attentive ears. Key point: in an increasingly distracted, multi-tasking world, give yourself completely to the person or work in front of you. This focus and commitment demonstrates the priority and will elicit your best level of performance.
  3. Be patient when people get in your face. Know when to walk away. Jack was not a fighter. Sure, he would growl at dogs three times his size if they came on his turf. But he showed admirable patience with babies pulling his paws, grandmas wiping his whiskers – and when he had enough, he would trot back to his crate and find space. Key point: Control your emotions when others test your temper to avoid damaging relationships.
  4. Speak only when you have something important to say. When you speak, leave no doubt that you were understood. We have all met people, and dogs, who whine, yip, and howl incessantly. None of these are fun to be around, and eventually we tune them out. Jack rarely barked; when he did, there was a good reason, and we listened. Key point: The most effective communicators are selective, clear, and concise.
  5. Make the most of second chances. We adopted Jack when he was 5 years old, after his original owners got divorced and he was returned to his breeder’s kennel. We were all very fortunate to come together, and Jack became the “first, furry kid” in our family. Key point: Mistakes happen, plans fall apart. Don’t let the past hinder you from building a rewarding future.
  6. Demonstrate consistency, integrity, and thoroughness in your actions. These traits build mutual trust and confidence. We joked that Jack was the best behaved member of the family, but in many ways, it was true. Without reciting a long list of examples, please remember that exhibiting the traits listed above will strengthen any relationship: with clients, co-workers, friends, or family.
  7. Leave nothing but positive memories in your wake. Jack made a lot of people very happy. Even as his body failed him, his energetic personality prevailed. Many of us would be fortunate to live up to such a positive standard in our own lives.

Rest in peace Jack, you will stay with us in our hearts.


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