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Leading by Fergi – Lesson #3: When Will We Get There?

FergiMondays are agility training night for Fergi and me. Agility is a sport that requires a dog and his handler to negotiate an obstacle course, racing against a clock and completing the obstacles correctly and in the designated order. It’s funny; we call it “dog training,” but it’s primarily “people training.” Classes are intended to hone performance with technical skills (how to execute obstacles like jumps, A-frame, dog walk, teeter totter, weave poles, and tunnels), as well as to perfect handling skills (my hand, feet and body positions that communicate to Fergi where we are going on the obstacle course). We drive 45 minutes for a weekly 70-minute agility class inside a horse barn. Winter training can test my will – sometimes training in 30-degree weather. The payoff comes during the summer months when we train outside.

My agility training began in 2005, over 11 years ago, and Fergi has been my training partner for seven of those years. I’ve invested thousands of dollars in training classes, spent hundreds on Zuke’s salmon training treats (who wouldn’t work harder for salmon over chicken?!), gone through nine pairs of “barn” boots, and purchased every squeaky toy, tug toy, and Frisbee available at Petsmart, Petco, and Pet Supplies Plus.

Get the picture? Training and development are part of our fabric. You would think that by this time, we’d be masters, but you would be wrong. We’re not even close. Although we do pretty well at competition, what’s more important is that we have fun and enjoy our training time together – which is a good thing, because we only spend 30 seconds in the ring during a competition! The fact is, even professional athletes spend 3-4 times more in training than they do in their actual performance.

So why don’t we invest the time in training as leaders?  We’ve heard many reasons over the years – lack of funds, too stretched for time, too tired to even think about another activity, and even ego. And they’re all, for lack of a better word, CRAP! I would argue that much like a professional athlete – much like Fergi and me – we never reach a place of “perfection.” We continually need to train to improve. In 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, John Maxwell wrote, “The day you stop growing is the day you forfeit your potential and the potential of the organization.”

I heard a story last week from a waitress whose father left corporate America in his late 50s, went back to school and became an anesthesiologist. This man chose to grow, to become a leader. So no more excuses. Reading is free, and there are innumerable resources right at our fingertips on the Internet. It takes less than 12 minutes to listen to a podcast, and you can do it while driving. As for ego, I would challenge you to consider whether you truly believe you are, at this moment, all that you can be.

The bottom line is that most of us are just barely tapping into our potential. We must embrace continued learning or we are going to be left behind. As someone once said, “We either grow, or die.”  Period.

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