Louie, This Is A Football!

I found this post, generated by Louie DiStasi’s Facebook page, last week. He shared how he signed me up for obedience class. Apparently, I am a control freak and a know it all. He was hoping this class would help me.

FB Post LouieAt first I thought it was funny, but then realized Louie just doesn’t understand that he still needs help with many issues. So based on Zig’s advice, I enrolled Louie in Queen City Dog Training Club. I did so because if all goes well, perhaps he can get into agility training at some point.

I filled out the online form and was hoping for an opportunity to share more detail on Louie’s issues, but that would have to wait. I received a call requesting that I attend the first class alone, without Louie. This was reminiscent of when the principal would come to my grade school classroom requesting my presence in her office ASAP. That happened more than I care to admit. I wondered why I needed to go to obedience training without Louie. I immediately started down the path of, “I am not the one with the issues. He needs to get started as soon as possible and I should not waste any time learning the rules of the game.”

But off I went to the class with about 12 other dog owners. As we filled out our papers, I finally saw my opportunity to share more about Louie. There was a very small space on the paper to express my concerns which I completely filled and added additional comments within the side margins. But my anxiety level increased as I listened to others talk about their dogs.

I let out a long sigh as I pictured Louie in the training ring with other dogs who were much bigger and had even more problems than Lou. I wasn’t sure I was up for my one night a week session with crazy Louie who will no doubt be crazier with several other dogs with similar or worse issues. What was I thinking? It is OBEDIENCE class. Perfect dogs do not attend obedience class. It is mostly dogs who have issues…like Louie! And the trainer made it clear; this is not a time of socialization, this is for obedience. Oh boy—here we go!

As stressful as the first session was, the obedience class provided ample opportunity for me to learn a few leadership lessons:

  • First, when I returned home, I practiced the basics with Louie using his favorite treat—mozzarella cheese. He did really well. I was reminded of one of my favorite lines by Vince Lombardi, “Gentlemen, this is a football!” I realized that I need to constantly reinforce the fundamentals with Louie.
  • The next day, when my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were visiting, Louie was scrounging around for crumbs. I made him sit on his bed by the window and wait until we were done eating. As I walked into the kitchen, he slowly slipped away from his bed and quietly made his way back to my family. I had to make him go back and sit on his bed several times. Some lessons must be taught repeatedly!
  • And finally, as I was walking Louie with one of his girlfriends, Allie, her mom kindly suggested I be a stronger leader to Louie. She was absolutely correct. And Zig reminded me of that as well in that Louie is a control freak and needs to know I am in charge. This is another one of those leadership lessons I’m still learning – the need to continually establish my authority with Louie.

Honestly, I sometimes grow weary of leading anyone or being in charge of anything, much less a dog who should obey my every command. But what a delight when I return to the basics with Lou, and he immediately gets it. Seeing his response encourages me to continue to drill the fundamentals and prepare for the next level. It is not easy and, at times, it is not fun. However, it is incredibly rewarding. The same holds true for parents and for leaders in the workplace. As a leader, I am committed to press through once again and each level gets easier with time.

Louie’s post was correct; this obedience class is as much for me as it is for Louie. By the time you read this, Lou and I will have been through our first class together and most likely will have survived and be ready for class two. As for the comment about me being a control freak and a know it all? Let’s just say Louie continually provides good fodder for our blog!

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Leaders Encourage Others To Dream

One chilly Saturday afternoon, Louie and I were enjoying our favorite things – I was writing, and Louie was napping. As I watched Louie, I noticed he was dreaming. But this was not his usual dream where his legs twitch, and I shake him awake. Instead, his legs were moving in slow motion – almost like he was running gracefully. And rather than his usual abbreviated breaths, he breathed deeply and looked like he was smiling. I watched for several minutes as he kept “running.” For a brief moment, I was standing on the sideline watching my pup with a long sleek body and long stretched out legs running gracefully around the track as I yelled his name while he neared the finish line. I could hear the theme from Chariots of Fire playing in the background. I dared not wake him because he clearly was enjoying the dream.

This reminded me of another runner named Louie, whom I recently read about—Louie Zamperini. You’ve perhaps seen the recent movie or at least heard about his story depicted in Unbroken. I read the book first because I think my imagination is better than a Hollywood replication. Though I have yet to see the movie, I understand it is excellent. Louie began his life with very little hope. He was a petty thief and well on his way to a dead-end life of crime. But his older brother saw him run and realized that running might be Louie’s way out of his circumstances. Louie ultimately competed in the Olympics held in Munich. He set his sights on the next Olympic Games, determined to bring home the gold medal. But all that changed when WWII broke out. It was during those dark days of first being lost at sea for more than a month and then held prisoner by the Japanese that he began to dream. His dreams actually kept him alive: he remembered what it was like to run and win a race; he dreamed about the next Olympics; he recalled the scent and flavor of his mother’s pasta; and he encouraged his fellow prisoners to dream as well.

The human spirit cannot be easily broken, but at times it takes something beyond our own capabilities to dream what may seem impossible. As we begin a new year with a clean slate, we may be tempted to be discouraged by dreams that started with a “what if” and faded into a “maybe someday.” We must renew our passions and revisit our dreams if we want them fulfilled.

I dreamt long ago of being a writer. In fact, in 7th grade I gave my sister a book of poems only to take them back because I wanted to improve upon them. I’ve written many stories and worked on projects in my younger days and realized my dream of writing a book could come true. So I started to take the steps to learn how to write well. And as in any story, there’s a villain! A dream slayer; someone who does not want you to realize your dream. They mean well, I suppose. My dream slayer was someone who was incredibly critical of many things, but especially my writing. I am not talking about constructive feedback—we all need that in our lives. This person looked for ways to criticize my writing and then let everyone else know about a mistake I made.

Another dream slayer is our own self-doubt. As the dream begins to formulate and take shape, our minds tell us, “You could never do that,” or “You’re not that good; no one wants to read your writing.” But we have the power to change our thoughts and do away with doubt altogether.

I’ve also been blessed by people who cast vision for me; those who planted the seeds of a dream before I even saw it. They recognized a talent and passion and encouraged me to follow that dream. One of those people was Ken Blanchard, who loved my book ideas, and eventually endorsed them. I am so thankful he encouraged me to take the next step in realizing my dream. Thankfully, the people who have encouraged my dreams outnumber the ones who have tried to slay them. And similar to Eric Liddell when he referred to running in his famous quote from Chariots of Fire, I truly believe I feel God’s pleasure when I write.

As leaders, we must be intentional about seeing the talent and passion in others and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Louie Zamperini held onto his dreams and had hope for a better day. That was all he could hold on to, and it helped him survive grueling, inhumane circumstances. We all need to dream and reach beyond our capabilities as it says in one of my favorite verses, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Beware of the dream slayers on your journey. They will disappear as you take the next action step in realizing your dream.

My little Louie finally woke up from his afternoon nap. As his tongue rolled out of his mouth, punctuating a huge yawn, he looked at his paws stretched out in front of him. He looked up at me as if to say, “Mom, I think my legs are just a bit longer, don’t you?”

I just shook my head and smiled.

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