As Dog Is My Witness
A week ago I said a final farewell to my beloved bully-boy, Elvis. He’s been a faithful studio companion for 13 years, witnessing both me and my practice transform from my early 30’s into my mid-40’s. It is more than a little strange to be suddenly working alone in my studio.
Elvis lived life to the fullest every day, rushing into everything – the end of his life being no exception. I have to admit that at 13 1/2 years he had me half-fooled he was immortal.
Elvis was a shelter dog, classified as a pitbull-cross (I don’t believe in the “vicious breed” stigma, and feel that dogs – like people – should be judged on individual merit). His lovely temperament and constant happy-go-lucky state made him more than a friend – I viewed him as a mentor and I learned many valuable life and business lessons from that magnificent mutt. Here are just a few…
NEVER GIVE UP: KEEP ASKING FOR WHAT YOU WANT
One of Elvis’ most prevalent traits was his tenacity. If he desired something he would let you know. If you said “No”, he would ask again.
And again (“Now?“).
And again (“How ’bout now?“).
And again (“Now, right?“).
Often his requests would be met with negative responses, but that didn’t stop him from rallying anew. His attitude was always “It MIGHT happen this time“.
I adopted his perpetually positive outlook and decided to reapply to galleries that I had previously been rejected by. In doing so, I secured two solo shows by galleries that had previously turned down the exact same proposal. The venues were the same, but when I applied again, different conditions were in play (a new director, a new jury, etc.).
Elvis knew that the world is constantly in flux, and conditions are always changing, so chances are the response to your request will probably change, too, if you just keep asking.
DON’T TAKE THINGS AT FACE VALUE: THINK FOR YOURSELF
Elvis was an obedient dog – and we worked hard to train him that way. But, like many terrier breeds, he was also a Free-Thinker. He had his own ideas about what he should be doing at any given time.
I liked him that way, it made him interesting and kept me on my toes. It also served as a constant reminder to not take commands or requests only at face value: Is this request reasonable? Do I agree with this request? Does this request further my goals?
For Elvis this mostly meant, “Will this new walkies route take us in the direction of Tisol?” For me it meant careful consideration of what opportunities came my way: Does this exhibition opportunity make sense? What is the return on my investment? Will this further my practice?
Elvis was very clear-minded on what his goals were (free cookies, and likely more treats bought while at Tisol). Watching him consider external requests was a great reminder to be focused and aware of blind acceptance in my own life.
LET YOUR PRESENCE BE KNOWN, BUT DON’T BE A PEST
Elvis was a foodie. He lo-o-o-o-ved his eats…and ours, too. He expected to get a bite or two from whatever his humans were consuming, but he learned early on that if he loitered at our feet and stared us down he would get nothing but a correction. His revised tactic was to be close by – let it be known he was present – and then to lie quietly and calmly until he was invited to lick plates.
This reconsidered plan worked well for him, as his good behavior would result in a few morsels of food being left on the plates as a reward.
When I began to use social media as a business tool, I consciously adopted Elvis’ plan of letting my presence be known, while at the same time treading carefully so as not to be annoying and spammy.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES
Elvis always rushed headlong into life and situations with unbridled verve (granted, this didn’t always work out well for him, but DAMN, that dog knew how to live!). If he sensed an opportunity – even one that wasn’t fully offered to him – Elvis would be ready for it.
An off-leash swim might suddenly turn into a sprint down the beach. A kitchen fumble might become “Elvis! Clean up on aisle two!“. When in Tisol, play it right and you get extra free cookies.
Elvis knew he had to be ready to take affirmative action when life presented opportunities to him. If he hesitated, out of fear or uncertainty, the opportunity might pass him by.
How has this manifested in my own life? Recently, Andrew and I have had a very big opportunity presented to us; Andrew has been offered a position in a private company located in New York. Uprooting our current comfortable existence was not in either of our plans, but when life aligns and opportunities for adventure are presented, we must trust ourselves and take them (sprint down the beach, so to speak).
So…in about 6 weeks time, Andrew and I will be moving to the other side of the continent, into another country, to start a new chapter in our lives – our Mid-Life Manhattan Adventure. Elvis, even though he has physically left us, will be joining us in spirit, reminding us to be alert for the emergence of opportunities and encouraging us to snatch them up as they arise.
Farewell, Elvis, my dear friend and mentor. I thank you for your presence, your humour, and your terrific cuddles. You will be duly missed.
What life and business lessons have you learned from your beloved animal companions? Please share in the comments below.