How My Dog Taught Me to Reset, Recharge and Restart

While I may be twice as good at rolling with life’s punches at 60 than I was at 30, I’ve still got a long way to go.

Technological snafus in particular get my blood boiling. Forget that system crashes and wiped-out WiFi affect millions of people on a regular basis. The really “horrible” part is that it happens to me - especially when I’m facing a deadline.

Having just spewed out long-term parking reservations for a trip my wife and I are taking, our printer then refused to churn out the latest draft of a business plan I’d been working on. Sixty minutes of back-and-forth later with both our wireless company and the printer manufacturer and my head was about to pop. No one was able to help.

Except Lilly, our Boston terrier.

Toward the end of my customer service encounter (including the 70th upbeat chorus of “someone will be right with you”), I happened to look up as Lilly errantly tossed one of her favorite chew toys underneath a nearby chest of drawers. 

Lilly pawed at the inch-wide space between the bottom drawer and the floor, haplessly trying to extract the toy. She whined for about five seconds. Then Lilly looked up at me and did the most amazing thing: she bounded off in search of another toy.

The burner in my head turned down and my blood cooled. No, I couldn’t exactly bound off in search of another printer, but I could change my attitude toward this “disaster” - and possibly find my own solution in the process. I certainly wasn’t making any headway with my capillaries bursting.

I turned fixing the printer into a game. At least one of the many colorful buttons on the printer console could hold the key to getting back on-line. What was stopping me from exploring them myself? Why was I always surrendering to tech support and deferring to their final say?

OK. Scroll down to set-up. Find printer access point. Press and hold for five seconds. Nope. Set new LAN password. Searching. Yes!

By now, Lilly was flinging another toy into the air, chasing after it, grabbing and flinging it up again.

When all else fails, have fun!

Fun is exactly what I needed to pull myself out of tech helplessness. But that’s not all Lilly helped me learn.

Somewhere along the line, I’d even begun brooding over favorite pastimes. I love to make art, but I’d become so wrapped up in how my work was supposed to look that I wrung the joy completely out of it; I’d become the most over-bearing-fuss-budget-of-a-craftsman that I’d ever met - at the expense of the art itself.

Lilly’s play was so free and unapologetic it inspired me to take a second look at unconventional art that - much like technology - I’d previously misunderstood, mistrusted and misjudged. I Became enthralled by the boldness of the German Expressionists as well as the intuitive gestures of the American Abstractionists. My being was infused with a new way of seeing.

The day after my printer “victory,” I dipped an old, ragged brush into a bottle of black paint and, without so much as a charcoal sketch, produced an unlabored portrait of Lilly in her moment of delight. One hundred canvasses after I first picked up a paintbrush, I threw away my exacting agony and struck pure joy.

Find that chapter in your One-Minute Manager! 

So, next time you’re facing an executive decision - or wanting to take up a hobby -  you might have a look at how your pets play. You may find that they are perfectly capable of finding their way . . . just like you.