I had an interesting experience at the weekend entering Tiggy, my Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla, into her first working, test the result – fun, frustration, insights, learnings and humble pie! A working test, for the uninitiated, is designed to simulate the challenges of a working gundog, hunting and retrieving dummies on land and in water. Tiggy qualified for the puppy class, being only 15 months old and I forget that is what she is – still young and desperately inexperienced. However, her inexperience is nothing in comparison to mine 🙂

I had some preconceived ideas about the sort of people that would be there and my prejudices about ‘uber competitive’, ‘uber doggy’ and ‘uber stuck up’ people from the gundog world were broadly unfounded. There was however one wonderful example that proved the exception – more of him in a minute. We arrived at a working fruit farm that was hosting the event, one of probably 50 or so dogs and four wheel drive vehicles parked between the trees. Out with the camp chairs and the flask of tea – so far so good! After a 2 hour wait trying to find shade, Tiggy finally got her go at the hunting exercise. She bounded about in a field of broad beans like a pro, hunting left and right and only held back by her incompetent and clueless master. We then made our way to the water retrieve; now Tiggy loves water, and bogs and mud 🙂 and I was feeling confident about what would be a simple thrown retrieve for her. I set her up, the dummy was thrown, Tig was steady and the judge asked me to send my dog. I sent Tiggy and she bounded in with a racing dive, straight out, picked it, straight back……….. then saw the judge and dummy thrower and clearly thought “oh my goodness, who are those scary people” so stopped in her tracks and committed the cardinal sin, dropping the dummy. Nil points and a fail L

Ho hum – onto the retrieving, full marks for the first retrieve – woo hooo!! Unfortunately a fluttering plastic bag at the wrong time proved to be a bit of a distraction for the second retrieve and we were working hard after that. All in all 70 points and a brilliant experience, I learnt loads, the judge kept referring to the dogs as babies, but I pointed out to her that it was actually me that was the baby in this scenario, so much to learn.

Learn we can and the day created some reflections and insights that I think are pertinent to us all as we trundle through our working lives:

  1. Listen to feedback – back to the archetypal ‘numpty’; he really was an absolute pillock, know it all, arrogant, ignorant and rude. The best bit was watching the judge giving his debrief after the hunting exercise and the only one talking was him. I learned loads from the judge – sometimes you really do need to set aside your own thoughts and deliberately listen to the very best of your ability. Feedback is a gift you can discard if you choose, but at least listen to it!
  2. Try not to judge and challenge your own preconceptions driving down I had rehearsed a whole load of scenarios in my mind (mostly negative) about the people, the set up or the activities. As a consequence, I spent a lot of the time having to make readjustments between my perceptions and reality, rather than just taking things at face value and getting on with it. How often do we do that in a new situation of circumstances at work or in our personal life.
  3. If you don’t have a go you will never know – I was havering for ages about whether to enter or not, the usual barriers of uncertainty, other priorities, uncertainty, procrastination or uncertainty getting in the way. I have written several times about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and this was another wonderful example. Tiggy didn’t have any of that going on – she just got on with it and we both learned loads – every day is a school day IF you do something new / different!
  4. Always expect the unexpected – I was so confident and excited about the water retrieve, all I could picture was consummate success. As a result, when the unexpected happened, I had no plan B, no back up and no idea. When you have limited experience of doing something you need to compensate for the lack of experience, ensure that you spend some time scenario planning what might go wrong so you have a chance to respond in the moment. I hadn’t, didn’t and we failed this time as a result, but I haven’t let it put me off.

Onwards and upwards, life is too short not to be the best you want to be and we have entered our next test – a Novice class this time, yup, glutton for punishment. I hope that you reflect on these insights, created from something seemingly trivial, but hopefully they resonate with some of the challenges and opportunities in your working lives. Feel free to share with your friends on social media 🙂