Learning: Are you paying attention to lessons happening around you?

Guest post by Leslie Yerkes.

Learning keeps surprising me. One of my recent lessons is that most learning is not structured. Or planned. Actually, the vast majority of learning just happens to us. John Lennon said something like, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans.” The key is to be aware of things while they are happening. Or at least, shortly after.


My life has been totally changed by the appearance of another dog. As I was helping a neighbor look for her runaway dog, I came across a Cane Corso running wild in an abandoned industrial site. The dog was so emaciated I could see his ribs. He was too frightened to approach me, even though I had been sharing a roast chicken dinner with Buddha, my Brindle Boxer and willing to give all to this desperate dog.

I knew immediately – this dog needs me.

I embarked on a campaign, a commitment really, to rescue the dog I had come to call Big Boy. Little did I know it would take two months.

During that time, I brought food and water to Big Boy. In addition, I brought myself. What I didn’t bring was a timeline. I didn’t try to apply my deadlines to the process. Early on, I realized that if I were going to gain Big Boy’s trust, it would have to be on his terms, not mine.

Most learning lessons are unstructured. Click To Tweet

Today, Big Boy is living with me and Buddha. And for all us, every day is new. Every day is a learning experience, not only for the dog who never knew a family or a home but for Buddha and me. Our learning is constant and ongoing. Here are few things I’ve learned, as well as some I’ve had to relearn:

Fullness comes when waiting is

m_golden 1

Robert Heinlein was right. Things take their own time. As much as we set plans, goals, and deadlines and strive to keep people on task, things take their own time. My learning was to set goals but be open to the rate of change not being mine, to let go of my agenda. I had to choose: Did I want it to happen or did I want to keep my schedule, even if meant losing the trust of Big Boy and ultimately allowing to struggle to survive in a world he didn’t understand? Letting go, let it happen.

Set goals but be open to the speed of change Click To Tweet

Every goal comes with obstacles

My goal with Big Boy was to help him live a safe and satisfying life. Noble, but fraught with obstacles. How could I get him to trust me? How could I get him to allow him to pet him? How could I get him to get in my car? How could I get him to allow me to put a collar on him? I am glad to say that each of these goals was solved. Patience and time being the key ingredients for my success. All obstacles can be overcome. You just have to want to.


Focus on the moment

In our electronic age, we have accepted the concept of multi-tasking. But when we are dealing with children, parents, clients, and wild dogs the most effective behavior is to give your total and undivided attention to the person or task in front of you. You know when someone to whom you are talking isn’t really “there.” They know the same thing about you. You can’t fool them with multi-tasking. To be accepted and effective, don’t try. Pay attention to the focus of the moment.

Pay attention to the focus of the moment. Click To Tweet

What you need may show up while you’re looking for something else

What I needed in my life came to me from my commitment to saving Big Boy. What I was looking for when it showed up was my neighbor’s dog Coco. If I hadn’t agreed to help her, I would NEVER have had the rich experience that has been Big Boy. Strange travel suggestions really are “Dancing Lessons from God.” Learn to dance.

So, today, Big Boy is living we me and Buddha Bear. We are not certain if he will stay with us or move on to another family. But what I know for sure is that if I stay focused on his immediate needs of food, water, and love, and solve every problem that arises, the answer to this question will surface. When the time is right. In spite of any plans or agendas I might be tempted to create. No matter what I’m looking for at the moment.

Patience and time are the key to success Click To Tweet
  • m_golden 2Are you aware of something that’s happening around you that has the potential to create learning lessons that could really light you up?

Leslie Yerkes has been advancing the cause of positive organizational culture for over twenty-five years, ever since she started The Catalyst Consulting Group with a mission to do “consulting with a conscience.” Author of six books, Leslie consults with   small passionate non-profits as well as global Fortune 50 conglomerates.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Saira Khan

    Great post from Leslie, helping to put some things into perspective for me on a personal level. Thanks for sharing…..!

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