You know what’s embarrassing? I have no idea how to workout. The thought of creating a workout plan is paralyzing to me. I feel overwhelmed by options, yet I feel obligated to do it right, or else why do it?! I had no idea where to start, and what’s worse? I played soccer for 10 years growing up, and I was in the Army!! I mean, I really thought I should know this stuff by now. People assume that I should know this stuff, so I feel worse that I don’t. Oh, and you know what makes it annoying? Bill is super smart about working out, he looks awesome if I do say so myself, and he makes it look easy…which makes me feel even worse about it.
Now I know you couldn’t care less about me working out, the pool of insecurity about working out that I’m drowning in, nor my new hope for the fascia blaster and it’s touted effect on flexibility and cellulite. I really love those tools! So how does this relate to dog breeding? Well, I see so many breeders stuck paralyzed, they don’t know where to go with their breeding program and some are even stuck waiting to start because they don’t know what they don’t know and are worried they’ll mess up. They are stuck in fear.
Fear is paralyzing. They say everything you want that you don’t have is on the other side of fear.
What’s something in your breeding program that you would start if you weren’t afraid? Would you add that crazy color you love? Would you try a cross? Would you take the risk and expand the program? Make the leap to full time? Move to a new location that would change your life, but make breeding how you want possible? Would you actually start and breed your first litter?
Let’s discuss some common fear quicksand traps that stop you from taking action. I’ve found that when you understand where your fear is, not only can you proactively start to work through it, but just having the awareness of it helps you to see it for what it is. A fear, it’s not nothing, but it’s not a death sentence either. It’s just your mind telling you that you’re looking at uncharted territory.
The first fear trap is: the Fear of Messing Up
So many times we don’t do something because we are afraid to mess up. We are afraid that we won’t get it right on the first try, that we’ll be a failure. People are very afraid to fail, but it isn’t exactly our fault, we’re taught to be that way in school. Think about it, you were a good student if you got good grades, good grades meant you didn’t fail the test. But, you know what it doesn’t reflect? How hard you pushed yourself or if you tried something new. School teaches us to be safe and conservative with our actions so we don’t fail. Yet, how likely would it be that we try something the first time and do it right? Are you going to call a baby a failure because he takes a step and falls? Not at all. You’re going to be excited he tried. Yet, somehow that changes as we get older, we become afraid to fail, which causes us to hold off trying new things.
We have expectations of where we should be and when we aren’t there, we feel ashamed. We feel like we are behind, as if life is a race and we aren’t placing well. It’s our own expectations of ourselves that cause us to fear failure.
So why does failure hit us so hard? Why do we fear it? It seems to come down to the idea that failure will somehow extend beyond the task that we failed at and define us as a person. Instead of saying Julie failed at that workout position, we jump to Julie fails at working out, and further leap to Julie IS a failure as a person. The whole thing, her life, just a huge failure.
It sounds silly when you say it out loud. How in the world could failing at my first workout make my entire life a failure? It doesn’t. Just like how could whelping your first litter and not knowing everything make you a failure? Or how would being a bit tight on cash when you transition to full-time make you a failure? Does it make you a failure to not have built your facilities right away? Of course not, why would you put that much money into something you don’t know if you’ll love just yet?
How do we kick this fear of messing up? Well, I think it comes down to four things:
- We need to recognize our failure doesn’t define us, it doesn’t change the definition of who we are as a person. It just says we tried something and it didn’t quite workout as well as we had hoped. It means we started and we learned. I do love that quote, “When you try something new, you either succeed or you learn something, there is no failure.” I love what Sara Blakely, the founder of the billion-dollar company Spanx, said. She said her father used to ask her every day, “What did you fail at today?” and then he would high-five her. He was changing her perspective that failure meant you were trying new things and then rewarding her effort for trying new things, for challenging herself.
Another thing to think about, in contrast, doing everything perfectly means you probably aren’t trying anything new. In order to get results you’ve never had, you have to do things you’ve never done.
- Instead of living in the fear, we need to take it head on and see if there’s some steps we can take in education to make it better, less scary or intimidating. Think back to Medieval times before they understood germs and bacteria. They thought if you got sick something was wrong with you, that you didn’t pray enough or you were a bad person, when in fact you just weren’t great at washing your hands, I mean it’s not like they had Dawn back then. When we know more, the fear transitions from an unknown to a checklist of things to learn and do. Shifting ourselves to this proactive approach helps not only to reduce the fear, but it helps us to build a practical approach to reaching our goals and stepping into the unknown.
While we need to educate ourselves as best we can, we don’t want to put so much into education that we find ourselves using our lack of education to justify not starting. I did this with working out. I kept telling myself that I needed to read more, to learn more, to buy more stuff to assist me, to build a plan, to know exactly what I was doing before I started…and you know what? All I did was delay and delay, making myself more and more embarrassed about not actually starting.
- Which leads me to number three…we need to start somewhere. There are so many things you don’t even know you need to learn until you bump into them when you try it out. You can read about cooking an egg on a skillet for hours, but nothing will teach you about when to flip that egg like trying it, you know that feeling when you can slip that spatula in there just right and get it to flip in one solid motion? You’ll never be able to read your way into being a perfect egg flipper, you’ve got to try it, you’ve got to do it terrible before you can master it.
Once you start trying it, new questions will come, and reading about those questions will make you better. Yet you’d never know to try out a different shaped spatula that fit with your pan better if you’d never tried it and eaten a few broken yolks.
Just the same, you can read about whelping until the end of the earth, but you’ll never quite get the same feel for it until you’ve whelped a few litters. You have to experience it to know where to add to your education.
- Lastly, and I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion, we focus so much on what could go wrong that we forget to focus on what might go right. How many times have you wanted to do something and all you could think about was all the ways it was going to go wrong?
I did this with working out. I thought about how I would do exercises wrong and look like an idiot, hurt my back, waste time because I was being inefficient. I worried that it wouldn’t work out and Bill wouldn’t find me attractive, I thought about how people would think I was stupid because I wasn’t smart on working out, “How embarrassing that she was in the Army and doesn’t have good form on her squat.” The list can go on and on and, well, it did, in my journal.
Then I thought what if it went right? What if I started working out and I felt better, slept better, had more energy for the kids and the dogs. And whoa, what if Bill found me MORE attractive? What if my skin balanced out? What if I became more flexible and had better posture?
What if you took the energy you were spending thinking about how you could fail and used that energy to fantasize about how well it could go? What if you thought about all the families whose lives will be forever fulfilled because of the puppy they bought from you? What about how great it would be for your family that you get to be more present with them, more supportive because you have more time? What if dogs paid for your college and you didn’t need to live off student loans or be obligated to take a crappy job after college because you have to pay off student loan debt? What if you didn’t have to pick between your family and your dogs, what if you could have your cake and eat it, too?
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The next fear quick-sand trap is: Perception.
We are often afraid of how we will be perceived by others. Their opinion matters to us despite what we try and tell ourselves. This goes back to the idea that we want to be perceived as being a good person. We want OTHERS to think that we’re a good person and a good person is usually good at what they do, or else, how would they be a good person? Now we know that being a good person isn’t dictated by failing, it’s just another silly rationale trap we fall into.
It’s okay to care about what other people think. I think it’s part of the human condition; we are social creatures, we thrive in communities. While we aren’t all extroverts, we all do better when we have some social interaction. We want friends, people we can trust and rely on, people we can open up to with our deepest vulnerabilities and have them still love us knowing how screwed up we are.
It becomes a problem when we take to heart the wrong people’s opinions of us. For example, I get some trolls on my instagram from time to time telling me that I’m the central world problem for breeding dogs. They are entitled to their opinion, but their opinion of me doesn’t affect me, why? Well, because I know that they aren’t educated on the topic, they’re usually the same person who thinks every dog is the same—which, for time and blood pressure’s sake, I won’t be getting into today.
Many of you are frustrated because there’s a cannibalistic group of dog breeders out there—they love dog breeding Facebook Groups—and they find the best use of their time is trying to make themselves feel better about their own breeding program by pointing out the failures of other breeders. I always find this hilarious, I’ve posted my question in a Facebook group in the hopes of getting help, obviously because I don’t know the answer, and you’re going to harass me for doing exactly the thing the Facebook Group was designed to be used for.
You know what I see when breeders harass other breeders? I see their insecurities. Those catty comments wave those insecurities like a big flag. If you are secure in your breeding program you don’t need to prove it to anyone, you’re just you. That’s another reason why these Facebook groups fail. If you’re secure in your breeding program, you don’t tend to be in those groups too often, you have a good flow. This means the algorithm won’t show these groups to the breeders who have it figured out nearly as much as it’ll go to the newer breeders, so you then have a lot of situations where the blind is leading the blind. Now, of course, this isn’t always the case, but it is more common than not.
Why does it seem worse in dog breeding than with other things? I’m in a few business groups and people are MUCH nicer. I think it comes down to the complexity of dog breeding and the perception that it isn’t as complex as it actually is. Business is complex too, but no one seems to say, business is easy, at least it’s not as common as people assuming dog breeding is easy. Maybe that’s because business produces money and money isn’t free, while dog breeding produces dogs and there are a lot of free dogs.
Because dog breeding is so complex and you have so many people acting like it is simple and not complicated, many breeders feel they are behind the power curve, that they’re failing. And what do we know about failing? We know that we tend to extend a failure at something into a much larger definition of ourselves as a failure. The cost of that failure is that we aren’t good people and good people don’t have friends and are unloveable. Well it’s no wonder there are a lot of insecurities in the dog breeding world, manifested through defense mechanisms of putting down others so we can feel like we are at least good at something. “Oh gosh, thankfully I don’t have THAT puppy problem.”
We use this concept of others struggling with something that we don’t struggle with as a way to rationalize that we are better—or at least not the worst. It helps us avoid the idea that we are total failures. That’s why people do it, that’s why they’re mean. They are protecting themselves from feeling like complete failures.
How do get ourselves out of this rut? How do we get past worrying about other people’s opinions of us?
Well, we need to recognize that if they were secure in their program then they wouldn’t need to prove how amazing they are while we are struggling, they wouldn’t need to take the opportunity to kick us while we are down. We need to acknowledge that breeding programs are actually pretty difficult, they have lots of moving parts and complexities, and lots of options, which while having options is fun, it leads to a lot of anxiety over making the right decisions.
We also need to be selective in whose opinion really matters. Every choice we make steps us through a figurative door while simultaneously closing another door. When you say yes to something, you’re inevitably saying no to something else. If you say yes to dinner plans on Saturday night, you’re saying no to being home watching Netflix, whether or not you are aware you said no.
We need to apply this logic to being selective in whose opinion really matters to us. If I did what every breeder on a Facebook post comments list said, I’d be confused out of my mind. It would only frustrate me, not help me move forward.
If I followed every step of the ideal puppy and dog facility cleaning routine, I’d be working 40 hours a week on cleaning. It would take me away from my family time. If I washed my vehicle how you’re supposed to it would take me 30 minutes a week, when I can get unlimited car washes of good-enough quality at Mister Car Wash. What if I took the school’s opinion of testing and applied it to my kids. If my son gets behind in a concept should I scribble red all over it and make him feel like he’s failing? Or should I print a few more worksheets, sit down with him on a few more problems, spend a bit more time on it, and learn it?
Does the internet guy’s opinion of how I should wash my truck actually matter? If he thinks I’m a failure for not hand washing, am I really a failure? If the school board doesn’t like that I teach to learn a concept, I don’t teach to earn a grade, does their opinion matter to me? Does that breeder who says I shouldn’t be breeding because I don’t know some random fact that she does matter to me? Should I make decisions about my life and whether or not I feel I’m a failure based on someone else’s opinion? Especially when they see less than a page of the book of my life? I don’t think so and I don’t think you should either.
You know whose opinion of me really matters? My family’s opinion of me. It matters to me that my family feels loved, respected, and appreciated by me. And my buyers. It matters to me what my buyers think of me, what they think of the dog they got from me. Why? Because they trusted me to give them a dog, they trusted my quality of service, they trusted me with their memories-to-be, with their veterinary financial bills, they trusted me with their kids and the temperament of dog I am creating for those kids.
Pick your people.
There are about five people whose opinion of me matters to me. If they tell me I’m messed up, it’s usually because I am, because I’m missing something. They aren’t telling me something to make themselves feel better, they’re telling me because they actually love and care enough about me to tell me. You’ll know they really care about you for you when they tell you something that can jeopardize the relationship. And, what they said doesn’t make them look like they’re better than you, making you feel worse, just because.
When you keep perspective on whose opinion really matters to you, then it’s easier to blow off the other people and their opinions. It’s easier to live your life and run your breeding program how YOU want, not how other people tell you to do things. It allows you to follow your heart, follow your path, and not feel like who you are is torn into two people. When you stay on this path it will lead you to success, whatever you want that success to look like for you. Dog breeding is not one-size-fits-all, it’s super custom. So let yourself dream, try new things, and follow your gut.
Listen to your fear, look at fear as a guide, when you feel fear, dive into it. Know that what you want is waiting for you on the other side of the fear.
In case you were wondering, I decided to stop treading water in my pool of insecurity with working out. Instead I decided to purchase Alexia Clark’s monthly workout plan that you can do at home or in the gym. My triceps are throbbing, I’m walking pretty funny, and if you were watching me workout it might replace your evening sitcom, but hey, I’m doing it. I’m learning new things about my body, I feel good, and I am on my path to new discovery in this area of my life.