“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Old English Proverb, circa 1534
Even though the convention was over three decades ago, one line from the speaker’s presentation remains unforgettable. Over and over again during the intervening years, at important moments, the words imprinted in my memory have resurfaced. Will today be such a day?
Our crew of 13 departs Terry Cove on The Great Gab-Sea, named after my oldest grandchild, Gabrielle. She is onboard with college friends and family members. Unlucky number? (I am not really superstitious, but 12 or 14 sure sounds better)!
Just as the ‘unlucky’ thought begins to dissipate, we encounter rough seas exiting Perdido Pass into the Gulf. I have second thoughts about this trip. I know the boat can take the pounding, but how will the participants fair? My experience of being out in the Gulf on days like this reminds me that some will get seasick — guaranteed! Gabrielle’s friends have come from a distance just for this outing, so this fact weighs on my mind. Decision time. The choices are not encouraging – seasickness or a disappointed crew. And the captain must make the call. After a long three seconds, we continue out into the deep blue sea.
Seventeen miles out, we stop at the same exact location where we caught many nice red snapper less than 24 hours earlier. The rough seas imposed an unusually long navigation to get here. I am completely excited about the prospect of watching our crew reeling in these beautiful creatures. Forget unlucky 13! Forget rough seas. Catching a big snapper will instantly resolve any negative element.
Only one problem: This is today – not yesterday.
Immediately, I hear those words I love to hear, “Fish on!” And not long afterward . . . the battle is lost. The condition of the cutline indicates a toothy fish was the cause; multiple hookups have the same result. I suggest that we are having shark attacks on the snapper we are hooking. Finally, one angler reels in positive proof – the head of a red snapper – the rest of the fish consumed by a shark. (Probably savaging sharks just below the water’s surface are thankful that we showed up to provide their lunch)!
Amazing. Using all the same tools of fishing equipment – boat, bait and exact fishing location – we are getting much different results. And there is not a full day in between success and failure. Everything is the same except the results. That’s when I remember the one line from that exceptional speaker that has stayed with me over 30 years. Simple, I admit, but one that has guided me onto a path of success over and over again throughout my life.
“Maybe, there’s another way of looking at it.”
That outstanding speaker shared the story about his attempt over several years to counsel someone who, despite the help, was repeating the same behavior, thus continued negative results. The wise and caring man had provided good advice, but it had not worked for the listener. Therefore, he instituted a new approach by suggesting a different thought process. Interestingly, the new advice did not include a blueprint for finally succeeding – only a recommendation to view the situation from a different perspective. Think anew.
Maybe, there’s another way of looking at it.
After not catching a single fish for a reasonable period of time, I announce to our crew, “All lines in! We are moving!”
It is now early afternoon when our bounty is coming in fast. Some of the fish have to be released because of not being of minimum size. But, the crew members are very happy to get in on some action. The conversation is lively and fun abounds. Success! And, we do catch some fish we can keep which is a bonus considering the totally unfruitful beginning of this fishing expedition.
You might call it an attitude of openness. Being flexible would also be accurate. But, from within the recesses of deep thought, I believe that thinking about something in a new and different way leads to triumph; not being bogged down in past history, even though the past may have provided great success. If what worked in the past does not work now, a new approach is needed. While we can all agree that this is logical and simplistic, I have seen others choose just the opposite . . . so many times that I have lost count. And sadly, I have witnessed it with both relatives and friends.
Sometimes, the person who has refused to rethink a situation has been me. How about you?
Stuck in one way of doing something, refusing to re-explore the process. Refusal to try something new. You have heard it expressed in different ways:
‘Stubborn in his ways’
‘Too old to change’
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Do I believe that being stubborn can be a wise position at times? Yes. Perhaps, some things should never be changed. And yes, some would call me an ‘old dog’ at this point.
I can still hear him passionately expressing the line I have carried with me most of my adult life: “Perhaps, there is another way of looking at it.” For me, there have been serious moments in business, when the action that followed another way of seeing things, meant the difference between success and failure in a significant project. I have had to exercise the discipline of new thought in important relationships. And in critical moments. (Yes, I have done it on many fishing trips).
I am old. But, you can teach me new tricks. I am willing to learn new things. What about you?
What is not working in your life today? Are you ready for a change? Is it possible that great success may follow a new thought process?
Today, I will be wildly successful!
Today, there is another way of looking at . . .