Life Lessons Through The Eyes Of A Dog…John Page Burton

In the summer of 2012, I was forced to make the painful decision to put my best friend to sleep. Kamir, a 13 year old Great Pyrenees, had been my faithful companion for 9 years. I initially rescued Kamir from an animal shelter in 2003, but in retrospect a strong case could be made that he in fact rescued me. During our first two years together, I experienced the death of my father, a divorce, a business failure and a subsequent health challenge that prevented me from being able to fly on an airplane or drive a car. During this difficult period of time, many of my “friends” disappeared from my life yet Kamir remained loyal. I credit his Zen like energy and his unconditional love and slobber for keeping me in a relatively balanced state. Today my life is functioning at an all time high! I am in a wonderful relationship, have great friends, a thriving business and most importantly I feel a sense of peace. Below are some of the things that I learned during my time with Kamir.

The lessons…

*The power of unconditional love. Dogs love us regardless of our “flaws”. Kamir held no expectations of me, he never stood in judgment and he never tried to “fix” me. He simply accepted me where I was and loved me unconditionally. In return, he must have trusted that his needs would be met as well. The lesson…When we love with conditions we have effectively put a chokehold on our happiness.

*Focus on what matters. A friend of mine would often stop by to visit Kamir and treat him to a big, meaty bone. He would go to his happy place for hours on end!  He would focus on his bone, protect his bone at all costs and when he was done he would roll around, wag his tail, kick his paws into the air and smile. He was overflowing with appreciation and gratitude for having had such a wonderful experience. The lesson… I know that in the end I will be far more grateful for the people I have known and the experiences we have shared together than I will ever be for the material stuff I collected along the way. Friends and family are what matter the most.

*Embrace spontaneity. Kamir was very spontaneous and he possessed profound curiosity. Going for a short walk around the block could quickly turn into a game of chase. (This was often brought about by the sight of a cat) A specific scent could send us on an unexpected two hour journey through the woods. We live in an extremely uptight, rigid world. Our work environment is structured for a reason but I am a firm believer that our non-working time should include a high degree of spontaneous activity. This is a much healthier way to live and it affords us a constant sense of adventure. The lesson…If we truly desire to stretch and grow then it is imperative that we become as curious as we were when we were children. We must always remain in learning mode!

*Show compassion. Kamir and I shared a morning routine that involved walking through the streets of Barrio Viejo, a neighborhood in downtown Tucson, Arizona. During our walks it was not unusual to encounter homeless brothers and sisters. Because Kamir was such a unique looking dog it was easy to strike up conversations with our new friends.  Kamir rarely met a stranger’s hand he didn’t like. It was during these encounters that I began to learn about life on the streets and the numerous challenges facing these members of our community. Kamir’s introductions led to the creation of “Street Snacks”, a program providing sack lunches to homeless people residing in and around local parks. The lesson…”But for the grace of God, there go I” should be our constant reminder to show compassion for our fellow man.

*Be your authentic self. Kamir was a big dog who derived great pleasure by taking off at a dead run through the park or down the street in hot pursuit of a UPS truck. (His personal favorite) Watching him run was truly a sight to behold. His lumbering strides were goofy to say the least and his big, floppy ears reminded me of the wings on a C-130. Did he care how silly he looked? Absolutely not! The lesson…Far too many of us have a significant investment in our “looking good” programs which in turn greatly diminish our ability to live and be our authentic selves. We are well served to consistently strive to become the best version of ourselves we can be.

*Life is a game. Kamir turned everything into a game. He would often look over at me and then begin digging a hole. The moment I began heading his way, it was game on! He would race around the yard, dart by me and then go dig some more. He loved to chase the hot air balloons that often made their way over my property on Saturday mornings. I would set out after him and he would quickly turn it into a game of hide and seek as we made our way through the desert. The lesson… All of us need to have more fun! Being a grown up doesn’t mean that we have to completely grow up. Laugh, have fun, it’s good for circulation!

I miss my loyal companion and teacher. I consider it a blessing to have spent nine years with such an enlightened soul.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

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Embracing Rejection…John Page Burton

For many of us the word REJECTION is synonymous with failure. As adults, the perception that we are being rejected usually stems from a series of painful reference points that began during childhood. I can still vividly recall one of my earliest memories of rejection. I was in the 3rd grade and had a major crush on a girl named Amber. I eventually mustered up the courage to ask Amber to sit with me at the lunch table. She looked me squarely in the eye and leveled the blow. “No, you have a dumb haircut”!  From that day forward I routinely felt a degree of apprehension whenever I considered asking a girl out on a date. I can’t help but credit Amber’s callous dismal of me and my “dumb haircut” as a contributing factor to my insecurity.

ALL of us will experience rejection! It is an integral part of life. How we respond to rejection is entirely up to us. First dates won’t lead to second dates, job interviews won’t go well, we will be passed over for promotions, clients won’t buy from us, we won’t make the team, we won’t get the starring role or one day we may even wake up to find out that our children, parents, siblings or spouse no longer seem to enjoy our company. Rejection happens!

When we are allowing the FEAR of rejection to control us…

*We tend to personalize it. For example, when we get passed over for a promotion we may allow ourselves to feel inferior to the person who was promoted. A healthier approach is to re-frame the experience as an opportunity to seek quality feedback from the hiring manager. We can then use this feedback to help us become a more polished candidate for a future promotion. Taking this approach allows us to confront the perceived rejection and then re-assure our ego that it wasn’t personal.

*We allow other people to define who we are. When we allow the fear of rejection to control us, we are giving someone else permission to define our self worth. Once we develop this unhealthy, co-dependent relationship, we can easily begin “living” into this unfounded belief and before we know it, our dreams and ambitions are a distant memory. This is often referred to as “going along, to get along”. This is a very unconscious way to live.

Using rejection to empower us…

*It is essential to develop a different relationship with rejection. Rejection provides us with an opportunity to stretch and grow. For example, top sales professionals learn to turn rejection into a game. They know that it may take 50 no’s to reach a YES! To them, rejection is a badge of honor. Actors will often spend years auditioning for roles before finally landing a significant part. They are told that they are too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat or too whatever. Personalizing every rejection would paralyze them from ever moving on to the next casting call. Most of us have heard the story of Colonel Sanders, a man possessing both a fried chicken recipe and a dream. He was rejected by over 1000 banks before he was given the loan that started Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was in his late sixties at the time.

*Confrontation. Each time we face and move past a rejection, we are building muscles of courage and character. The vast majority of the rejection we experience is NOT about us. For example, I recently turned down a cable television salesman who knocked at my door. My decision had nothing to do with him. I am happy with my current cable provider.  How he processed our conversation is based entirely upon his programs surrounding rejection. All of us will have an ample opportunity to confront rejection on a weekly if not daily basis.

* Rejection can serve as a test. How committed are we to our goals and dreams? How serious are we about finding a relationship partner? How important is our career success? Every time we encounter rejection we have two choices. 1. Personalize it and conform. 2. Accept it as part of our growth process and move forward.

When we accept that rejection is an inescapable aspect of our growth, we will take it less personally. Rejection is inevitable, how we interpret and respond to it is an individual choice.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Living A Growth Mindset…John Page Burton

The word “mindset” can be used to describe a specific philosophy inherent to an individual or a group. For example, many people can identify with a group mindset such as being a Republican or a Democrat. We tend to identify with and support the philosophical ideology of the particular group we are associated with. Sometimes, the collective mindset of a group can bring about damaging results. This type of collective mindset was directly responsible for the Holocaust. Our individual mindset plays an instrumental role in determining how we view the world around us and our experience of the various people we interact with. Most of us have either a growth oriented mindset or a fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset are easily influenced by the opinions of others. Intrinsic to a fixed mindset, is the belief that a person’s basic abilities such as intelligence are fixed and cannot be changed. On the other hand, a person with a growth oriented mindset is likely to believe that through their own dedicated efforts and hard work they can become more knowledgeable and ultimately rise much higher in life. Growth minded people also tend to be limitless thinkers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the traits found in a person who has developed a growth oriented mindset.

M=Maturity.  A growth oriented mindset develops over time and is shaped primarily by each of our life experiences and lessons. Through a process of trial and error, we are able to develop our own unique opinions, values and beliefs and no longer need to rely upon other people to shape or influence our decisions.

I=Innovative. Innovation is often the result of a series of failures. Through the process of failure, we are able to develop a problem solving, solution oriented mindset that opens our natural flow of creativity. The growth oriented person has learned to use failure in a positive, productive manner.

N=Noise. A person possessing a growth oriented mindset is able to block out the “noise”. The “noise” I am referring to includes negative opinions from others, voices of past failures, the “not good enough” programs and the multitude of other distractions that are certain to surface as we move toward our objectives. One of our main goals should be to limit the “noise pollution” in our minds.

D=Decisions. People with growth oriented mindsets, consistently make decisions that are congruent with their goals and objectives. Consistent decisions are not based on “momentary emotions” but rather on a person’s core values, beliefs and pertinent information related to the situation. Decisive people take ownership of and learn from their mistakes. They use this knowledge as a guide for future decision making.

S=Service. As our growth oriented mindset evolves, we will naturally become more in tune with the needs of those around us. It is no longer just about meeting our needs but also about meeting the needs of our community. We clearly recognize that we are on Earth to serve and we relish the opportunity.

E=Emotional Intelligence. A person with a high degree of emotional intelligence is extremely self aware. They understand their strengths, their weakness, their drives and values. They are people who possess a strong moral compass and they are masterful at controlling destructive emotions. People with high emotional intelligence are almost always driven for the sake of achievement, not recognition.  They have above average interpersonal communication skills and are adept at moving people in a desired direction. The hallmark of a person with high emotional intelligence is empathy. They are able to connect with and consider other people’s feelings or points of view in any given situation.

T=Truth. Truth is the cornerstone of a growth oriented mindset. Speaking the truth to ourselves, about ourselves is the first step on our journey to self awareness. When we are truthful with ourselves, it becomes effortless to speak our truth to others and to hold others accountable to their truth. The truth will indeed set us free!

Re-Programming Our Mindset….

“Do not be conformed by this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. (Romans 12:2)

Below are three reminders that will help us to tune-up, re-program or maintain a growth oriented mindset.

*Remember, most of us have trained our minds in the wrong direction. We worry, doubt, project into the future and routinely relive our past frustrations and disappointments. It is critical that we discipline our minds to focus on and embrace our present reality. What is happening right NOW is all that matters. We must learn to channel all of our energy into the present moment if we desire to achieve maximum results. To quote the spiritual teacher Ram Dass, “be here now”.

*Prayer and meditation serve to quiet our mind and help us to maintain a faith based attitude. A quiet mind is a self controlled mind. A quiet mind allows us to focus on the present moment and express gratitude for each experience and opportunity. When we reside in a place of gratitude, it becomes more difficult for us to connect with our destructive emotions.

*Transforming our vocabulary is an essential step in moving toward a growth oriented mindset. Our words become our thoughts, our thoughts become actions and our actions can quickly become habits. By monitoring our vocabulary we are able to replace our negative, disempowering speech with positive, uplifting, speech. This is where the transformation into a growth oriented mindset begins.

As with everything in life, the choice is ours. In my humble opinion, the world needs more growth oriented mindsets manning the controls. I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.