Rambo: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

January 12, 2021

As we say goodbye to 2020, it is easy to reflect on the year with a negative view. However, I think 2020 was a transformational year where we expanded our overall skill set, not because we wanted to but because we had to. As we look back at all the new talents we accumulated in 2020; the list is quite impressive:

  • How many of you thought you would be able to teach your aging parents how to use zoom?
  • Who would have thought that you could be more productive working from home than going to an office every day?
  • How many new clients were you able to sign up without having an in-person meeting?
  • How many home-cooked meals did you prepare?

Our survival genes clearly kicked in in 2020.  People became more comfortable using technology, changing our mode of communication, and, most importantly, embracing the feeling of being uncomfortable and fearful of change. While I can’t wait to rid this deadly virus from our society, I am not completely ready to go back to how it was pre-COVID.

How can we continue to accelerate our personal growth in the post-pandemic era?

It is only fitting that as I mull over this question, I can hear my children laughing with joy that they just taught Rambo a new trick (apparently, he can now shake their hand on command). My wife Susan and I, like many parents last year, finally gave into our children’s constant pleading for a family dog. We thought about naming the dog COVID, but we wanted our friends and neighbors to like our dog, so we settled on naming him Rambo with hopes that he does not blow up our house like John Rambo blew up the fictitious Washington State Mountain Town at the end of the 1982 movie Rambo First Blood. To be clear, I was not a dog person, and I never had or wanted a dog (or any pet for that matter).  Like our parents getting comfortable using Zoom and our kids learning how to take online classes, I would have to get comfortable being in the house with a dog.

In the first weeks of Rambo moving into our home, it was clear that he sensed my discomfort around him. He is a soft, friendly puppy who likes to cuddle with the kids.  I did not want to pet him, let alone snuggle with him, so whenever I would walk into the room, he would immediately jump away from me and hide underneath a chair with my children voicing their displeasure as I was scaring Rambo. Like having to overcome my discomfort of being on camera video conferencing for hours every day, I would need to change my approach to communicating with the dog. So rather than scaring Rambo, I learned it was better to bring him a treat and rub his belly. It was amazing how a week of smelly dog treats and belly scratches can transform into a harmonious relationship. Although I am not ready to snuggle with Rambo, it is not unusual to find Rambo and I walking around the neighborhood, and you might even find him napping beside my feet as I video conference the day away. My family will tell you that training Rambo was a lot easier than training me to become a dog owner, but I have proven you can teach an old dog (me) new tricks.

This experience, along with my increased confidence in using technology due to the pandemic, has inspired me to find my next Rambo for 2021. No, I am not adding another dog, rather looking to add and develop new skills and increase my knowledge to better serve clients. The pandemic will last in our minds for years to come, so embrace the COVID thoughts with ideas to transform your personal and professional growth and push yourself to be uncomfortable. COVID-19 has proven old dogs can learn new tricks!