I am not ashamed to admit that my dog Henry is my mentor. When I state that he is a genius and one of my greatest role models, people tend to look at me as though I’m a lunatic. It gets even more disturbing when they find out that I mentor other people for a living. How can he be any good at what he does when his special advisor is his four-legged friend? How can he help me improve my life when he looks to an illiterate canine for inspiration?
These are interesting and valid questions, at least on the surface. When you look deeper into the matter you may change your mind… Admittedly, my dog ranks very low in the traditional, wealth-related league of success and so how can he advise me about how to advise others around me? My wise dog, Henry, has no income, no assets, no real achievements, no family of his own, no freedom and no responsibilities. One could even regard him as a prisoner of the system that I have created. On the surface, it could be regarded as a pretty poor life by any measure.
But do you know what? He has life so much more sewn up than I will ever have. He bounds on to the same beach on his daily walk, for perhaps the hundredth day in a row, and it is always like Christmas for a two year old. Every smell, sound and sight seems like a wonderful revelation. He will run and run as though he has just seen Doggy Disneyland for the first time. Every meal is the tastiest meal he has ever eaten. Every time I open the door it is as if I have been away for ten years. It is truly a sight to behold. Frequently I just sit back, take note and enjoy. Like many people, there are times that I struggle with the repetitiveness of life, but even then I remain awestruck by Henry every day; he maintains his enthusiasm and enjoyment of life despite the simplicity and repetitiveness of his life.
When I analyse it in more detail I note that he lives his life on only five variables: Food, Exercise, Sleep, Love, Mischief. Within the variables, there is not much variety and choice, at least when one compares them to what we all have available to us in the Western world. Yet despite this simplicity and this lack of choice he is, without doubt, the happiest being I know.
To me, that is something to regard with wonder. In a world of infinite possibilities, infinite choices and infinite opportunities, the paradox is that I have never met anyone as content as my dog. For that, he is a complete genius to me, and he will always be remembered as such. He serves as a constant reminder to me that a great life is right under my nose. All I need to keep in mind is that I just need to see the world around me for what it is – like he does.
He reminds me that whatever I am chasing and wherever I am going it needs to be set in its true context. None of it will really get me anywhere in the grand scheme of life. None of it will make me happy by itself. He reminds me that the simple things around me and the journey itself is what is truly important. If I am not enjoying life as it passes then I am wasting the greatest opportunity that has been, or will ever be, given to me. On this basis he is a great mentor to me.
But do you know the most annoying and amusing thing about this huge, personal revelation? He never even tried! His school report card would be so much more impressive than mine ever was – “Henry achieved the perfect life without really having to get out of bed that much”. Ouch! As someone who fundamentally believes in the principle of less is more, I am jealous, and yet in awe; that he can achieve so much with so little effort really is my idea of genius.
On the surface, I feel that I am going to have to work so much harder than Henry just to get close to what he has achieved. Despite that, I must learn from his great example. I too must let go and just enjoy what is around me. Try even less and just take it all in. In that regard, I fear I will always be his student, one step behind in life’s happy journey, unable to compete whith such magnificent simplicity and joy. Every day I see him, I am given a lesson which I try not to forget. He has mastered life in a way that few people ever will.
And, for that, Henry is the wisest and most successful being that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. My life is all the more enriched by his great counsel.
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