What Did I Come In Here For Anyway?

Posted on 10/11/10 39 Comments

Have you ever walked into a room and then forgot what you went in there for? You search around, can’t figure out what you need so you leave and then 10 minutes later you remember and you go and get it? How do you deal with that mental error? Likely you do nothing. You possible feel a bit stupid but you forget it.

This shot sums up my feelings about running at a World Championship pretty well. Taken at the start line, just before I ran with Feature it is clear where my thoughts are . . . it is all about the dog.. Photo by Ursula Urban.

That is exactly what I did last week at the world championships when I ran the wrong course. I apologized to my teammates, I whispered to my red girls how proud I was of the job each of them did and I promised them I would be better every run after that –and I was.

We all make mental errors. The ones that no one knows about we get over pretty quickly don’t we? Forgetting why you went into a room is a pretty benign error. Nobody knows about it and you forget about it. You run a course wrong in your own backyard you likely forget about it before you get back into the house.

Funny you forgive yourself pretty easily for some slip ups, why not others? Yes something that impacts a “team” may be more difficult to get over than forgetting why you walked into a room, but they are all just mental errors. I think part of the disappointment comes from missing out on a chance to win something important but I believe for many people the real difference comes when our egos try to stop us from appearing weak or incompetent in front of our peers. Mine gave up trying to stop me years ago:).

Failing in public can get even more difficult if you are someone that others looks up to like a teacher or a judge. I believe this is a big reason many people don’t step into the agility ring at all, or won’t enter a “big” event like their breed National Speciality or a Regional or National Championship. Or perhaps they once did participate in agility but now don’t allow themselves that luxury for fear of exposing their limitations to others.

Hey, get over yourself.

Trust me, few people are actually watching you anyway. Sure they may be at ringside, but that is just where they are physically. Mentally they are either talking about their next run or explaining away the follies of their last one.

Your shenanigans on the agility field may entertain an eye blink of time in their otherwise preoccupied mind but your antics will quickly be forgotten with the same speed with which you entered their thought processes.

You know I am right.

Here are two of my favorite quotes on overcoming;

I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.

Sara Teasdale

Seriously good words to live by, everything coming back to gratitude for me.


“Failure is an event not a person; yesterday ended last night.”

Zig Zigler (you have just got to love the Zigmeister:)).

For me, yesterday ends after each run. My next run is a new day.

Looking back at the unfortunate event of me walking the wrong course at the World Championships some have suggested a teammate or coach should have caught my error in course walking during the actual course walk through? Here is what I think. First of all, as the late Coach Wooden said

“You are never a failure if you did your best — unless you blame others.”

I did my best. Actually when I look at the videos of those runs– my dogs and I were pretty darn great. It is just unfortunate the judge wasn’t judging the course I was running:).

Secondly, I believe somebody was meant to make that error this year. Obviously God figured I was the best prepared for this job:).  And I guess He was right because I held my head high and felt no shame, misery or embarrassment after the episode. I was disappointed I didn’t do better for my dogs, my friends, my country – but I accepted the fact I am human and with that comes the privilege to fail and move on. Once my dogs were cooled out, I head back to the stands to sit with my team, make plans to prevent the same thing from happening on future runs and then enjoy watching the rest of the class.

It was a error, but one I know has already lead to some great things. Like the discussion we are having here on this blog. Or me learning an incredible lesson about myself or maybe even FCI looking at the way they run their team event (that may be too much to ask but obviously the teams that must run first are at a terrible disadvantage that never gets balanced out later on at the event).

I was on a Canadian team that had extremely high expectations for the 2010 World Championship but one that had an even higher sense of team unity. We had great leadership that started at home with our mental prep coach; John Cullen and was carried on at the event by a management team that handled each and every disappointment in a way that allowed the team member to rebound and do better on their next run.

Never make excuses; your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.

John Wooden

I’ve got more to share with you on this topic later:).

Today as we Canadians celebrate our Thanksgiving weekend,  I am grateful for the awesome support each of you have shown on this blog with your great comments on this subject.


  1. Yvonn says:
    Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 5:35pm

    Susan – you rule. Like you say – anyone can forget the course…. this year it was you. Next year – it could be me….
    I respect you way of training and I admire your way of treating your dogs.
    Keep it up.
    Best regards from Norway


  2. Merka says:
    Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 11:31pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience and the manner in which you handled it. You are truly an inspiration to us all. I won’t be so hard on myself.


  3. Gale says:
    Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 5:28pm

    Since I reached 2000 years of age and my odometer reset itself, I have had the same problem! I used to feel so alone, but now I know there are many more of us with this affliction! LOL

    I do have a question though that might have been answered already, but when do the Brilliant packages get mailed out? I haven’t received mine.


    • Shelley says:
      Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 2:31pm

      I’m not sure but I don’t think they’ll be mailed out till after the last distraction webinar?


  4. Patricia says:
    Friday, October 15, 2010 at 12:02am

    We all just have those brain lapses, and as you say, Susan, all you can do is take steps to prevent them (or work around them) in the future – and move on.

    Last week, I almost forgot to remove my dog’s collar in the ring – after years of agility. Yeah, I keep him on a slip lead at a trial, but when we ride to the trial in the car, I always keep his regular collar on (I imagine him getting lost in an accident somehow and needing his tags). As soon as I arrive at the trial site, I remove that collar.

    But I had a near miss last week with the collar. Now, one of the dumbest feelings you can have is walking a course, planning a course, and getting whistled out the second you start because the collar is on! Especially if you are not a newbie, who, after all, has much on her mind, and could easily forget. I think though, that very few people are immune to brain lapses.


  5. Max harry says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 7:05pm

    Failures are stepping stone to success in life. So i want you to see challenges as a bed rock to greater height.I love the information you share here, they are great!


  6. Kea Grace says:
    Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 2:18pm

    Thank you so much for this inspirational post, Susan!


  7. Eric says:
    Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 7:52am

    I love this blog as much as I love the way you teach. You’re very genuine, the lessons we learn are easy to see and immediately useful, and they often apply to so much more than merely agility.


  8. Trudie says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 12:53pm

    Gosh! Thanks to you I couldn’t resist, just Wikipedia-ed “error”

    To my surprise discovered that errors are right at the top of the list of importance in all walks of life.(If agility walk is not mentioned, it’s just an oversight)

    The psychology dept at U of Waterloo even has a website called oops.uwaterloo.ca/ dedicated to discovering the absent and wandering mind
    Very interesting, it’s all about distractions in the environment !


  9. Clyde says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 10:48am

    To quote from my favorite utube video, one that I play almost daily, “It’s not about agility…..it’s about the lessons of the journey.”

    Keep sharing your lessons and your life with us.


  10. Vicki says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 10:18am

    truly an inspiration! Thank you!


  11. shirley holmes says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 8:48am

    Thank you so much for sharing with us. Things happen sometimes but Hey, we just go forward from there.
    You have taught us so much already and now you teach us how to move on gracefully.
    So true, the best thing is being able to take your dogs home safely at the end of the weekend. Well done.


  12. Bronwyn says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 7:47am

    I have been thinking about this all Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s been bugging me quite a bit. Here is what I would do if this happened to me.
    I would be very upset, and sulk and complain, and beat myself up.

    And then I would go and do what you have taught me to do when my dog fails at something: I write it down in my trainging log, and figure out a strategy to fix it.

    10-20% of courses walked wrong is a lot of wrong courses. I don’t think that this is something that has to just happen from time to time. I am willing to bet that if any of your dogs were failing at something on course that often (missed weave entry, missed contact,…), you would go home, figure out why, and fix it. I don’t see why this should be different.
    If I remember right, you have quote up in your training hall that says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”. How you read and walk courses is obviously not working as well as it could, so fix it.

    I don’t know what you do when you read a map or walk a course currently, but here are some ideas that may help. When you get your course map, take out a highlighter and highlight all of the obstacle numbers. This will force you to actually look at each one and note which side of the obstacle it is on. Then take a pen and draw lines between the numbers, not between the obstactle, but joining the numbers. This will make it clear which side of the obstacle you go to. Then draw in the dog’s path.

    Get someone to verify your map, like when you had Lynda do this with you at the worlds.

    When you walk the course, as the first thing, run through the course quickly and identify all the numbers. It may help to physically do something at each number, such as say it out loud, point to it, or touch it, to force you to more consciously acknowledge it. I wouldn’t expect that to take more than about 30 seconds, so it shouldn’t cut into your walking time much. Then walk your course as usual.

    After your run, do your debrief. Did you get it right? Note that in your journal. Well done. Did you miss a number? Note that as well. If you did read or walk it wrong, what barriers to getting it right failed, and how can you add more barriers so that it is less likely to happen in the future?
    Practice at home before you go to a trial. Figure out what kinds of barriers you need at home before you go to a trial.

    I don’t see any of this as demeaning; it’s what is needed to learn and get it right. It’s the same sort of thing you do when training your dogs. You teach them to touch their nose to the ground, repeatedly. Weird? Yes, but that’s what it takes for them to get their contacts.

    Good luck! I wish you well.


    • Karen M says:
      Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 5:15pm

      I found this very interesting. I like to do something like this to a lesser extent, mainly drawing on the maps when we have the luxury of course maps available.


  13. veronica says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 4:33am

    well, Susan I can relate to what you said in your first paragrah.
    Weather it happens on the world stage or just at a small event somewhere else, or even just at home.These sudden incidence’s of memory lapse/distortion.
    I just call it a “menopausal moment”.
    This may not be a problem for you but I am sure many women out there have experienced this phenomenom.
    And how frustrating it is when it happens.
    Another of lifes little stumbling blocks.
    Everything happens for a reason.
    Just a matter of taking stock re focusing and moving on.


  14. Elsina Meyer says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 1:50am

    Susan, the way you can make something that was perhaps “not so swell” (strange Nth Am expression ;)) into a positive is phenomenal, and this is far from the first time we’ve seen this. Having been permitted some insights into your training, handling and criteria, and seeing your dogs do such a wonderful, fluid and confident job makes your runs the most interesting and enjoyable to watch, regardless of the course you actually ran. It is all about the dogs, your relationship with them and what you are able to bring out in them.


  15. Kathy says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 12:42am

    I appreciate you sharing your experiences with us….it makes it easier for us to be easier on ourselves and put it all in perspective, the whole thing just makes me respect you and what I have learned from you that much more.


  16. amygdogs says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 9:46pm

    Congratulations on running a great course – even if it was not the judges. I often find myself lost and running an even more challenging course then the judges. Dogs are happy – they just want to run a course.

    You had great performance at Worlds!! It is wonderful to watch you and learn from you.


  17. Fiona says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 7:41pm

    I think it is amazing that you have shared this experience with us Susan, and just proves to us again why we look up to you as a trainer. Yes it was a really big event, but it was just one moment in time. We all have instances of “if only” and this was just another one of those instances.

    You always give us a well-rounded picture on this blog – training tips, advice on tools to use (cellersizer), leadership tips (which I use with my staff), things you would have done differently with reasons why, discussion on dog illness (which gave a huge amount of information from people’s responses), and anything else that comes to mind. We are so lucky with your willingness to share your information and it certainly helps me in both training dogs, and dealing with people in various situations.

    Thanks very much for being you.

    New Zealand


    • Sydney says:
      Monday, October 11, 2010 at 10:27pm

      So true Fiona! Susan gives us SO MUCH more than “how to train your dog”.


  18. denise says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 7:41pm

    You’re a great source of quotes!!!

    “Never make excuses; your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.”

    John Wooden

    That’s a goodie and soooooo true.

    People sometimes wonder why I’m always so happy after an agility run that we haven’t qualified on. The reason is… my dog always does what I ask of her! She tries her very best and when I make a mistake and send her the wrong way or mishandle a course that’s not her fault. She happily does exactly what I ask of her so how can I ever NOT be happy with that?

    In Germany, your girls did exactly what you asked of them, and brilliantly at that! So what if it wasn’t what the judge wanted…..the red girls run for you not the judge 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving


  19. Mary M says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 5:40pm

    Very nice Susan!


  20. Alison says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 4:54pm

    Love that Zig Zigler quote!


  21. Jill says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 4:52pm

    I really enjoyed this blog. what a great life lesson. One aspect of my training that I have been struggling with is letting the dog fail in order for them to learn and letting myself fail so that I can learn as well and really that is what it is all about isn’t it. The joy of taking on new challenges.


  22. AL says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 3:54pm

    A favorite quote of mine is from another basketball coach, Coach K: “Next play.” It has to do with the difference between learning from a mistake and dwelling on a mistake. You have to be able to let go of an error in order to be ready to make the next play.


  23. brittsdeux says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 3:29pm

    Acknowledge it; make amends; move on!Ahhhh, how refreshing! No excuses, no handwringing, no living under a cloud, no letting it define you. Way to own it sister! You rock (as usual)!


  24. Karen says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 3:21pm

    There are several things I think about when competing/training with my dog:

    A bad run at agility beats vacuuming any day.

    If this were easy, everyone would be doing it.

    I win every time I get to take my dog home with me.

    Some of the runs with my prior dog I remember the best are the ones where we didn’t Q, but we succeeded at something we’d been working on (offside weaves is one that comes to mind, back when offside weaves were evil!). Gosh, he’s been gone 5 years now and I still can see him do those weaves! Do I remember why we didn’t Q? No. I just remember the success of those weaves.


    • Julie S says:
      Monday, October 11, 2010 at 7:46pm

      Well said Karen. I particularly like your part about taking our dogs home. After all, we do dog sports because we love being with and working with our dogs. It is great when our hard work pays off, but the true reward is the time spent with our 4 legged friends.


    • AlisonM says:
      Monday, October 11, 2010 at 8:10pm

      Haha – I love the vacuum cleaning one. That should be on a bumper sticker!

      Know what you mean about the Q’s – at the end of the day, when you can no longer run your dog it’s the memories that really count.


    • Paolo says:
      Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 3:59am

      “I win every time I get to take my dog home with me”

      Brilliant and incredibly true!


  25. Trudie says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 2:39pm

    I love your sense of humour, without it, how could agility possibly be about a game one plays with one’s dogs!!

    You are right about your runs being great and we non-elite have a lot to learn watching the results of hour and hours of hard work put in by all the talented handlers chosen to represent their countries. I thought judges and the participants set the bar of competence extremely high.
    I credit having taken the Recallers course, to be able to appreciate this.


  26. Kat L says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 1:37pm

    I have learned one lesson very well in my long years of living … Everything Happens for a Reason.

    I can honestly say that the things I thought a disapointment or unfair were the best things in my life. They took me on a path I would not have gone or taught me a lesson I really needed to learn.

    Thank you Susan for letting me learn another lesson through your actions and words.


  27. Esther says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 1:27pm

    Thanks Susan for being an excellent inspirational exemple and teacher.


  28. Bernadette says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 1:05pm

    Thanks for sharing your thought proccess through those team runs Susan. It was really eye opening. I love how quickly you put any disappointment behind you.

    I am always envious of people who can study a course map quickly and have it memorized. My brain takes much longer to get it down pat and my body takes even longer than that! 🙂

    All the best, Bernadette and the shelties


  29. Karin Roelofsma says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:56pm

    Susan, Thank you very much for this.


  30. Katherine McCormick says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:52pm

    Susan, you are truly an inspiration, way above and beyond the sport we all love. Thanks so much for this post.


  31. Wanda says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:49pm

    The wonderful thing about humans is that we tend to learn from our mistakes, does it mean we won’t ever make them again? Nooo….we just keep trying and doing what our hearts tell us to do. Afterall it is about you and the dog, do you think they care? I know mine don’t, they just had a chance to have some fun with their MaMa……


  32. Andrea says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:27pm

    I like this quoe very much
    I can’t find an attriution for it but i learned it in eventing days from a coach I had a lot of respect for

    “Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”


  33. Melissa Davis says:
    Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:19pm

    Wow! Thank you for that. Inspiring.


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