Airport Insights

Posted on 08/01/11 18 Comments

John and I just returned from a working vacation in Italy. We spent that last few days in Rome, it was surreal. Like an adult version Disneyland except that all of the attractions were real and some over 2000 years old!

Flying out of the airport in Rome I over heard a conversation that I want to share with all of you here. It was a cute family of 4 little girls — all dressed in identical striped jerseys (as was the mother). All dragging little knapsacks on wheels. They ranged in age from about 11 down to just over a year (mom held the baby’s tiny backpack pull behind).

I saw the family first at the check in desk and saw them again as we all headed up a very long slow moving escalator. I don’t know the conversation that occurred before but here is what mom was saying to #1 daughter as John and I moved in behind them. It is a pretty accurate account because I was so dumbfounded I wrote it all down when we got to the lounge at the top of the escalator.


“You are going to have to change your thinking you know, if you really want to be a famous actress you aren’t going to get there being who you are right now. You have to become more selfish (yes that was the word she used). You are going to have to become more aggressive, your thinking has to be about no one except you. Life has to be about; me, myself, and I for you. No one ever achieved anything in any competitive field of life without stepping up and pushing by anyone in there way as they single mindedly went after what was important to them. Do you hear what I am saying?”

I did my best to mind my own business but could not believe what this woman was saying to her, possibly 11 or 12 year old daughter. It wasn’t just that she was giving this “pep” talk to one so young, it wasn’t just what she was saying it was her telling her daughter she wasn’t good enough being who she was . . . that she had to change and become someone different.

I am sure there are people out there that are in competitive fields that have achieved some level of success with this sort of “singleminded selfishness,” but I would like to think they are not the norm.

I think the people that I have met in dog sports with this sort of attitude are the ones that are caught in a cycle of complete frustration. They often end up dumping dogs while searching for their next “great one” or just leaving the sport when they can’t sustain the success they crave.

I guess it all comes down to who you are competing against. I think this woman feels her daughter will not be successful unless she can be better than “someone else” and that is where her focus needs to be. But for me, most of the people I think of who have been massively successful in life are the complete opposite to what this woman describes.

I like to think success can come, perhaps even more easily with a philosophy I read about close to 25 years ago in a book by Zig Zigler who wrote;

“You can get everything you want in life if you can just help enough other people get what they want”

Look around our North America agility scene and you can see some amazingly gifted, competitive yet generously spirited individuals. People like Ann Braue who is constantly winning some National Championship or representing the US on some World team or the young up and coming agility super star Tori Self and you have two great examples of success without selfishness.

And if our little dog world is not a big enough scale of success for this woman I would serve up my friend Greg Louganis as an example of this thinking. Greg is perhaps the greatest diver of all time but, certainly his four Olympic Gold Medals makes him a worthy example of someone with great success in his day. Yet his attitude towards life is the furtherest you could get from the pollution this women was preaching to her daughter.

Likely very few of you reading this have any desire to be on a world team or run your own business. And I would hope any of you with children would already realize you may be sending your kid into therapy at an early age by talking to them the way this woman did. I didn’t write about this event today to get anyone to focus on the negative side of this post. The focus I am intending isn’t on how “terrible this woman is” but really to share an outlook that “competitive” is not necessarily “bad” or “selfish” and success doesn’t need to be at a “cost” to somebody else. It all lies in your definition of success and what goals you have set for yourself.

So if you are leaving a comment today please let it be about how an excellent attitude has influenced yours or others journeys in life.

Today I am grateful to everyone that pitched in to help out allowing John and I to have 2 weeks away from home yet a peace of mind knowing all was being well cared for in our absence. Thank you to everyone!


  1. sharon empson says:
    Friday, August 5, 2011 at 11:04am

    I think this type of thinking is common in this world. And I think that is why many times we have lost the sense of community. I like what Jesus said, Unless a kernal of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a kernal of wheat. The giving away of ourselves, for the good of others is what real success is about. Loving each other, not self, in my opinion brings success.
    I hope the mother was showing her daughter the bad side of being famous. If being a “star” is so great, why are so many of them miserable.
    Anyway, I am sad to say selfishness is a plague now days.
    help us Lord!


  2. Margo Fournier says:
    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 10:55pm

    As someone who has been a pro athlete I can understand that women’s thought process. I loved competing and being the absolute best athlete possible (who doesn’t when you’re 30 and have 16% body fat)?

    I was living in the most gorgeous part of the Rocky Mountains, skiing 200+ days a year and I was miserable – because I shared that women’s beliefs.

    Susan – you are guiding us by showing us examples of how we can “be” and “do”, have amazing relationships (with humans and other species) while being great at something. Thank you for showing us the possiblities (again that word).

    I had the briefest of encounters with Greg L. a couple of years ago here in CO and his humility and kindness left a lasting/lifetime impact. I wish I had known someone like him & you when I was a pro.

    Margo & Morgan Fournier


  3. Gabi says:
    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 4:27pm

    all i can say is play=work and work=play
    and isn’t playing with the dogs fun and makes your heart easier?
    treat people the way you want to be treated even on and especially within competition otherwise it stops being fun!! there are so many jealous and negative people out there but i don’t want to be part of that! why trying to be positive with your dog and then do the reversed thing to people?


  4. Nita says:
    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 10:09am

    I see this attitude in the dog world all the time.

    In obedience: The competitor who sits outside the ring badmouthing each competitor and the judge, then berates the judge for taking a lunch break because he wants her to finish judging to he can get his High in Trial award and go home.

    In agility: The “big name” competitor who comes out of the ring angry that the judge called a missed contact and says, “Doesn’t she know who I am?”

    In conformation: The handlers that force their dog in front of yours or block yours.

    And in all of them, the “big” handlers who demand (and usually get) special privileges because of who they are.

    Just this weekend I was at an obedience trial. The obedience ring was being run by a steward who had never stewarded obedience and was lost. I stepped in to help for utility and open, but then had to show in novice. Did any of those open or utility people (sitting ringside watching) step in to help in the novice ring? Nope. And that happened two days in a row.

    And how many agility trials have we been at where we get yelled at that they need ring crew, and the novice rings cannot proceed unless they get ring crew now. Where are all the upper level competitors who ran while the novice people ring crewed for them? Uh, they’ve left! They don’t lower themselves to help out.

    So yeah, it happens in the dog world too.


  5. Christy says:
    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 4:53pm

    Making this my own, an excellent attitude is a “given”

    “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” ~John Wooden


  6. Bridget says:
    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 1:33am

    I absolutely LOVE this blog! I must admit I am the one who has been pushing through my dog career in a “selfish” stage. I have 2 dogs and I really wanted another. I thought I could start fresh and new with a 9 month old border collie rescue dog. Yet, I have gone no where in my training. Heck, my other 2 dogs could whip her but in agility. I am always looking for a high drive border collie pup to replace my now 3 dogs. Although my dogs aren’t high drive, I am sure they will teach me just as many lessons as if they were. “The virtue lies in the struggle, not in the prize.” ~Richard Monckton Milnes


  7. Debra says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 8:34pm

    Greatest mentor and heros, I have two…the greatest being Jesus Christ who taught me to “as you would have others do to you, do ye unto them” and in giving of yourself to others, that’s when you heal yourself and find happiness. My second hero is my Pappy, Glyn Hanks. He not only told me to give 150% of myself in all I do in everythng I do, but to appreciate the beauty of world, my children and my husband and he showed me by example. We all have within us the desire to be loved and to win. To give up my morals and ethics to achieve a win is not worth a billion dollars to me. I’d rather keep my morals and be loved by those who see a person striving to be honest and who enjoys life to the fullest. I’m blessed to have parents who taught me that winning isn’t everything, but doing you best is. I hope my boys can say that about me one day and I hope my dog see’s that in my every day journey with her!


  8. Kim says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 5:42pm

    I read this post first thing this morning and as a parent, I gotta say it has been in my head all day… How I am amazed every single day by my beautiful children and my deepest fear is that I will let them down in showing them just how high they can reach… I came across this video on YouTube later this afternoon by accident and immediately thought again of your blog…

    I think this says it all doesn’t it?


    • Susan says:
      Monday, August 1, 2011 at 6:01pm

      Thanks Kim, I LOVE that movie!


  9. Barb says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 1:15pm

    I was with family this weekend and was talking about a conformation show that I was at. I’m consistently beating another dog of a friend of mine, and while we’re both fine with it (well, you know. We’re staying frinds, but being beaten by the same dog show after show can be disappointing for my friend. And I know that!) Anyway, I expressed by sympathy toward my friend for her frustration. And my sister-in-law (non-dog person) said, “You’re just not competitive enough!” To which I replied, “I’m very competitive! I always want to win! I just don’t have to hurt someone else in the process!”

    I think that people like my sister-in-law that don’t compete in some kind of games have a misunderstanding about competition. Being competitive doesn’t mean that to want to kill your opponent. In fact, I would bet that most of us who are successful don’t even think about the opponents. We’re just focused on getting our own job done!

    I feel sorry for the little girl.


  10. Kreg Z says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 12:47pm

    Having a good attitude helps me to ask questions and to actually hear an answer. People who have a right attitude can hear and respond to questions.

    When I am into ego mode I lose the ability to learn lessons. For example, Friday morning I was training my dog outside of a coffee shop in Santa Barbara – lucky me :)! Someone, who was nice, was distracting me with frequent questions and comments while I was concentrating on working pup-dog, Later in talking to him I found out he didn’t own a dog, but was one of the most intuitive “trainer types” I have ever met.
    I asked him as many questions as I could to learn from his perspective and here is what I got from a man who doesn’t even own a dog:
    1) listen to your dog, they are always trying to tell you something
    2) be patient
    3) let the dog work and earn rewards
    4) respect your animal
    5) find what motivates the dog
    6) and even use distractions as rewards once you have the dog’s attention.
    I felt like I was talking to you Susan and wrote out for him how to find you on the web.
    Being willing to listen makes all the difference.


  11. Shelley says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 12:17pm

    I think we all know someone here with an excellent attitude that has influenced ours lives, and that’s you and Lynda. You both go way and beyond to help people and you both do it with care, enthusiasm and generosity…….you spoke after recallers 1.0 about the great atmosphere all us recallers created……but know this, we followed your lead. When you create an atmosphere , an environment like you have with recallers, it sticks.

    I hope that young girl has other influences in her life beside her mother who will show her a better way. I wish that for her so much.


  12. Michele Fry says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 10:03am

    No doubt about it, the best way to be successful is to help others. In fact, it’s the whole basis of free enterprise — if you aren’t helping other people solve their problems, they won’t pay you for your services. So whether your aim is to be useful, or just to make money, you more or less have to serve, or defraud, to be successful. Not a bad system, and divinely ordained. Sounds to me like this mother must have been massively defrauded in her youth and was trying to protect her daughter from the same. So sad. I would have had to open my mouth on that escalator and say something the 12-year old might remember to countermand the mother’s message.


    • Shelley says:
      Monday, August 1, 2011 at 12:18pm

      Michele, I think I’d have opened my mouth to her too!


  13. Norma Germain says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 9:39am

    You couldn’t have said it better, Susan. My husband and I own a business in a highly competitive, elitist field (perfume). When we were just starting out, we had nothing. Little money, no inventory, very little experience, yet one very big dream. If not for the mentors that helped us out (both in Canada and New York) we never would have gotten to where we are now. 20 years later, we still keep in touch with our mentors, as we have all become great friends. In return, we help them whenever the opportunity arises. More importantly, we help those who are just starting out now. It’s the least we can do. You get out of life what you put into it. And that includes generosity and kindness.


  14. George says:
    Monday, August 1, 2011 at 7:40am

    The paradox of your story is that the mother dressed her children and herself all alike, like a team, but her advice was to be self-centred. Since the story is taken out of context, maybe she was trying to tell her daughter to find a better dream than Hollywood stardom.


    • barrie says:
      Monday, August 1, 2011 at 9:54am

      I was thinking exactly what George was thinking so I am going to choose to believe that we are correct and that awful people simply aren’t out there 😉


    • Bonnie says:
      Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 1:42pm

      Yes, my thought also was that the woman was trying to dissuade her daughter from becoming an actor, by portraying actors as having an undesirable attitude/motivation, rather than trying to persuade her to change herself so she could be like the picture she was painting of actors. But then, I am ever the optimist.


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