“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let me tell you a little story (as those that know me know I like to do) about bloodhounds and how they’re related to jagged edges and Stunning Prisms. I watched a show once on Bloodhounds. Besides being incredibly cute, they have an amazing and valuable talent that we’re smart enough to recognize and utilize. They are great smellers – great trackers. One factoid that amazed me, in yet another example of perfect engineering, was about their ears. Besides making them cute as can be, their ears are masterfully designed to help them be the best smellers they can be, and provide us with a great service. How is this you ask? Good question, glad you’re here, ’cause that’s just what I wanted to talk about.

Their ears are really long and floppy. When they are tracking, they lower their head to the ground and move it back and forth (which I logically thought was to smell on both sides). Actually, when they sway their head, their ears flop back and forth and catch the smells and scoop them up to the dog’s nose. AMAZING really, but not surprising; we’re each equipped with such traits, designed perfectly for unique and great contributions.

The whole process works to make that bloodhound great. The nose, the ears, and the way they wave their head from side to side, the fact that they’re tall enough to walk over brush and other obstacles. They’re geared towards sniffing, and they love it when they’re doing it. You can see it; they’re in the “zone”.

Let’s pretend for a sec that you’ve just been promoted to the sniffer department, which oversees all the dogs that sniff for many important reasons (finding bombs, drugs, people etc.). You’ve been watching the bloodhounds in their work and have made the following few key observations to incorporate into your process improvements:

  1. For one, they aren’t at all like the greyhounds you’ve worked with before. I don’t think they care as much about their task, they’re much slower. They move around a lot, get distracted and bored, I think. They’re always looking back and forth in an inefficient manner with wasteful movements. To increase speed of tracking, enhance effectiveness, reduce variation and just plain make us more comfortable by dealing with what we know, they can’t be swaying their heads back and forth anymore either, that slows things down, less movement the better.
  2. I don’t even think they look where they’re going, their ears are in their eyes ½ of the time. Changes are in order!
  3. We know from experience (our experience) what makes a successful dog, what attributes are necessary and long floppy ears isn’t one of them, we need to pin ’em back.

Now consider the following…

  • How successful do you think we’d be in this situation given our ultimate goal of great tracking?
  • What are some of the drawbacks of this scenario?
  • How do you think the bloodhounds would react?
  • Why does it seem silly for us to consider this approach given what we know about the bloodhounds?

It does seem silly, but we do this to ourselves and to each other every day. And there are many reasons why it behooves us to cut the crap (yeah you heard me, time for tough love). We all have our floppy ears and swaying heads. Everyone, has their unique pure GOLD to contribute and are perfectly designed to do so. (See more in “Don’t quack if you’re a cow… the August 2002 Issue of TAP Into It.)Unfortunately we often pin back the ears and stop the swaying of the heads and the contribution is lost.

“Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.”
– Albert Camus

I have this vision of each of us as a unique, beautiful cut of glass with different shapes and projected prisms (just work with me, it’s a vision). We take these varied and beautiful cuts of glass, and we push and prod and shove them into these same round holes we’ve conjured up. In the process, and in our quest for results, many of the unique attributes (floppy ears), the very stuff that could have gotten us far greater results, get broken off. We’ve created jagged edges that cut where there were Stunning Prisms.

Some of us are sniffers, some of us racers, some are creative, some good negotiators, some work best in suits, some sweat suits, some of us are parents, some of us aren’t, some get married, some don’t, some work best from home, some the home is their work, some shine in the board room, some are humorous, others direct, some make great contributions with tattoos on their arms, others in ties and kakis. Some are great, creative thinkers, some are fantastic at the details and planning and bringing things to closure. Some of us want to climb the ladder some of us want to work on the ladder.

When we don’t recognize the wonderful role and necessity of the differences we bring to the table (floppy ears, cuts of glass) we tend to push and prod and change until we’ve taken that away. There is such power and strength in being able to see the relationships between the ultimate objective, what really will get you there, and discovering and cultivating that in people. If we reinforce the same thing and same attributes only, we’ll get sameness. We’ll get bloodhounds with their ears pinned back, we’ll get jagged edges. Get clear on our real goals, recognize the unique greatness in others by listening and appreciating what they have to offer, and we’ll get stunning prisms. We’ll get true control and results, not the illusion of that through our comfort and familiarity.

We’re jagged edges when we’re forced into something that doesn’t fit, that doesn’t honor our greatness. It doesn’t work and by not working I mean it’s simply a “getting by”, it’s not an optimization of who we can be, of the potential we’re capable of. When we honor the individual, the special attributes, knowledge, thoughts and paths we all have, we’re Stunning Prisms just begging to dazzle.