When you want to be successful, don’t try it alone

Sunny was an invaluable mentor to Grace; they were often chewing on sticks but there was more than just playtime occurring. Sunny was showing Grace how to interact properly.

No great accomplishment is ever done alone.

Certainly dogs rely on humans for many basic needs, but Grace started out living on the streets by herself. She found her own food and shelter; having enough self-preservation and willpower to do what she needed to survive. But even in those amazingly challenging times, I have no doubt that she watched and learned from other dogs how to work the system to get what she needed. (She is certainly a master of that now when it comes to getting things she wants from me!)

Soon after I got her, a professional trainer told me I should think of Grace as a survivor, not a victim. It was true. Grace found the resources she needed for her basic survival, even as a young pup.

I was reminded of the importance of reaching out for help last week, when I served as a panelist for a career forum at a local university. Two other women, along with myself, were asked to offer advice and suggestions to college students who are planning for their future careers.

Those first months of street-living created a lot of trauma for Grace; she remains fearful and I

As the three of us recounted the stories of our career path, it was clear that we all had at least one significant mentor that helped us along the way. And if we went deeper in our stories, I know there would be numerous people who played a part in our success. These individuals invested in us with their time and knowledge because they wanted to do so, not because it was a burden or an obligation they needed to fill.

It’s not just when we’re planning our career that we need mentors. In any important decision or life situation we face, it is always easier–and more successful–when we gain the benefit of having a knowledgeable, caring individual walking beside us.

I know that we don’t always feel comfortable asking for help, thinking the other person is too busy or doesn’t care. That is rarely the case. I think we can look to dogs as a reminder. They seem to get it. They understand their role to teach and to learn.

Sunny was always calm and patient in showing Grace how to share. And Grace listened! They each understood their role and abided by it.

I was always so impressed by the interactions that Grace had with a neighbor’s dog, Sunny. Grace had just come to live with me (she was about eight months old at the time) and Sunny was about 2 years old. Sunny was dropped off to my next-door neighbor on work days to stay with her “grandparents,” (the parents of Sunny’s people), while they went to work. It was an ideal situation for Sunny, but Grace was a huge beneficiary of the time spent with this well-behaved and loving dog. The two played together well and Sunny was a patient, wise mentor. Grace learned many important lessons from the time they shared together; it was enjoyable for them both and so helpful to Grace’s development. I felt Sunny understood her responsibility in teaching Grace, too. It was if she knew it was her place to be that teacher.

They worked on the stick long enough together to each have their own piece!

Mentors who take their job seriously are the ones that have not only rewarding, but successful, outcomes. Being a good mentor is more than just having an occasional conversation to offer advice. It requires that you understand what the other person needs and wants, and that you give your time and expertise to help that person find those things.

No matter where we are in our lives, whether seeking a new job or learning how to do a new job, mentors are important. We can offer and receive valuable mentoring at any time in our life. We can always find people who know more than we do — and know less than we do. Make sure you offer of your own talents when the opportunity arises. And when you’re facing something new, unknown, or difficult, seek others who can help you.

Smart Tips Served Straight to Your Inbox

Want to build healthy, productive workplace relationships??? Join our community of Graceful Leaders/Managers and get access to tips, insights, and resources right in your inbox.

BONUS: Sign up now and receive a FREE animal-inspired gift: “3 Management Tips from Dog!"

Share with a friend using one of the buttons below. Then sign up so you can receive stories, tips, and guidance to help you develop healthy workplace relationships in your organization!


  1. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide on December 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Those pictures are just priceless!

  2. LeeAnn on December 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Oh it breaks my heart to think of Grace on the streets by herself. That is very interesting advice to look at her as a survivor though. (I wonder why that is so difficult for me?) This is a great post, Robin. It reminds me of the importance of seeking out people to mentor at my age. I too had several incredible mentors in my younger days and their help was invaluable. It is such an unselfish act – although very rewarding to the mentor too. Hope you and your family are having a good December!

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on December 7, 2011 at 8:35 am

      Hi LeeAnn. It is heartbreaking to think of animals trying to fend for themselves. In the big picture, it certainly did more harm to her than good, but I’m sure there were other dogs who didn’t make it at all. The woman I met with is a vet specializing in behaviorial issues and she looks at it from the perspective of the survival of the fittest. Fear is a life-saving mechanism we all have; if we had no fear, we couldn’t protect ourselves from harm. But poor Grace doesn’t have a good framework of balance to deal with her fear, even after many years. I just know you would be an awesome mentor — in fact you are already accomplishing that through your blog!

  3. Renee on December 8, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Being in an organization that offers mentoring, and being open to mentoring as an individual, is a gift! I hold dearly those who went before me and who took the time to share their experiences and insights with me. Their teachable point of view helped me see and live in my work world in a new and, to the point of Grace and Sunny sharing a stick, cared-for way. As we see from Grace and Sunny’s relationship, it takes trust and understanding to pave the way for learning, sharing and growing together — with ofttimes elements of play and humor. How wonderful when we can connect with someone who is willing and able to provide us with those opportunities!

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on December 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Great point about trust being a key ingredient to the mentoring relationship, Renee. Just like with a strong manager-employee relationship, trust is critical and just as important is having fun along the way. Thanks for adding your wisdom here!

  4. Kas on December 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    What a great post!! “Make sure you offer of your own talents when the opportunity arises. And when you’re facing something new, unknown, or difficult, seek others who can help you.” This is perfect — something that we should all think about more often.

  5. spiderpaw on January 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    It is great that Grace has some canine friends to interact with. I feel it so important for a dog to have some doggie friends that they can relate with.

Leave a Comment