There are many trite inspirational sayings and anecdotes about embracing challenge and struggle in life, for it is in these moments that growth occurs. (One of my favorites is the story of how a reporter asked Muhammed Ali how many sit-ups he performed, and he answered that he had no idea, because he did not start counting until they started to really hurt, for those were the only ones that mattered…) Often, these platitudes sound great in theory, but in the moments when they really matter they seem hollow.
One of the great lessons in animal training is, perhaps, that it is precisely the imperfections that ARE the point:
Veillan and I were struggling a bit—he did not understand what I was asking and was getting frustrated, and I was trying to figure out how to communicate more clearly, and we worked through it, and my instinct was to feel proud and happy that we had overcome the bad spot and could now move on to the good, and it suddenly struck me that the moment we had just completed WAS the good. The stuff before and after was pleasant enough, but it was in the little struggle that I grew, that Veillan grew, that our trust, confidence, bond, language, understanding, and affection grew. That moment was the great gift of animal training, the great gift of life. I got out of bed seeking that moment, not seeking to avoid or even overcome it. Recognizing challenging moments in this way perhaps helps us to genuinely release frustration and impatience—these are not failures or negatives—and relax and enjoy the preciousness of the moments that matter most.
This may all sound rather obvious and remedial to many, but for me it was a bit of an epiphany—I have always been good at embracing the suck in the sense that I was good at coming to terms that it was a necessary step towards where I wanted to be; but I am not sure I have previously recognized that perhaps the suck is not a step; but rather the goal…