“Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them.
You have to figure out who’s worth your kindness and who’s just taking advantage.”
– How would I approach things differently?
– What would I have done differently?
– What would I have developed differently?
– What advice would I give to someone in my shoes?
If there is one piece of advice that I can provide to someone new to the animal rescue world, it is to “ask as many people as you can for advice.”
Yes this sounds like an odd lesson learned and something that is quite obvious, but if you really focus on this and do this, you will see that it is not as easy as it sounds but can pay off ten fold in new ideas. As I have discussed in other blogs, human beings are competitive by nature. It may sound crazy but even in the animal rescue world there is competition.
- Who can rescue the most dogs?
- Who can transport the most cats?
- Who can drive the most number of miles?
- Who can raise the most amount of money?
There is always a hierarchy in the world and even if it is not tracked and posted, there seems to be a natural order to things that people figure out. So when you’re new to animal rescue like I was, you are rarely welcomed with open arms, greeted as a welcome addition and mentored like a new student. Instead you are usually chastised as being a newbie, insulted because you don’t know ‘the right way’ to do things, and belittled as not being as good as the one doing the chastising.
There are two choices you have when you encounter this level of resistance.
- Go inward – You could harden yourself like a turtle going into it’s shell to protect yourself from the negativity that is confronting you.
- Go humble – You could humble yourself and do the one thing that disarms every one of these hardened naysayers, ask for their advice.
Without going into the neuroscience and psychology behind this jedi mind trick, asking someone for advice completely changes the conversation from one where you are defending yourself and your actions to one of collaboration. This approach forces the accuser to help rather than judge you because you are making it clear to them that you do not know and you need their help.
Whenever I have asked someone for advice I have never been denied. They have never told me “No” and have always responded with something they believe in. Whether it is the right way to secure an animal for transport, the proper way to investigate the shelter you are working with or how to ensure the paperwork on a transport is handed off, the person that might have originally been the bully now transforms to become my coach, my advisor and my mentor. They feel the pride of being asked for their opinion, the warmth throughout their body as their ego gets to take center stage and the satisfaction of knowing that they, if only for this moment, are better than me.
Here’s the most interesting part of all. Even after you ask for their advice, you don’t necessarily have to follow it. Simply asking for their advice is enough to break down the walls of their callousness, and to create a bond (even a momentary one) where they see you less as competition, and more as an ally. Some may say “But Chris you’re just manipulating them” and I suppose that’s true on some level. In my mind, I am just asking for their advice and opinion, seeking out their experience and knowledge and lessons learned and then determining whether I want to follow it or not. It’s no different than asking “How can I lose weight?” and getting hundreds of different answers from counting calories, eating like a caveman, avoiding carbs or doing a cleanse. Ultimately you end up deciding what works best for you, with your motivations and experience. You may take pieces of advice from multiple areas and combine into your own philosophy or you may choose nothing from any of the advice offered and blaze a new path. All of these are conscious choices. Whether you are new to animal rescue or an old pro with decades of experience. Asking people you encounter for advice is a skill and a lesson that I continue to apply on a daily basis. I learn so much more by asking for other people’s opinions and almost always, it helps to expand my thinking about a particular problem or situation and make my solution that much better.