Software can come with a lot of baggage. No matter how good the product is, you will always run into situations where it just doesn’t do what you need and wants.
That’s because software is designed to do one thing and one thing only: do that one thing very well. One thing which, if done badly, can be very stressful and even ruin your day.
So if you’re the kind of person who has no idea how to handle a stressful situation, then I encourage you to read chapter 1 again and try your hand at learning more about “Handle Every Stressful Situation Like A Dog!”
Dogs Are the Best
Dogs don’t panic when they see a stranger approaching the house, run away, and bark at the top of their lungs. It’s not that they are better pets than people; it’s just that they are very sensitive to human stress.
The same is true for startups: your product doesn’t have to be perfect to get people excited about it. In fact, you should avoid being too perfect as much as possible; it is more important that people feel a sense of ownership in your product (and having a great communication interface with your customers) than having everything ticked off the list of absolutely required qualities.
Dogs Teach Us to Be Optimistic
In the real world, your dog will never respond to a social situation as well as you do. Your dog will never be as good at making friends with strangers as you are. Your dog will never be able to communicate better than you can beyond barking and growling. But dogs don’t know any of that. They are just dogs, and they learn from experience just like we do. And so they have a way of doing things that is designed to reliably help them get what they want out of life:
Dogs have a very strong “inner voice” that comes into play whenever they are stressed or fearful or hurt. It is part of their nervous system, but it is also something they develop in response to specific situations that happen to them — it becomes part of their nature (like a survival instinct).
The inner voice is not always helpful, but when it works well it can be incredibly effective; if it doesn’t work well, you may have lost control of your dog in the moment and the whole thing can go terribly wrong. So how does the inner voice work?
It starts with the basics: how do dogs respond best when introduced to unfamiliar people? By playing nice! They want to play with people who share some common interests, so if someone has an interest in animals — say — and there is someone nearby who also has an interest in animals — say, perhaps a veterinarian — then that person has a huge advantage over another socializing person trying to learn through playing games or simply watching people around her/him without any mutual interests at all (which isn’t much fun for anyone involved).
A similar principle applies when you want your dog to make friends with strangers; too many people around him/her can create problems for him/her (and often for both of you), so he/she needs some kind of “social environment” that helps him/her cope with them (like playing nice!). Any time your dog needs help coping with stress, he/she should seek out an environment which he knows will support his needs – this is why your pup will prefer certain places and behaviors over others:
in crate training or obedience training; going outside into an escape-proof yard or fenced-in area; being inside on warm days because no one else wants him/her there; staying home alone because there aren’t people around who share his/her need for company
Again, sometimes this means
Dogs Encourage Us to Take It Easy
In the last couple of days I have been asked to recommend a book about dog training. My wife and I have a 3 year old labrador, named Harley. He is very, very smart and very brave. He is also a bit of a dog monster.
Last week, my wife was out for an evening walk when she ran into the street to cross it. She crossed safely when she saw the white van parked in an adjacent parking space but when she got to the other side and turned back to cross she hit the driver’s side door with her shoulder — leaving her badly bruised. She was upset, but not hurt enough that we couldn’t go back out on our walks together again.
Harley didn’t just let this pass; he immediately went into his crate, lay down in his kennel and began licking himself to clean off any blood. It took him over an hour but he was eventually clean enough to go outside again without us worrying (though we kept our eyes peeled for him).
As a result of this experience I have been thinking quite hard about leading with my weaknesses rather than with my strengths (I don’t like confrontations so I don’t like getting into arguments with others). While many people will be surprised to learn that dogs are actually pretty good at negotiating conflict situations and learning from them, I think this is actually true of humans too:
This isn’t true for all dogs — many are very aggressive towards other dogs and other people — but for us it has become our way of life: we take things as they come and whatever happens falls under the “it just happens” rubric. We don’t make decisions based on what might happen in the future or what might have happened if something else had happened; instead we make decisions based on what has happened right now and then we adapt from there or anticipate what may happen next time so that nothing unexpected will happen again (though if something unexpected does happen again then we adapt accordingly).
While this approach probably works well for most dogs (it certainly worked for Harley), it doesn’t work as well for me because I am not used to taking things as they come; I want things to be different every time rather than just sometimes; whereas Harley seems happy with predictable outcomes because he knows he can handle any situation that arises from within the boundaries he sets out for himself (and even though his response might be unpredictable at
Dogs Give Us a Reason to Smile
From the time we’re little, we watch our parents — especially the ones with a dog — and imitate them. For example, in my family, if I bring in a bag of dog food, my mom says “Here’s dog food, doggie.” When I come home from school or work, she does not say “dog food!” But if I bring in a bag of cat food — with a note that says “cat food!” — then she will say “cat food!” We are all dogs.
My daughter has also been influenced by this. When she was young, when one of her friends got an older sister to stand up for her and help her deal with some life stressors, my daughter said to her friend: “Wow you are so strong for your sister. Tell me about how you handle these things. You don’t have to tell me everything. But I would like to know what kind of thing you handle when you have problems? Please let me know so I can learn from you too! Your mom always tells me what to do, but you never tell me how to do anything? That is so unfair…You don’t have to tell me everything!! If this problem is bigger than what I can handle then I need to talk it out with someone who can help me solve it…So maybe they are the best people who should be the ones that help us? Who can give us advice?”
The friend said: “I just want love and support! No one should be able to control my life on their own like that!! You are old enough now and it is okay for you to ask questions like that…If your mother does it sometimes then maybe she needs help too?? But sometimes she doesn’t even want help for herself…I see her as sad because she has no friends?? Is that okay? It’s okay if other people cannot want or love each other because they may not be strong enough themselves??? And sometimes they need love from others even though they may not deserve it??? Do we really need more animals?? Does the world need more animals?? Who cares?! And why are people afraid of animals??? Aren’t they just like us?? Are animals more selfish than humans? Are they not more intelligent than humans!!! My heart hurts when people treat others like this!!! Please please stop!!! Please stop!! Help my sister!!!! She
So, we have been through a lot to build a company and make something great, and I don’t know that we’ve got it all. We spent countless hours building the product, which we are proud of, but there is one thing we haven’t done yet: handle every stressful situation like a dog.
This is a reference to the famous drawing by Pablo Picasso in which he depicts two dogs facing off; one of them is stressed while the other is not. In all seriousness, this was not just a metaphor — in my experience as founder and CEO at Launchpad I have seen firsthand how our team handles stressful situations. This can be from customer service calls to customer service emails to customer support tickets, or from dealing with customers on social media or over email. The point is: you cannot expect anyone else to do this for you. You need help — both internal and external — handling these situations and you need it faster than anyone else can provide it (partly because part of your job is living with what you build). So for me personally and for our team, handling stressful situations like dogs has become one of my top priorities — something I am very happy about because it allows us to grow as quickly as possible while still managing our expectations around quality.