The Whining Dog

The Whining Dog

You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas

Shirley Hufstedler, Former United States Secretary of Education

Born 1925


One day a man was walking down a street on his way to work. It was the same street he walked down every day and this particular day seemed no different.

Outside several of the houses, dogs played in the gardens waiting for their owners to take them out for their morning walk, or lay basking in the morning sunshine.

However, as he approached the last house on the street, he heard a whining noise and so stopped to see what was happening.

Lying on the porch was a dog. Unlike the others he had seen on his walk that morning, this particular dog wasn’t bounding around the garden or enjoying the sunshine. Instead he just lay there, moaning and whining as if in pain.

A little concerned, the man opened the gate and walked up the steps to the front of the house. He knelt down to see if the dog was ok.

At that moment, the dog’s owner came around from the side of the house.

‘Excuse me, Madam’ said the man, aware he had not been invited to the front of the house. ‘I heard your dog whining and I wanted to check she was ok. I hope you don’t think me rude?’.

‘No, that’s fine’, said the lady, ‘thank you for checking’.

‘If you don’t mind me asking’, said the man, ‘is she ok?’

‘Yes’, replied the lady. ‘She’s fine… it’s just that she’s lying on a nail’.

‘Lying on a nail?’ replied the man, somewhat taken aback. ‘Then why doesn’t she get off?!’

‘Because’, replied the lady, ‘it doesn’t hurt enough’.


Get off the nail

This is a story about change; it’s about taking action if you aren’t satisfied with your situation; it’s a story about what matters; and about taking personal responsibility.

I’m sure that the story resonates because we’re all culpable of this type of thinking at various times. And, as is often the case, success will be determined by the balance of thinking – are you just going to lie there and moan, or will you get off the nail?

Whatever your role, here are five key ideas to consider from the story:

1. It’s easy to whine and moan. If you’re not satisfied with how things are, get off the nail and make a change.

2. If it matters enough, you’ll find a way. Conversely, if it doesn’t matter enough to you then it’s unlikely it will matter enough to anyone else – so don’t expect them to be the ones to make the change

3. It’s easy to wait for direction or guidance from others but you need to take personal responsibility. Don’t wait to be told what to do.

4. If you’ve said you’re going to do something, it’s worth assessing how much progress you’ve actually made; to understand to what extent you’re taking action towards your intended outcome versus procrastinating or simply talking about it.

5. If you know what should be done, if you know a better way, then do it. Get on with it. Today.

Here’s a question: What is the number one goal you could achieve, problem you could solve or change you could make, which would have the biggest impact in your business or life?

Here’s another question: What are you doing about it?

Because you can lie there, whining and moaning, feeling the pain and discomfort; or you can get up, do something about it and take responsibility for its outcome.

Your choice.


Thanks to Richard Armeson for sharing a version of this story with me last week. Richard is a gifted Trainer and Speaker and is currently Senior Thinking Engineer at GO M.A.D.® Thinking.


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