Here’s an oldie but a goodie: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
It’s a familiar saying. And I thought, growing up, that there was a lot of truth to that. How could my parents ever understand Nintendo? (I’m dating myself with “Nintendo” – you can already see where this is going.) But as life has taken me down a completely unexpected series of twists and turns, I find myself having an increasingly difficult time anymore prescribing to that idea.
For some background, I spent three years as an entertainer on cruise ships. I sang in an a cappella quartet for six months, then performed as a vocalist in the main theatrical shows on board for the remaining three contracts. (That’s another blog for another time.) It was fun while it lasted, but “real life” was calling, and circumstances drew me back to “the mainland.”
My wife (whom I met onboard during my first contract – she is a dancer) and I decided it was best to follow her career to the desert of Las Vegas. So, in December of 2013, I found myself with a new job – here at Kirvin Doak Communications – in an entirely new line of work. Sure, I studied communications at Michigan State University, but I hadn’t actively pursued a career in the field. I felt like a fish out of water. Get it? You see, because I worked on the ocean for three years, then moved to the desert to—oh, you got it? Right.
Now, I’m no outlier having moved to Las Vegas on a wing and a prayer, leaving everything I knew behind to start my career. Plenty of people forge new paths in here, and this is evidenced almost daily by the people I meet with similar stories. But…I was “starting my career” at a ripe 30 years of age in a female-dominated industry where my colleagues and “contemporaries” were, in some cases, nearly a decade my junior.
That is where Old Dog came to a crossroads, and here is where Old Dog imparts his wisdom.
As with any opportunity placed before you, there will be times when you would “just rather not.” But be willing. Be willing to listen – to those older than you, to those younger than you, to those more experienced, and to those with new and excited energy – be willing to listen to them. Be willing to question yourself – your methods, your word choice, your timing, your actions, your reactions – be willing. Likewise, be willing to question others, when appropriate, and – as my high school English teacher Mrs. Mitchell put it – “do not take your instructor’s word for gospel.” Be willing.
The Confirmation Bias is defined as “the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.” Be open. Be open to dropping your preconceived notions or biases. Be open to being wrong. Be open to “trying it another way.” Be open. Be open to change, to failure, to the idea that “it gets better.” Be open to taking a deep breath, to “sleeping on it,” to asking “Why?” or wondering, “Why not?” Be open.
George Orwell once said, “Happiness can only exist in acceptance.” Wally Lamb wrote, “Accept what people offer. Drink their milkshakes. Take their love.” Don’t settle and accept less for yourself, but be accepting of the inevitability of certain things. Be accepting of the effort of everyone around you. Be accepting of the roadblocks, understanding you can overcome anything. Be accepting. Be accepting of today, and excited about tomorrow. Be accepting of others, their achievements and their failures. Be accepting.
Look, I’m about as good with the generational monikers as I am with astrological signs; I don’t know if I qualify as Gen X or Millennial, not sure if I’m a Sagittarius or Scorpio. (Author’s note: As evidence, I had to try and spell “Sagittarius” three times before I caved and looked it up.) But I do know that there has always been a prevailing sensibility urging my generation to adhere to the convention that high school precedes college precedes career, consecutively, and in that order. There’s an undue pressure to follow a system that doesn’t work for everyone – myself included. I don’t want it to come off as though I’m on a soap box suggesting people question their decisions, nor am trying to lay out life plans for those who may be influenced. I’m simply inviting any and all who will listen to be willing, be open and be accepting of a way of thinking that has helped me tremendously.
I know there are those of you reading this – and thank you, if you’ve made it this far – who are still hung up on a 30-year-old calling himself “old.” When you start a career at entry level in your 30s, you feel a bit late to the game. But I have learned just as much in my three years in Las Vegas as I did in three years travelling the world. I give so much credit to the people I work with and the new friends I have made for making this transition almost seamless, and at such an important time.
I recently (nearly five months ago at the time of this posting) welcomed to the world my first child – Oliver Steven. There are a lot more tricks to be learned here as well. Through willingness to challenge the traditions, openness to an alternate path to happiness, and by accepting all new realities as they come my way, I’ve been able to grow, both personally and professionally, in this strange and wonderful land called Las Vegas.
And I’ve begun to understand why old dogs so often seem to smile.
–Submitted By Graham McMurry