Experiential DNA

Beaujolais “Beau” Nouveau

Our dog, Beau, is the muttiest of mutts. He was the runt of a litter at a shelter with a deformed tail that ends in a sort of forked stubs. The shelter employees said that his mother had been running with a pack of wild dogs so his father was likely a street dog mutt. They thought she was a Beagle/Dachshund mix, which tracked somewhat with his howling and his coloring, respectively.  He’s a ferocious defender of the human he selected (which is my wife, not me), and he will bark at me like I’m an axe murderer if I walk into a room and he’s on guard for her, even though I’m the one who feeds him (where’s the love?). I thought perhaps with that attitude and his coloring there might be some German Shepherd in him.

For fun, I decided to do a dog DNA kit and the results came back yesterday.  As suspected, he’s a crazy mutt (21% Poodle, 14% Beagle, 10% American Eskimo, 10% German Shepherd, 7% Pekingese, 5% Collie with the remainder pooled as “supermutt”). What’s amazing, though, is his genes indicate that he is not a carrier for the diseases or conditions that tend to plague many dogs of a more clear lineage, only glaucoma. Put another way, the diversity of his genetic background has the effect of creating conditions that may increase his longevity and quality of life.

Yes, I really am going to draw comparisons between this mutt and our lives as humans.

Each one of us go through a variety of experiences in life, many of them difficult. They shape who we are, how we react, the relationships we create and much more. We create a sort of experiential DNA. When we survive challenging experiences – including big wins — and take the time to learn from them, we become stronger and better able to withstand whatever life may throw at us the next day. By knowing ourselves, we understand our limitations, but we also know our inner strength that has carried us through in trying times and that we can leverage as we strive to move forward and pursue our goals and life vision.

Too often, though, we think we know someone based on what we see or what we know about that person. We look at their exterior and behaviors and place labels on them. Oh, he’s a Harvard grad, so he must be really smart. She’s a super mom, so she must be great at delegating. She’s a job hopper, so she must not know what she wants. He’s got a fiery temper, so he must not have much self-control. Whatever it may be. We try to put people in buckets based on our perceptions, rather than who those individuals really are.  We often have no idea of the struggles that they have been through or are facing on any given day or what motivates them to do what they do. And too often we don’t take the time to even try to find out.

Take the time to look into the experiential DNA of your colleagues, friends and family members. Seek to really understand them. Connect with them and share your own experiential DNA. You may be surprised at what you find, including amazing friendships that will increase the happiness and quality of life of both of you. 

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