Tipping Sacred Cows

Learn how to kick the bad work habits that masquerade as virtues

Do You Have a Jack Russell Brain?

Consider the personality of the pooch in your head.

One helpful way to understand your personality is to consider your brain in canine terms. Think of the top part of your brain, where the higher level functions like reflection and metacognition happen, as a dog owner. And think of the rest of your brainthe part that drives all of the actionas the dog.

This dog has a particular personality, and it strives to express itself. The animal and its master are stuck together for life, so make sure you understand the dog in your head.

The Jack Russell Brain

Bred to hunt foxes, these fearless dogs have a powerful prey instinct that can cause them to attack cats, other dogs, and even couches. If a Jack Russell Terrier doesn’t get a massive amount of mental and physical stimulation, it becomes destructive. But give them proper training and attention, and you’ll have a well-behaved, lively companion.

If your brain is a Jack Russell, it’s not happy unless it has problems to solve. It’s bored by repetition. And, in the same way that Jack Russell dogs love to escape from the backyard by digging under a fence, the Jack Russell brain loves to look for loopholes. This plucky brain enjoys intellectual battles. Without proper care and training, the Jack Russell brain spins in endless tail-chasing circles.

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Living with the Jack Russell Brain

Don’t let your love of fighting over ideas hurt your relationships with people who have a brain of a different breed. To them, your need to spar can seem like a tiresome waste of energy. At work, don’t debate someone just to give your brain its daily dose of stimulation, and don’t re-engineer something just because your dog is in the mood for a challenge. As you give your brain what it needs, you may end up creating lots of work and headaches for people with plenty to do already.

Give that energetic brain of yours the complication it craves without creating more work for others. For example, get an old, broken-down car from a junkyard and see if you can fix it up enough so that it runs safely. Sell it, and repeat the process. Your brain won’t be happy unless it’s solving a problem, so give it something complicated to work on.

The Bichon Brain

The Bichon Frise is a quintessential lap dog. No amount of affection and attention is too much for the cuddly, white Bichon. These breeds are social animals and suffer separation anxiety when left alone. While a Jack Russell chews up the couch when it’s not challenged, a Bichon destroys stuff when it’s lonely. If your brain craves the constant companionship of others, it may be a Bichon.

Living with The Bichon Brain

At work, you’re a natural at finding and sustaining connections with others, regardless of their brain breed. You’re the social glue that helps a workplace feel like a connected community. So be careful that you don’t set up regularly occurring meetings and working groups merely as a way to give your brain the social connection it wants. To others, this can feel like an inefficient waste of time.

In personal relationships, your brain will be happiest with many different connections. Set it up for happiness and contentment by building routines that involve daily connection with others. It’s unlikely that one person will be able to provide you with the connection your brain needs, so nurture a few important relationships with family and friends.

The German Shepherd Brain

The German Shepherd is a loyal, tireless protector. These dogs need to work, and their favorite task is protecting their master. They don’t give affection easily, but once you earn the loyalty of a German Shepherd, you have a friend for life.

Living with the German Shepherd Brain

If you have a German Shepherd brain, you will be in high demand. Your work ethic makes you very desirable for employers. German Shepherds are great watchdogs, and so are you. You’ll be a natural at identifying risk and alerting others. Don’t let your heightened state of awareness turn into a fear of change or an unwillingness to embrace new ideas. The German Shepherd is sometimes loyal to a fault, protecting the past in a way that prevents growth and development.

In your personal life, you stand by those you love through thick and thin. That’s a great trait, as long as there’s enough thick and not too much thin. At work and home, become conscious of any misplaced loyalty that could end up hurting you.

What Breed is Your Brain?

Of course there are more than three breeds of dog or three breeds of brain. What breed is your brain? Keep in mind that there aren’t many pure breeds: most of our minds are mutts. But we do have tendencies. Become aware of the instincts of your cognitive canine, and you can train your brain to become a helpful, productive lifelong companion.

 

Jake Breeden is author of Tipping Sacred Cows. He is a faculty member of Duke Corporate Education, where he’s taught leaders at Google, IBM, Starbucks and others.

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