Doug is a good boy. Some have even called him the best of all the good boys. But that was a long, long time ago.
By all accounts, Doug was no ordinary show dog. He didn’t come from a champion pedigree. He didn’t have the best coat, nor the best markings.
But Doug had something few other dogs are born with: a willingness to work harder than any other dog.
Doug had never seen a show ring, let alone win a prize. But that all changed when Master rescued him.
The Master took Doug under his wing. He gave him a nice house. He fed him good food. But most importantly of all – the Master recognized Doug’s potential and he treated him with respect.
The Master told Doug stories about legendary show dogs – how they bounded across the arenas with grace and how they lifted the spirits of crowds.
Doug wanted nothing more than to be a champion someday, so he could inspire crowds. The Master warned Doug how hard he would have to work – still it did not deter him.
So the Master agreed to train that ordinary rescue pup into a champion show dog.
Doug’s work ethic served him well. When the Master said sit, Doug sat, and the Master rewarded him with a treat. When the Master said lay down, Doug laid, and he received a treat.
Occasionally, Doug would encounter an obstacle that didn’t come naturally – there were no treats for bad performance.
Still, the Master patiently instructed him through drills to improve his footwork – so Doug worked harder and harder until he got it.
After several months, Doug and the Master entered some contests. Doug performed well and earned third prize, but not well enough to win. Doug still had much to learn.
Master warned Doug they would need to work harder yet to win – but if Doug wanted to quit, they could. Doug refused. He said he wanted to become a champion.
So they continued to train.
Several months and contests later, Doug had developed quite the reputation for himself. He had taken home several modest winnings. But his attitude began to change. Doug became prideful.
Doug began to forget why he wanted to be a show dog. He liked the level of success he had attained, and he forgot about hard work. No longer did he dream of glory – instead he dreamed only of more and more treats.
One day, Doug confronted the Master. Doug demanded more treats. Doug warned the Master, if he didn’t pay up, he would find a new Master.
The Master didn’t want Doug to leave. But he didn’t want Doug to miss out on his potential, either. So he told Doug a hard truth…He told Doug the only way to get more treats was to win more.
But Doug refused to hear it. So Doug left the Master who had trained him behind and set out to find a new one.
And a new Master he found. The new Master gave Doug all the treats he wanted. He showered Doug with a regular treat allowance and bonus treats – even if Doug didn’t train. After a few months, Doug gave up training all together.
Then one day Doug woke up. He realized he had gotten fat. It had been years since he competed in a contest…and he felt empty. He had forgotten how to bound across the arena and longed for the applause of a crowd.
He even missed the old Master. The treats had made him too comfortable, and distracted him from his goal…
But now, Doug realized, he was too old to compete. He had missed his chance at glory…all for a few extra treats…
I was once Doug. I set out with high hopes and good intentions. Then I got distracted by money.
It made me forget all the people who helped push me to become better. But it was an easy way to keep score, so I chased it.
Until one day I realized that doing the kind of work that makes me happy is worth more than all the treats…
May you discover the same before it’s too late.
*I originally published this post on Quora in response to the question What career limiting moves have you seen people make?