Lessons of the pack: stories from the dogs who changed my life

“Lessons from the pack: stories from the dogs who changed my life” by Cesar Millan is a unique piece of writing, through which humans can regain their humanity and accept life as it is.  

Respect, freedom, faith, authenticity, forgiveness, wisdom, the capacity to pull through, and acceptance. These are some of the ingredients that make up a wonderful human being. The irony of it is that animals teach us how to be human, guiding us and pushing our limits to leave us wanting more, in the end.

The leader of the pack

Cesar Millan has written over 6 books on dog behavior, many of whom were considered a best-seller by the New York Times. Unlike his previous books, this one has us as the disciples, learning how to appreciate life through a dog’s perspective.

Growing up on a farm in Mexico, Cesar learned very quickly that each member of the family, including the animals, had a definite role to play to ensure the survival of the farm. No human was more important than others as no animal was more important than others. They each had their own role to play to ensure the success of every day.

The moment we understand that all people are members of a pack, where each plays an essential part in its survival and development, it’s the moment we win.

Our “packs”

In order to learn to become the leaders of our own lives and be an example for others, we have to start by being grateful for what we have. We spend way too much time complaining about the things we don’t have, that we end up taking for granted what we do have.

Wallace Walters, in his “The Science of Getting Rich”, emphasizes the importance of giving thanks for everything we have. When we are grateful for what we have, we open ourselves up for other things to be grateful for.

A dog lives its life selfishly, putting the good of the pack before its own. “How to stop worrying and start living”  by Dale Carnegie, teaches us exactly the same thing: live in the moment. The past cannot be changed, and there’s no reason to worry about something that hasn’t happened. Since it’s always today, enjoy it to the best of your ability.


Learning respect in the pack 

A leader inspires others because he himself is inspired by what he does. He is the one who exercises patience and forgiveness, being there to guide those who stumble through support and constant motivation.

As Simon Sinek in his Start with Why tells us: a leader is not necessarily in a management position. A leader is the one who motivates others, putting the good of the many above the good of the few. His mere presence gives everybody hope and belief that everything can be achieved. That doesn’t mean that he won’t be direct and strict when he has to. It just means that he is not afraid to do what’s right in any situation, taking responsibility for his actions.

Leadership starts with respect, both given and earned.

Respect is built on trust, which is the basis of all relationships. Leaders who fail to gain the respect and trust of others will end up having an authority based on fear.  

Every individual has a place and a role to play in the dynamics of the group. Each one contributes to the good of the whole. The leader who succeeds in bringing people to work together, by supporting and motivating each other, is the one who understands the importance of the “infinite game”.

Work ethics from a “pack” perspective

Cesar tells us about each dog having its place in the pack. When food was scarce, dogs would hunt in the field for food. They wouldn’t moan nor complain. They would take care of the puppies. Unlike humans, dogs wouldn’t get angry or fussy when they were hungry.

Despite all of it, they would show up for work, on time. They would always carry out their task till the last detail, not leaving anything for the next day. Dogs never took a day off. They understood very quickly that they played an important role in the functioning of the farm. That made their work enjoyable.

What a wonderful work ethic! Nothing compares with a dedicated workforce, who understands the importance of the individual to the success of the team.

We, humans, seem to fail at the respect chapter, more and more.

In the modern age, respect revolves around admiration towards wealth and excess as well as the number of friends one has in one’s social network, whichever it may be. In the human world, we have become tolerable towards the lack of respect, that the lack of it seems to bear no consequence anymore. It’s no wonder that children nowadays seem unstable and rebellious!

The freedom a pack brings

Freedom in a community is to allow the other to be himself and accept it. Don’t try to change the other person, for it’s an impossible task. Recognize the contribution of each individual, however small it may be. Without it, the group wouldn’t be the same.

Dale Carnegie said it best in his “How to win friends and influence people”: find out what people want and help them get it. True love means to support a person or animal to fulfill its destiny. Put his wellbeing above your own.

People have it backward thinking that what an animal needs are only affection, when, in fact, he needs much more than that. Humans have to put the animals’ needs above their own.

A lot of times we fool ourselves into thinking that we put the other’s needs and desires above our own. When in fact we do it so that our conscience is clear, that we feel a better husband, wife, or parent.

          Everything we do, we do it from the desire to prove to ourselves that we matter, that we are worthy. The best way to build a strong image of self-confidence is by gaining the respect and trust of those around us.


Authenticity in the pack


Be aware of your own instincts. Take heed of your first reaction or response. Trust it, for it is the most genuine. It may not be the most appropriate reaction, but it’s the most authentic one.

Chris Voss, in his “Never Split the Difference” tells us that we communicate:

  • 7% what we say
  • 38% the way we say it
  • 55% of our body language

Pay attention to the other person’s body language, especially the eyes. Our body tells us more than we would like to admit.

Evy Pompouras, in “Becoming bullet proof” talks about the sixth sense or inner voice. It warns us about the possible consequences of the truth. Don’t pay attention to what your rationale tells you because it might lead you astray. Your heart should always be your guide. Deep down, you feel whether your decisions have been the right ones or not.

Takeaways from “Lessons from the pack: stories from the dogs who changed my life”

In a small book called “The technique of producing ideas”, James Webb Young teaches us how to look beyond boundaries. It is there where new ideas are born, through combination and innovation or simply looking at the old differently.

An individual discovers things about himself only by:

  • Testing limits
  • Experiencing the world from a different perspective
  • Exercising empathy
  • Trying different and new approaches
  • Combining and rediscovering the old

Everything that is great, unique, and lasting has been achieved by testing and reaching more and more outside of our comfort zone. Maybe we need to look at other perspectives on life to understand the pieces that are missing from ours.

We are so used to take for granted our intelligence and everything we are, that it’s, sometimes, unimaginable to think that somebody else holds the key to our happiness. Wouldn’t be a shame to pass on the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, to thrive and develop, to try more and reach more? And what if it all starts with a dog?


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