A young dog can teach an old dog new tricks
As you get older, get used to being taught new things by people younger than you. Respect them for their knowledge. Don’t condescend because of their age or take it as a hit to your ego.
The original saying went, “An old dog will learn no tricks.”
While no one is certain of the specific origins of the phrase, it appeared as early as 1721 in the book “Divers Proverbs” by Nathan Baily. The saying originated at a time when dogs were trained to perform specific jobs such as herding or hunting, abilities that would naturally decline as dogs aged and lost the use of their senses.
Technology is really driving this point home.
Think about how prior to the 20th century most crafts were things that you learned and perfected over a lifetime. It was usually older people teaching the next generation. Now new software comes out every year and can completely change a field. It is now common place that the new generation, with a fresh education and take on problem solving, has to teach the older generation.
While declining health might prevent older dogs from being able to perform certain tasks, they still have the ability to learn new skills — though at a slower rate than puppies and younger dogs.
In a study conducted at the University of Vienna’s Clever Dog Lab, a test of dogs’ ability to learn to distinguish between objects found that dogs around 10 years of age took more than twice as many repetitions and corrections than puppies 6 months to 1 year old. However, the older dogs outperformed the young pups in logic and reasoning tasks, suggesting that older dogs stubbornly refuse to unlearn what they already know. The study found no age difference in dogs’ ability to retain their training.
So as an old dog, what can you do about it?
One of the smartest things I’ve done through my early and mid-career, and continue to do in my daily activities, was/is being available and supportive of incoming talent. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of them grow into amazing managers and directors at my level. By working and growing with them, I’ve been able to shape them and they in turn have shaped me.
I’ve also been able to rely on them to get things done faster because of my history with them and that early relationship foundation. Nurture these relationship, don’t resent them. Build trust with your younger colleagues, don’t lock them out. Be a friend and remember how important that was early in your own career.
Despite the old adage, teaching an old dog new tricks is possible. Training an older dog simply takes time and repetition along with a whole lot of patience and love. Younger dogs can help you, you just need to let them in.