My wife wanted a dog. Not just any dog, a particular breed. She's even named her dog, Sunny. So when she asked me to sit with her to watch the Westminster Kennel Club's 139th show, I sat right there like a good boy and tuned in.
I thought we we'd learn a little about dogs but I learned something else along the way. Something you can use. It goes like this... Miss P, a 4-year-old Beagle from British Columbia, won Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club all-breed dog show at Madison Square Garden earlier this week. She won for being herself.
David Merriam, a dog breeder and former California state trial judge, picked the winner in the event’s final round. Miss P, representing the hound group, beat six others for the top prize, including the crowd-favorite Old English Sheepdog named Swagger and Charlie, the Skye Terrier that took the Reserve Best in Show honors for runner-up.
Reviewing the lineup of finalist together, Miss P might have seemed a longshot. But not if you understand how winning the show is suppose to work. Let's consider her competition:
The Sheep Dog - Swagger is a beautiful blow-dried version of Shepherd's Best Friend. He was a crowd favorite for his oversized, huggable self.
The Portuguese Water Dog - If memory serves this breed may be seen bouncing around the White House. A large dog, Matisse, sported a perfect black coat and rat tail.
The Skye Terrier - Charlie's brushed long hair with black fringes resemble something from a Disney movie. The judge himself presented a Terrier at his first show some 40 years ago. You'd think that might have tipped the scales in this contestant's favor.
There were others like the finely manicure Poodle and the picture perfect Spaniel. But finely, there was simply lovable Beagle--Miss P. So, how did she win? Like this:
In a dog conformation show, judges aren't really comparing the dogs to each other. Instead, they judge each dog against the parameters of the idealized version of its breed. In other words, when the judge looked at the beagle, Miss P, he is comparing her to the written standards of the ideal beagle. The standards address various body parts and attributes, including:
Balance: overall appropriate proportions in size
Eyes: color, size, shape
Ears: shape, length, position
Muzzle: shape, length
Teeth: kind of bite (e.g. level or scissors bites)
Tail: how it arches and sets (e.g. how high or low)
Shoulders: bone, muscle
Legs: muscles, stance, proportionality
Coat: texture, length
Color: accepted breed colors
That's plenty to concern yourself so why spend your time trying to be others? Look, the bottom line is this: the contestant that is the very best version of his or herself wins. Yes, there are a lot of pretty dogs out there--someone for everyone you might say--but winning at life or as a brand is about authenticity.
The secrect to winning would appear to be found in one simple premise, be your best you.
Oh but what about my wife's favorite, you ask. Well Sunny's breed isn't recognized by the WKC Show. "What?" you ask. Nope, he's not in there. Sunny is a golden doodle. He's cute, popular, lovable and everything else but there's no category for him in the contest. It's a good thing that he and his kind don't subscribe to WKC's show rules to determine relevance. Maybe there's something in that for the rest of us:
Don't let the established categories determine what you'll be. If it's you and people want it, be it. Be the very best of your own new breed.