Whose Dog Are You?
In 1738, Alexander Pope gave a dog to Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Engraved on the dog’s collar were these words:
“I am his Highness’ dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?”
Alexander Pope hitched his wagon to Prince Frederick, a rising star.
If you’ve seen the Masterpiece Theater television series, Wolf Hall, you’ll remember a similar conversation between Thomas Cromwell and his wife, Liz, as he explains why he has chosen to work for Cardinal Wolsey:
You know what they say in Italy? ‘Il principe bisogna sceglierlo… You have to pick your prince.'”
Later, Cromwell says to Rafe, his right-hand man,
The question is, have you picked your prince? Because that is what you do, you choose him and you know what he is. And then, when you have chosen, you say yes to him — ‘yes, that is possible, yes, that can be done.'”
Anyone that has ever risen through the ranks knows these things.
But this is America, where each of us wants to be his own dog, so we contrive new and different names for the princes we serve during every phase of our lives:
A child’s prince is called a role model.
An athlete’s prince is called a coach.
An employee’s prince is called a manager.
A businessperson’s prince is called a mentor.
An actor’s prince is called a director.
A director’s prince is called a producer.
A producer’s prince is called an investor.
An ad writer’s prince is called a client.
There is no end to the chain of princes.
Make no mistake, you have chosen a prince. In fact, you have chosen more than one.
What? You still believe that you are free and independent, without alliances and the obligations that come with them? I hope for your own sake this is not true.
The dog that is its own
is a stray
and has no home.
Each of us is stronger when we are bound to others.
Dogs are known for their ability to bind themselves to others. This instinctive loyalty allows them to form powerful alliances against animals that are much faster and stronger than they.
Solomon spoke of the power of such alliances in Ecclesiastes, chapter 4.
Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
My friend Roy Laughlin is known for his miraculous ability to do things in business that can’t be done. Years ago, I asked him his secret.
When I was a boy in elementary school, my grandfather pulled me aside one day and said, ‘Roy, the outcome of the game is determined the moment the captains pick sides. Pay attention to your playmates and you’ll always know, ‘If I can get him and him and her, we can win this thing.’ Know who you need on your team and figure out how to get them on your side. This is the secret of success. Never listen to anyone who says differently.”
In other words, you must pick your princes, the rising stars to which you will hitch your wagon.
And they, in turn, will hitch their wagons to you.
Roy H. Williams
Samuel Butler spoke of the loyalty of dogs 150 years ago. “The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.”