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Shawna Schuh

Embrace Manure Flinging: It Comes with Animals … and Leading a Business

What if all the tasks you do are embedded with love?

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I CLEAN TWO HORSE stalls nearly every day. Every day I fling manure into a wheelbarrow knowing full well that not more than 24 hours later I will be repeating this task.

It doesn’t bother me. Matter of fact, I’ve come to love this time I take, usually in the morning, to serve animals that can not serve themselves in this task.

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I mention it here because as leaders, there are certain consistent tasks that we can either embrace or rally against.

People sometimes ask me, usually when I’m dressed up, looking and acting highly professional and engaged in complex conversation, “Do you clean your own stalls?” Or, and pet people can so relate to this, “Doesn’t it bother you that you have to feed, care for, pay attention to your pet every day?”

This is usually a person who had decided not to have animals. Who uses the excuse that they travel too much, or that they don’t want to go through the heartbreak when a beloved pet dies, or even, that it would be “unfair” to the animal since they really don’t have time.

I am in agreement that this person is smart not to have a pet. Each person has to make their own choices, and yet they are the ones who seem to have an opinion about the time, money or energy I spend on my lifestyle and four-legged charges.

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Why do I mention any of this? Which camp are you in? And how do you think about the consistent and repeating tasks that being a leader assumes?

Here are a few ideas to mull over, maybe while you’re doing whatever your flinging manure task is?

1. What’s our big “why?” Simon Sennick in a TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” explains the golden circle that encompasses the What, the How and — the deepest — the Why. It’s worth a watch (petsplusmag.com/2203). I challenge you to determine why you picked this life, this career, these tasks.

2. Remember that it’s your choice. When we have repetitive tasks, like cleaning horse stalls, doing your books, writing your goals, it’s easy to slip into a rut that sometimes feels like a deep ditch, and since there’s no finish line, can become tedious. Or not.

3. Color it with love. Though I cannot say I love manure, I do love flinging it into the wheelbarrow. I consider it an act of love. Love for my horses, love for my lifestyle, love for the exercise it gains me and deep love for a job well done and finished.

What if all the tasks you do are embedded with love? What if you played a game with your repetitive tasks to find ways to expedite them? Shift them into a test? What if you looked at every task as an opportunity to tweak, improve and excel?

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Example: I have set up my barn in ways to do things with more ease, more fun, and that allow me to use my flinging time to improve myself. People ask how I listen to so many books. Manure-flinging rules!

Check in with yourself about those tasks you think are mundane or repetitive — maybe even gross. I mean, manure doesn’t have many redeeming qualities, but I have come to appreciate it for what it does for me.

Shawna Schuh is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic programming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com.

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