​All I really need to know about loving work I learned from Zena, my Labrador retriever. My resolution has always been to try as hard as I can to follow her example.

Start the day with gusto 

Zena wakes with a mission. She’s motivated. And she’s determined to motivate me. She stands beside my bed, rests her head on the mattress, her eyes level with mine, and stares piercingly, willing me to get up. 

She’s always eager to face the outside world

In fact, she charges into it, and returns to dive into her breakfast with delight. Then she’s ready for a vigorous workout to stay physically fit. That’s a 40‐minute‐plus walk either around the sidewalks of the city or through the woods and fields, depending on where we are that day.

Focus on a task

Zena’s singular ability to concentrate all her mental and physical energy allows her to achieve winning performance. She’s a pro at what she does, and she devotes her whole heart and all her abilities to every project. She’s absorbed with every sinew and nerve. She’s vibrant and alive.Throw a Frisbee, ball, or stick, and she’s off, tearing down the field, knowing instinctively when to pivot and leap to catch it. 

She dives with abandon into ponds, and swims with the strength and pure beauty of a canine athlete, making a direct beeline to her goal in record time. As far as I can tell, she never blocks out the pure enjoyment these moments offer by letting other matters distract her. Admittedly, she is free from worrying about finances, fitness, or health. Instead, she delegates those matters to me.

Stay present

Zena is wholly present, in the moment, with all her being—a state that comes naturally to her. Her attentiveness to what she’s engaged in is never clouded by her future ambitions or the need to return e‐mails, to tweet, or to juggle three jobs at once to keep her business prosperous.

Value yourself and charge accordingly

Zena doesn’t do anything for free. She gets paid in the form of barter, of course, but she gets paid well for her services. There are no pay cuts, layoffs, or furloughs in her world. She commands benefits we can only dream of scoring. Her bosses adore her. She knows this, but she doesn’t take it for granted. She has a contract, albeit implied, that includes all‐expenses‐paid, first‐class accommodations wherever she roams; high‐quality and nutritious meals; vacations; spa treatments such as massages and pedicures; and other enviable employee fringe benefits.

Look at what goes right

Zena concentrates on the positive aspects of her job. She doesn’t dwell on the negative or complain or whine about the long hours when she’s parked under my desk while I work and her talents aren’t being put to their best use. In a nutshell, she’s optimistic. 

Push in fresh directions

Zena is always on the lookout for new opportunities. She takes advantage of every walk. Smells and sounds lead her from one new place to another with openness and a fresh sense of excitement. She never fails to gain from social gatherings and networking events with her dog pals. She rarely turns down an invitation to a dinner party at our friends’ houses. 

She regularly keeps her skills sharp and adds new ones by attending training classes and workshops with internationally renowned dog trainers Jack and Wendy Volhard, authors of Dog Training for Dummies (Wiley, 2004), and participating in an engaging rally class that keeps her on her toes as she moves through a course designed to test her skills and obedience. Her goal? Progress, not perfection.

Network more

Zena may have a comfy job running our homes and lives, but that doesn’t mean she stops networking. She’s proactive about her networking efforts—attending events and reaching out to professionals in her field whose work she respects. She is always going out for walks to reconnect with longtime contacts, even those she has known since puppy kindergarten—anything she can do to keep old relationships solid and grab opportunities to build new ones.

Go places 

Zena knows the importance of travel, of going new places and experiencing new sights, sounds, and cultures. Her official job title: Road Manager. We log more than 25,000 miles a year rolling from Washington, D.C., north to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston, and south to Virginia, South Carolina, and beyond.

Each time out the door, out of the comfort zone of her fluffy dog bed and the safety of her fenced yard, she learns valuable skills—and maybe even gets some insights into how to manage me better. She trots out to the car and pops in without looking back. No questions asked. She props her front feet on the console of my Subaru Outback and stares fixedly out the front windshield as if asking, “What’s next? Let’s go!”

“By the way,” she silently commands. “Can you roll the window down? I want to pop my nose out, feel the wind on my face, soak up the smells—and use all my senses to enjoy the ride”.

Why the “lessons” from Zena? I share these teachings with you because whenever I feel lost, or resentful, or bored with my job, I look at Zena and remember that life is for enjoying and pushing boundaries and learning. She personifies the purity of loving your job. In the following chapters, my hope is that you, too, will experience a Zena‐like “aha” moment and find ways to discover real joy in your own job. Let’s go!

This is an extract from Kerry Hannon's Love Your Job