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Welcome back to UNLEASHED (at work & home), the podcast dedicated to helping pet professionals feel less stress and find more joy in their work and their home lives today. My guest is Karen Sinovich, who is an applied animal behaviorist in Cape Town, South Africa. Welcome, Karen.
Thanks, Colleen. Thanks for asking me to be here today.
I'm excited to be talking to you today we're going to be talking about reinvention and you have a very interesting past for a for a dog trainer and behaviors. Tell us a little bit about what you've done in your career.
I've done quite a few things. And I think, though, yes. The in a prior prior career. I was a potter I used to work in Portland and I had a very successful career for very many years as a as a ceramic artists come Potter. Yes.
And then I stopped, and then I became a dog trainer and a behaviorist so just shows. You're never too old to change and you can teach old dogs new tricks.
And that is such a common thing that we bump up against where people feel like, Well, I've been doing this for so long. This is all I can do. Or I'm you know my options are limited.
And I, I personally don't see a lot of links between being a potter and being a dog behaviorist. So do you see links between them, do you see happening.
I think there are links. And I think you have to be creative, to be a dog trainer or to be a behaviorist, you have to think on your feet.
And being a potter is whilst it's a bit of a lonely profession and you have to do things to get out and and market yourself, you have to
Meet people you have to sometimes take rejection on the show on the chin, so to speak. So a lot of the things I think that just life throws at you.
Are very valuable in any career and they probably show up time and time again in different ones. And you may be just don't realize it.
And I also, I think, with dealing with people you deal with all sorts of people from people who
Really like watch what you do as a potter say for instance, or what you make to people who can be very critical of what you do.
And it's a case and. And again, I think there's, there's, it's the same with dog training and with behavior work. You can't take these things personally. So I think it stands you in good stead. No matter what, what, three, you've got
Yeah, that was a great answer, because you're right there. Those are very common situations. And both of those careers. So, what, what would be a piece of advice you'd give to people for not taking things so personally because we do tend to walk around taking it so personally
We do, we do take things personally and I think I think from dealing with people and also are used to
Just going back to being a potter or to being an artist. When I was one. I also used to teach people. So I think I luckily acquired the skill of
Dealing with people and realizing it wasn't always how
You have to understand where people are coming from. They don't always coming from the same starting point, as you are.
And I think that's why you don't take things personally when you realize maybe they have had a bad day, or there's a lot more going on in their lives than you, then you can imagine so.
I think, yeah, you just develop that maybe a bit more empathy to understand that it's
It's not personal, but maybe there are other reasons and just looking at the bigger picture and putting yourself maybe in their shoes and thinking, well, how would I have responded, If I had been criticized or if this has happened to me, I think, then you start to look at things differently.
Yeah, I think that's really valuable because we are always writing stories in our heads, but our stories are often just the first one that comes up in our head we decide is the correct one. And that's not really true.
So definitely there are
So many different ways we could look at that situation. And that's very helpful advice.
What supported you as you made the shift from Pottery to dog behavior.
I was very lucky in that because I've worked for myself. I think I always I've always been Self Employed, not employed. So I think in some ways it's, it makes it easier because I think you are.
You're maybe more likely to take challenges and not be worried about the results because if you work for yourself that I think happens on a daily basis. You've just got to make decisions and
And live with the consequences, and I was I was fortunate in that when I started to change over from from one thing to another. I sort of had a foot on on on in both at the time.
And for for a couple of months, or actually for probably about a year or 18 months I actually did both. And in fact,
I'm very grateful that I could be a part of. Because that finance my studies to become an animal behaviorist so I was very, I was really fortunate that I could do that to actually support myself to to actually become educated into what I wanted to do.
Yes, and I, I think, also, they just also comes a time when you decide
If something's got to give and you're ready to actually just take the leap.
That's really important that comes up a lot for people where there's sort of a longing to make a change and it's there for a while, it's there and it's there, it's not the right time, not the right time, not the right time and then you decide. Yep.
Something's gotta give and it's time to go.
Do you think that how common, do you think that is for people that longing.
I think it's very common. And I think a lot of people are afraid of what will happen.
But I think, to be honest. My attitude is being really what's the worst that can happen.
I used to play that game with my children when they were little, and they were worried about things to say, well, what's the worst thing that can happen.
Okay, this can happen. Did you die. No. Okay, this could happen. But did you die. No. So pretty much, that's how we used to sort of
Go through situations that might be scary or might be life changing in that moment. And I think also
If. What's the worst that can happen, it doesn't work out, so then you go back to what you did. You haven't lost anything you've gained something by at least trying and you never know until you try
That's awesome advice. There's a tool and positive psychology that plays that what's the worst that can happen game.
Okay, and it, it goes in both directions. So the idea is you say here's, here's the situation. I'm thinking about, you know, making this decision. Okay, what's the worst that can happen and
Let me just create a scenario. So we can play with it. I'm I am currently a potter and I am going to switch over to study animal behavior. Well, what's the worst that could happen.
I will be bad at it. Okay. And then because of that. What's the worst that could happen will then everyone will be
Angry and feel like I've taking their money for no good reason. Oh, well, then what's the worst that could happen there.
Then I'll feel like a fraud and I'll feel terrible. And then what's the worst that can happen.
Well, then I'll until you go into the really extreme, so then it's like, and then I will have no money and I will be, you know, forced to move out of my home. And then, unless of course they happen like that. I'm just impoverished in all that's terrible.
Really, I should not go from Pottery to animal behavior.
But then you have to play the opposite direction. What's the best that could happen.
And this is where people are really bad at it. So you say, Okay, I'm thinking of switching from Pottery to dog behavior. What's the best that can happen.
I could learn exciting new things and help lots of families and then because of that. What's the best that could happen. And then people get stuck and like
Well, then it's thousands of dogs in South Africa have better lives. Well then because of that. What's the best I could happen.
Well, then those families adopt more dogs and spread more information about how to live well with dogs and more families all over the globe are happier.
And then what's the best that can happen. Well, then it becomes this giant national movement where everybody everywhere is taking good care of animals and there's a better relationship between animals and people
And people are really bad about playing the, what's the best thing that happened side of it and we're really good at, what's the worst that could happen.
So having those two pieces is a really interesting thing. And I love that you played that game with your kids because the at least the downside, because being able to look and go, that's not actually that bad, but
I think that I think so.
We do, but I think also, if you sort of almost face those fears or those demons in your head, then it's not it's of course you will be worried and they are mean. It's nothing is perfect. And there are days, you think, what the heck. Have I done
It doesn't matter you you decide, well, I'm going to give it a go and going to try. So you only get one chance. I think you only get one life and you, you need to. I don't want to ever look back and say, I shouldn't have done that. I should have. I should have. I should have. I should have. So
I want to look back and say, Well, I'm glad I gave it a go.
Have you always been that kind of person, or is that something you learned
I think I've learned it more, but I think I always was inherently that type of person. I think I'm a Pollyanna type person.
I am i think i love Pollyanna reading Pollyanna as a child. And I think, yeah, I am a bit of a Pollyanna I always try even though I can be miserable and down cost and whatever. Eventually I'll always said but alright let's see what we can, what's good in in a situation
Mm hmm. That's kind of awesome. So what was challenging for you as you made the shift.
Challenging, I think.
Known and gaining experience. I think in the beginning when you do all of these things. You, you go, I think I don't know what that that whole lot is, but you know when you go from
You think you know everything to you realize, you know, absolutely. Oh, you
crash and burn a little and you realize you know nothing about anything. And then you start to sort of gain that little bit of confidence and maybe I know a little bit about something. So that's sort of been how it went.
So, so, yes. I think the way though that I was that I practiced and and the work that I've done with it was all positively reinforced training and it's always tried to be forced free training. So even if things were maybe the best. You weren't doing really any harm. Hopefully, so yes.
And that's like to think I've improved over the years.
So yes, it is a continual improvement thing i i
Had sort of that experience of like learning things and thinking, Oh, I know what I'm doing. And then learning. One more thing, and realizing oh now I have so many questions now. I'm pretty sure I know nothing.
That I've been peaks and valleys of of learning. It is. It's a fascinating thing. And you just keep diving in more questions all the time.
And I think that's the thing, lifelong. Look, I think you're never done. And I think that's I I have that sort of mind where I like learning. I like trying things and again. Yeah, I might be rubbish at it, and a lot of things I truly have rubbish out, but I'll always give it a go.
There's something very freeing about that, that it's a common piece of advice is to try to take a course or something that you're going to be bad at and know you're going to be bad at it but just do it for
And and that there can be something freeing and saying like I am never gonna be great at whatever this is. But wasn't equal to try or or the single experience things where you're like why don't think I'd want to do that a lot, but it was fun to have done it once. Yes.
But there are limits to that as well. Colleen. I'm not the sort of person that say would bungee jump or jump out of an airplane.
I have to say those sort of things are for other people. I find walking in a straight line challenging enough. Some days I that's for me an extreme sport. Some days.
So yeah, I
I don't think yeah so something's I don't think I'll ever try, but I'll be the one on the ground, holding your handbag while you jump.
cheering you on.
Yeah, I'm not, I'm not certain. I'd have the courage to do that either. I was speaking to a man this weekend, who said he loves doing that and that recently as part of a charity event he was
bringing attention to the Girl Scouts. So he was rappelling down the side of a building and agreeing to to, like, you know, real men.
Girl Scouts or something like that. And I was like, Huh. No, I don't think I could repel down the side of a building.
Think I would just be
Frozen at the top going, No, no.
So the idea of reinvention that's a really big word like it. The complete pivot, which is what you did. But for lots of us, it can be just like opening a door to something new.
And what comes up frequently in my conversations with pros is that they feel stuck. They feel like nothing's going to change and that they don't have a lot of power to effect change what ideas do you have for starting small where you are.
Try something different or new
Um, that's a really good question. I think just doing one small thing at a time and looking at things in bite sized chunks is possibly the way to do it. If you are stuck and
Thinking maybe what what you are unhappy not unhappy with that work. Why are you feeling, sort of in a rut, or whatever. So just changing one small thing and it might not even be about Korea, it might be just something else that you do in a day, and instead of
You know, getting home from work and going for a walk or just taking a short moment to, you know, read a book or do something else for yourself or just doing one little thing often just helped spark change. I think
So I think just one tiny little thing can can affect it. It doesn't have to be necessarily a whole career change.
But I think as well. If you like look at reinvention I think we reinvent ourselves on a day to day basis. And in many ways, I think we do so.
Mean, whether it's just getting your hair cut. That's reinvention often wearing a different color shirt to what you would normally wear or trying florals versus stripes or it can be anything, couldn't it so
Yeah, it's that's a way to start. And maybe you find that, yeah, I really like that color and I never thought I could like it, or no, it's not me, but
I think there's lots of ways to to start without it being a big investment or a big change or yes and I think find people that maybe you can talk to
About things like that. And even if they're not immediate family or relatives, I think, I don't have a lot of those people around me either, but
I'm very lucky. I have a daughter and a son and my husband who are quite supportive, my husband's not keen on listening to all of this stuff, but it's
Sort of not at the right time and but I think that's why where the internet and all these communities are great because you can find people you can find so much these days. And it's actually pretty accessible. I think for everybody. Yes.
It is amazing how the internet has made the world smaller because whatever your interest is you can find someone else who shares it
Definitely. I mean, look at us.
Boys always admired all your work. I mean, I recommend your book so often to people. In fact, I actually just sent a report this week with read that book.
So, so yes, I think. And here we are talking. I never in my wildest dreams thought, I thought I'd ever speak to somebody like you. And yet here we doing it so it's
never in my wildest dreams.
Thought someone in South Africa would have read my book.
I think that. But getting back to things. I think that's where you don't realize what an effect, you can have on on the world.
And it might not be yes, we might not be Nobel Prize winners and we might not be whatever but all those little things, it is a it is true, you put cost that pebble into water and it ripples outwards and you, you never know where it's going to end. Yeah.
That came up for me this weekend I was at a conference and I saw someone I had seen at the conference two years before. And she and I had had a conversation
That changed my thinking a little bit on something. So I was like, oh, thank you so much for that because you just gave me a new way of thinking about it and she said, really.
I never I you know like never thought about that conversation again after it was over, and that's how so many of these things are
Then three hours later, someone came up to me and said, I love your book and it changed my thinking about something and I was like, really.
And I thought, it's that ripple effect that Melissa didn't realize that she had had an effect on me and I didn't realize I had had an effect on this other person. And we can never know. We never really know where things go
And that's it's it's powerful to think about from that perspective and in a previous podcast.
Veronica Sanchez was talking about how often we feel that we failed when we have a conversation with a person and
We're you know making a suggestion or offering advice, particularly in a professional role and they don't seem to adopt it. He said, But what you don't really know if
An hour later, or four weeks later, or four years later that all the pieces. Finally, click into place and they go, Oh, now I understand. Yes. And she said, it's easy for us to kind of beat ourselves up and go, oh, I failed today. When in reality, all we know is we dropped a pebble.
Today I dropped it.
I think so. And I think we're very hard on your own ourselves and to say, oh, I failed today. You didn't fail because you went out and you saw somebody who who who reached out to ask for help and you went and you gave them.
The best advice on what you could on that day in that moment, so you don't fail. I think you you try each and every day and I'm sure that's
The same for all of us, we, we really do try our best. It's not that we we go into things, and we do it half heartedly. I think most of us really really do.
Give it our all which is possibly why we do get so down costs here and there, when we think that people aren't taking our advice and we're very quick to criticize ourselves. I think so. I think you don't fail. I think we were actually doing okay.
So from the perspective of reinvention, what would you say is a circumstance for client, where you have felt like things were changed enough that you could save this one's kind of a reinvention of a relationship or a situation
Think I see relatively often I think because often when people contact you and especially if you're doing a behavior consult. First of all, people will
See you, or call you, because there's been a crisis. I think that's it's usually an emergency or some crisis that propels them to reach out and find somebody like me to say, Come and help me with my dog.
And often, at that time, I think they relationship is
Often on often it is on shaky ground. I've seen clients in the past where it's really fractured that they don't like that dog that they actually are considering we homing, or even worse in certain situations.
And just by labeling them events, letting them talk and saying, but this is good, this is good that you actually can start to glue it back together and often
I think I've been very lucky in that a lot of the clients that I see when I leave if even if things don't change radically they always say, I feel so much more confident now.
And I always think that is already a huge, huge reinvention because instead of feeling powerless or useless or whatever the words. They've used in their heads. They can now say, actually, I can do this. And I think I always feel then I've done my job because I have empowered them to try
I think that was really beautiful. I loved how you said that the whole idea of giving someone confidence is a reinvention and and that that is the role that you serve for the client. I love that very well.
So do you have any, any final thoughts or suggestions that you would offer to pet professionals who are are eager to
Just make a shift.
Yes, I think if you want to make a shift, you should give it a try. And as, as I said to you earlier on, what's, what's the worst that can happen.
Yeah, if it doesn't work out, you've had the experience, you know, then it's not for you. And that's also not a bad thing is some things aren't for all of us.
And I know I'm not for bungee jumping, for instance, airplane.
It's not, it's not for me. But there's lots of other things that are for me that I can try. And I'll say, that was great. It was a great experience.
I mean, I'll give you a quick example of something I did try the other day, something I did. I've always wanted to do was go mushroom foraging. Okay, so I joined this course they were doing mushroom foraging my daughter and I went off on it. It was the biggest waste of my time.
I could not find in fact clean. I found one mushroom. It was the poison mushroom that nobody else wanted. I was the only one I found so
I know I will never be a mushroom foraging, from now on, and I will just go to the market or to the shop and I will buy my mushrooms. So
Yeah, but it wasn't a bad experience. It was nice to be out in the morning in the forest, etc. But I did get very sloppy with feet, which I wasn't keen on but
Aside from that,
It was it was okay. So, yeah.
Yeah, that's the spirit to like your now I've done it. I have done mushroom foraging and it's not for me.
I think just trying something that's may be completely different.
And seeing yes it's good or no, it's not because I think otherwise, we do we, we, we can just focus one step in front of another just to get through our days. And before we know our days of change two weeks, two months, two years.
And you look back and say, Where did all that time. Go and otherwise you can. If so, if you have
I think the thing is, whilst people say, I know I'm rambling a bit. But whilst people say, Follow your passion. Passion isn't enough that I would have loved to have done a lot of things, but you also have to have a reality check. I think to know that.
Yeah, I wasn't going to be an astrophysicist, I wasn't going to be a ballet dancer, a mushroom foraging therapy.
I could be a dog trainer, I could be a behaviorist I was a good Potter. So all of those sort of things I could be
And there's probably another I still love to maybe one in one life be a florist, for some reason, or have a nursery a garden center love John's. Interesting. Yeah, so I think just being an enthusiast and trying stuff. There's nothing nothing lost by trying. Yes.
That's perfect. That sounds like a great place to wrap up our conversation here today.
So, Karen. If you want to learn more about you and your work. How could they do that.
Oh, they can probably find me out on Facebook. I'll give you the link if you like afterwards or just it's just under my name Karen's I think it's Karen center which animal behaviorist
So I'm on Facebook. I'm on Instagram. You can see what I get up to you can laugh at all my bloopers because yes I do make a few and that's that's about where you'll find me. Awesome.
I will link to those in the show notes so people can find them. Thank you so much for talking with me today, Karen.
This has been really fun.
Thanks, Colleen. It was lovely. Thank you so much for having me. It's been really a great experience.