If a large branch falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?  If I empty the dishwasher and there is no one in the house to recognize my significant contribution to the stability of the home, does it count?  Yes, my contributions count and the branch does make a sound.  The significance is in the events and not whether or not there was an audience.

If you as a worker in the animal care industry find that you are making significant contributions but are unsure if anyone hears or cares, I’d like you to know that we do care and we want to hear.

We want to hear your story, what brought you to such a noble profession, what made you stay when things around you made you feel less than secure, and what made you decide to be world famous at what you do.

Through the trainings that we offer we have the fortunate opportunity to hear people’s stories.  And I must admit they are humbling and amazing and funny and we want to hear more.  Just recently I spoke with a woman who was a chauffeur prior to coming into our industry. Another gentleman was a chef looking for something different. There’s also the story of the son who got into the industry because it was part of the family legacy.  I believe people want to share their stories because it makes them more real. I believe we need to hear each other’s stories because it makes us more real and in doing so we care a little more.

I recently met with a lab animal group that had come under some significant pressure from animal rights extremists.  Just asking them why they stayed at their job blew me away.   Here are some of their replies: “Because I didn’t want to stop caring for the animals” … “the people protesting what I do still deserve the benefits of our research” and … “the people that I work with care about me and we need each other”.  What great testimonies of commitment to purpose.

These are the stories we need to hear. These are stories that make us real to each other and spur us on to continue pursuits of excellence and dedication for the noble thing we do.

There will be branches in the woods that fall and no one hears, and there will be times you make significant contributions to the world around you with no audience.  May this be of one of many forms of encouragement to keep doing what you do, keep creating chapters to your story. It still matters!  And some day maybe you will have the chance to share your story with others.

I remember as a child my mom would always tell me to stop always asking “why” and just do what I was told.  I believe she was on to something that most parents understand.   There are times when you just need to do what you are told and trust, especially as a 5 year old child.  On a visit with my God Son who at the time was 4 we had the most riveting conversation all based on the word “why”.  Never in my life had I been asked so many “why” questions, “why doesn’t Spiderman run out of webs, why does Kryptonite make Superman lose his powers, why don’t you live in Atlanta …… why is the sky blue?

I believe as we get older there is a transition point where the ban on asking why is lifted and we slowly emerge into a world where it’s okay to ask why.  This can be a scary and challenging place for some.  Asking why has the potential to challenge assumptions and reveal answers that may be difficult at times to answer and embrace.

There are problem solving techniques that require asking why to uncover the root cause of a problem.  There are times when we ask why out of frustration because we have no other recourse of action.  There are times when we ask why to get better understanding and clarity of purpose.  All are legitimate reasons to ask why.

Have you ever been given a task and wanted desperately to ask a why question?  “Why me, why this way or why now” Or have there been times when these why questions have been asked of you?  There is a time and place to ask why.  Maybe not in the middle of a crisis requiring immediate action but certainly there should be space for why questions in the course of our day.  Consider this:  If you want clarification or deeper understanding, you may have to ask”why”.  If someone asks why of you, it’s often because they want clarification and deeper understanding.  As shocking as it may be, sometimes our communication is not always as eloquent and thorough as we would hope.

As a progressive leader encourage those around you to ask the “why” questions and embrace the questions when asked of you.  The more clarity and purpose you can provide to your staff the better chance of their success, your success and the success of the organization.  Should you not currently be in a position of leadership, let this be your permission to ask those why questions, your supervisor isn’t my “mom”;) it’s okay to ask.

“Time flies”!  Whether you’re having fun or not, time really doesn’t wait for any of us.  In looking back on a year that seems to have flown by there are so many things that I have reflected on.  The most significant is that over this past year, we at ACTS have been able to connect with so many people all over the world in ways that I never imagined possible.

As you read this article just before the holidays I want to say thank you to all the good people that we have had the chance to connect with over the past year.  Thank you for the opportunity to share our passion and expertise with you.  Thank you for sharing your passion and expertise with us. Thank you for reaching out to us, thank you for stopping by our booth, for visiting our website and for joining us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

We do what we do for people like you in our industry.  One of our mantras at ACTS is “Trained people perform better”.  It’s a pretty simple statement but it keeps in front of us the idea that people, above all, matter the most. It’s our desire to provide the best training we can, to not only ensure the highest quality of animal care but also to empower people to do be their absolute best.

Sometime it is very easy to look into the future and think about all the things that are to come, which is a good thing, but we want to stop and reflect for a moment and take the time to Thank You for helping make this year memorable.

It’s my hope that you will be able to take a moment during this crazy and exhilarating time to reflect back on your 2011 and take the opportunity to thank those people who have helped make a positive impact in your life and career this year.

So from all of us at ACTS we want to wish you a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous and empowered 2012!