Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog

How Chinese New Year joy can help us to keep our business and community healthy

The traditional way of counting the years in China reminds us of the cyclical nature of time. In the West, we tend to emphasise linear progression: getting one year older with each birthday, compiling annual reports, completing tax returns etc. Chinese New Year reminds us that there is also a cyclical dimension to time – in the universe, in our lives and in our business.

Chinese civilization for millennia has thought of human life as a number of phases, each of 12 years: from birth to infancy, through adolescence to adulthood, and so on. Each year in the cycle of 12 is ‘numbered’ with an animal. Which means that every time your animal comes around, it is a reminder that you are beginning a new phase of your life. This next year is designated the year of the dog. So it’s likely to be the start of a new phase of life and work, particularly for people (and businesses) born around 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934.

The different characteristics of each animal also provide a theme for the year, which helps to ensure that communities and businesses do not overplay any one particular role, function or personality type.  Dogs are associated with fierce loyalty (cf. “man’s best friend”) – a “dogged commitment” to the team whether they do well or mess up. Traditionally the loyalty of the dog was blended with the ferocity of the lion and male-female pairs of “lion-dogs” would flank entrances to homes and businesses. The male would have a protective paw on a globe, representing the community’s “world”; the female on a cub, representing those in the community that needed nurturing. Even outside China (or China town), you may come across a “Shi Tzu,” which is not a zoo with no animals in it but rather a dog bred in China to resemble a “lion.”

Dogs seem to take an intense joy in simply meeting people. In his classic How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie expands on the business value of greeting everyone you meet as if you are delighted to see them. For those of us that are introverted and/or task-driven, this has to be a conscious discipline since our natural inclination is to avoid the discomfort and distraction of other people.

Whilst digital technology tempts us to behave in a more socially fractured way, the truth is that people of the world are more inter-dependent than ever before. However independent we may like to think we are, we are dependent on other people – for everything.

The typical new year greeting includes “旺旺”, which sounds like”汪汪” (woof-woof) and means “prosper” or “flourish.”  The ‘Year of the Dog’ is a helpful reminder that to flourish we need to value those who are loyal, protective and nurturing of our businesses and communities; to appreciate those who always make others feel welcome, loved and valued; and to make a conscious effort to emulate them if we are not naturally like that ourselves.