Bark Less, Wag More (and other graduation advice)

Andrew Myler
Last weekend, I took a motorcycle safety course. Don’t worry, I am not heading to Sturgis or hitting the open road this summer; I’ve just always wanted a Vespa and a side car. (I want to put goggles on my dog and cruise the neighborhood.)
I passed the class, barely. I graduated dead last. I am not yet a proficient cyclist, but I did learn some valuable information. My main takeaway—be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention.
I’ve been hyperaware while driving this week, and I’ve picked up some road wisdom. The motorcycle class was like an eye exam, and I now have my road glasses. On Monday, on the way to school, I noticed a bumper sticker on the back of a Subaru that read “Bark Less, Wag More.” (Have you noticed that a typical Subaru averages five message bumper stickers? Subarus are a good source of advice.)
What does it mean to “Bark Less, Wag More?” Let’s breakdown the phrase. 
Bark means growl, grumble, woof, bellow, holler, yelp, yap, or complain. We are surrounded by constant barking. Every morning, I read the headlines of two competing news sources; all the headlines are barking. It feels like two dogs are on either side of the web, just barking to bark. No one is listening, and no one is being heard. We bark because all we hear is barking.
What’s the other option? Choose to wag. If you wag, you are choosing to be jolly, merry, sunny, bubbly, cheerful—you embrace JOY.
As you head into high school, control your barking. Sometimes you might need to bark; most of the time it is better to wag.
On Tuesday, I was behind a truck for a company called Cridder Ridder. The decals on the truck listed all the types of cridders the company handles (possums, cobras), but one decal grabbed me. On the tailgate in bold red, the Cridder Ridders had posted a Help Wanted sign. Initially, I was shocked. How can Cridder Ridder be struggling for technicians? But then, I started thinking about the message. “Help Wanted.” What a great message! When you need help, ask for it. And, people need help. You are not alone in this.
As a freshman, ask for help when you need it. Be a source of help when you can offer it, and get a job.
I knew I had to talk at graduation, and I was on a roll. The road was writing my speech for me. I spent more time scoping the cars in the neighborhood, looking for Subarus—especially a four or five year old Forrester. But, I have a short commute, and nothing was inspiring me. So, like any rational person seeking the truth, I left the main road and jumped on the information superhighway. I Googled inspirational idioms and metaphors to fill the holes.  
As you many of you know, my father-in-law recently passed away. He was a cowboy, a quarter horse breeder, and a man of great character. He has been on my mind so three country and western search results really jumped out at me.
Number one, Hold your Horses
We live in a time of Amazon Prime. If we have to wait more than forty-eight hours for an electric toothbrush or a Smurf village to be delivered, we lose our minds. If the Wifi is out, or God forbid, we have to go outside…we lose our minds.
To hold your horses means to slow down and be patient. Wait your turn. Take your time. So, in high school, relax if the drone is five minutes late dropping off your handcrafted breakfast sandwich. Have a pop tart, and maybe even take the time to toast it.
Number two, All Hat, No Cattle
When I was growing up, we called them posers. And, I was admittedly a poser from time to time. (My short-lived skateboarding phase.) You don’t want to be known as All Hat, No Cattle. This means that you are all talk, no action. You’re a braggart, a loudmouth, a know-it-all, and you like to show off—probably on Instagram. And worse yet, you can’t back up your big talk.   
Over the next four years, be confident, but work hard and earn some cattle before you start dressing like a cowboy. Be humble and observant. Listen more than you talk, and maybe one day you will have the hat and the cattle.
Number three, Keep on Trucking
I’ve never owned a truck. I’ve driven a Honda Civic and a worn-out Mazda Miata. I like to imagine myself in a big truck, maybe a 350 dually with a rumbling diesel. But, I stop myself. I know I’d be All Hat, No Cattle in my dream truck. I’ve pushed it as far as I can with the Jeep Wrangler. I’m resting right on the edge of poser.
But, even without a real truck, I’ve learned to keep on trucking. Keep moving. By now, you know that life is going to have ups and downs. You’ll gain and lose friends, get hired and maybe fired, and suffer heartache and loss.
If you hold your horses, you will start wagging again, but only if you keep on trucking.
In high school, if you fail a test, or don’t make the team, or get your feelings hurt or your heart broken, you must Keep on Trucking. You must move forward. The road will smoothen out, and if it doesn’t, you’ll find another way.
But, only if you keep on trucking.
Just remember,
Bark less, Wag more
Seek and ask for help
Hold your Horses, be patient
Don’t be All Hat, No Cattle; no one likes a braggart and a phony
And most importantly, no matter what, KEEP ON TRUCKING.
Class of 2018, always remember that the people here today love you. We will miss you, and you always have a home at St. Paul’s.
As a member of the St. Paul’s community, I pledge to be honest, to respect others, to take responsibility for my actions and words, to be kind and inclusive, and to help others do the same.
St. Paul's Episcopal Day School, All Rights Reserved 2016