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Whistles & Whispers: What A Sheep Dog Taught Me About Chasing My Dreams

Mitchell Wilson


Mitchell Wilson


Apr 18, 2023

Whistles & Whispers: What A Sheep Dog Taught Me About Chasing My Dreams

Dogs are trained to respond to whistles, just like you.

The only difference is the whistles mean different commands. Whether you realize it or not, there is a plethora of societal whistles you must abide by & respond to. It’s normal and natural to hear these whistles and do as we’re asked. It’s in our blood at this point. But it only makes sense up until a certain time, not for your whole life.

There comes a stage where you’ve had enough and it’s time to ditch the whistles in favor of your soul’s whispers.


I saw canine mastery a few days ago at a local sheep farm.

I met a border collie there named Rye who’s an elite sheep herding competitor and does exactly as he’s told. What’s wild is how beautiful and terrifying the experience became in my mind the more I thought about it.

Rye is 10 years old, which Google tells me is about 53 years in human years. He’s an older dog - excelling at complex tasks, commands, and situations with a smile on his face and an inexhaustible attitude. His master is an older woman who’s been competing in dog trials of this sort for decades. She could blow a little whistle to make different sounds and Rye would immediately respond & execute the command.

He’d either circle the sheep herd from the left or right and start bringing the whole herd close to the woman. There were signals for lying down & waiting. For separating a sheep from the rest of the herd. For leaving a specific sheep alone and likely others that I did not catch onto. It was a sight to behold. I had never seen a dog perform a job so complicated before. But I couldn’t help seeing deeper into the situation and the similarities it posed to the struggles of humanhood. Of course for Rye, this is all fine & dandy - the high life even. But to imagine a 53 year old man responding to someone else’s commands, day in & day out with minimal freedom, seemed like a nightmare to me.

For Rye, doing a good job earns you a pat on the head and a treat. For the old man, it’s a ‘career’ and the feeling of security. These things aren’t always bad though, for many they are necessary. But for some it’s torture to being a wolf living a border collie’s life. Capable of so much more beyond the nice & neat civil lines, yet still bound by the whistle.

So while obedience may at first impress, it quickly loses it’s zing when you take into account the potential left at the wayside.

Means To An End

“A taste of freedom can make you unemployable.” - Naval Ravikant

To work is to be a human.

We’re meant to be doing something with our days that serves a purpose somewhere along the survive & thrive spectrum. It’s one thing if you’re content to fulfill someone else’s dreams as long as your boxes are getting checked, but it’s a heavy load to be a wolf with both your own boxes and your own dreams.

Some people seem unfazed to squeeze their life into commutes, lunch breaks, weekend hobbies, and 2 week ‘vacations’ - as if 2 pleasure-crammed weeks will counteract the other 50. A wolf though? A wolf doesn’t fit in there. Too wild. Too unpredictable. It pays attention to the moon, not meetings. All predator, no policy. Nassim Taleb, in his book Skin In The Game, says it best: “Risk takers can be socially unpredictable people. Freedom is always associated with risk taking, whether it leads to it or comes from it. You take risks, you feel part of history. And risk takers take risks because it is in their nature to be wild animals.” If you’ve ever had those moments or chapters in life where you felt totally alive, you can’t just forget those. They don’t go away or disappear. No. The soul still whispers. The soul still reminds. They are like the exit signs in a movie theater, off in the periphery of everything and glowing with a red notification-like hue. Until you make this the norm of your life it will feel abnormal, yet many others in the mix will call it reasonable & right. But we all know unlived dreams can haunt one up to the moment of death.

Eventually the risk to do one’s own thing must be taken, otherwise the inaction can eat you from the inside. Time begins to take on a palpable sting of tick-tock and distraction becomes your destiny. Tame goes from temporary to tempting.

Employment doesn’t have to be a sad sight. It can be a means to an end. It can serve a purpose and get you where you want to go.

Consistently remember the taste of freedom, what opportunity you intend to seize, and await the moment you make a leap of faith.

Winning Your Game

If you’re like me and caught up in this conundrum, you’ll recognize the tension in your days.

The tension between the implicit promise to soul of fulfilling what we’re meant to do here in contrast to the external commitments we made along the way to survive. We can turn this balancing act of opposites into a systematic sequence so our this or that’s become this then that’s.

Just because it may feel like you aren’t actively chasing your dreams doesn’t mean they aren’t getting closer and closer. Perhaps the process reality must go through to unfold in the 3D is just different than you had imagined (highly likely). Maybe you don’t fully understand God’s mysterious ways (also likely). Maybe you were dreaming too small initially, need more experience and exposure to new people & situations so that your perspective becomes more clear. Maybe you’re a few skills away from being competent enough to handle your dream. Maybe you’ll be back to your wild ways soon enough. Maybe, just maybe, time is on your side after all.

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills

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