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Not Enough Dog Poop

by Matthew Arnold Stern

This speech is from the advanced Toastmasters manual, “Humorously Speaking.” It was first presented on 13 July, 1999.

I’m going to share with you a story I learned when I was 16. Naturally, it’s about dog poop (although that wasn’t the term I used at the time.) It’s about an eight-year-old boy named Johnny. He was sitting in the back of his third-grade class clutching a big ball of dog poop. He was molding it, and squishing it, and shaping it. His teacher (sniff, sniff) noticed this, and said, “Johnny! What do you have in your hands?”

Johnny replied, “Dog poop.”

“And what do you think you’re doing with it!?”

“Making a teacher.”

The teacher, of course, was furious. So, she sent him to the school principal. Johnny walked into the principal’s office still clutching this aforementioned substance. The principal says, “Johnny! What do you have in your hands?”

“Dog poop.”

“And what do you think you’re doing with it!?”

“Making a principal.”

Not only is the principal outraged, he thinks something is wrong with little Johnny. So, he sends him to the school psychologist. The psychologist asks, “Johnny! What do you have in your hands?”

“Dog poop.”

“And, I suppose you’re making a psychologist.”

“Nope. Not enough dog poop.”

Let me say something about psychologists. There are a lot of them I respect. In fact, there have been times in my life when I’ve needed the services of a therapist. I’ve worked with some very good ones who helped me when I needed it. But, there are others for whom the term, “not enough dog poop” clearly applies. In fact, a St. Bernard cannot produce enough to describe some of these people.

For example, do any of your remember est, Erhard Seminar Training? They were very big in the seventies. I think they’re still around today, and they’re called Forum or Landmark. My dad was living in Northern California at the height of their popularity, and Northern Californians, being Northern Californians, made est a virtual state religion. (Although, it was considered more of a cult than a religion or even therapy.)

I didn’t have any first-hand experience with est, but my dad told me stories about them. For starters, est graduades had an interesting way of dealing with conflict. If you got into a disagreement with an est person, he or she would say something like this:

Now, I can see that this is your reality, and I honor your reality, but I want to share with you my reality and create a space in which my reality and your reality can get in alignment with each other…

My dad wound up taking est, not because he agreed with it or felt he needed it, but so he could understand how to deal with these people!

And then, there’s the Myers-Briggs Test. You might also know it as the Keirsey Temperament Survey. It’s a series of eighty true-or-false questions, and at the end of it, you get a four-letter code that indicates your personality. That’s right: eighty questions and anyone can figure out everything about you. Now, some have called this the “new astrology” because it is supposedly as useful and as accurate in predicting personality. Well, I can see some improvement in it: the Myers-Briggs test has sixteen pigeonholes to classify different personalities, as compared to astrology, which only has twelve. But, neither is as good as tarot, which has 78. But, unlike astrology and tarot, people have actually used the Myers-Briggs Test to make hiring and promotion decisions as companies.

Those are some examples of psychologists who are worth their weight in recycled Dog Chow. But, there are good psychologists out there.

Good psychologists don’t try to exert some Svengali-like control over you to get you to be a certain way. They function as coaches. They teach you how to find the answers for yourself. And, they have the courage to say, “Look, these fifty-minute hours have been fun, but I feel you have the information and support to make it on your own. So, get out there and go for it! I know you can do it.”

Also, good psychologists don’t depend on shortcuts or stereotypes to try to understand people. They realize we are complex and contradictory individuals, and we don’t fit into neat categories. So, they take the time to understand us fully before working on our issues.

I hope my tale of Johnny and his dog poop doesn’t dissuade anyone from seeking counseling. If you need a therapist, by all means, go and see one. But, if you’re sitting on that couch and feel an overwhelming desire to see if the dogs left any decorations on the lawn, you should find yourself another therapist.