I recently visited the Key West home of famed writer Ernest Hemingway. The descendants of Hemingway’s many six-toed cats still live on the grounds and join visitors as a part of their tour. “A cat,” wrote Hemingway, “has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
I know some people don’t like cats. I have friends who are allergic to cats. And I think I have heard all the idioms that express negative myths about cats (e.g., scaredy-cats, fat cats, herding cats). Still, I watch my 11-year-old black cat in action (or inaction) and marvel at what life might be like if lived more like her.
Here are four “catlike” quotes that will help you blaze a path to success.
1. “Any cat who misses a mouse pretends it was aiming for the dead leaf.” —Charlotte Gray
Besides maybe trips to the vet, my cat seems to enjoy every moment. She never panics, even when there are loud noises nearby. She approaches every day with a pace and rhythm that is graceful, deliberate and celebrative. Life is partly about taking deep breaths with a focus on being, not just doing.
When I make a small mistake, I worry and sometimes punish myself to a disproportionate degree. When I goof, I wish I could just pretend I was aiming for the dead leaf. Successful people demonstrate greatness by the way they resiliently react to failure, not success.
Steve Jobs started Apple in his parents’ garage and grew it to a $2 billion company. But his board fired him to take Apple in a new direction. Propelled by sheer resilience, he started NeXT and Pixar, ultimately reclaiming his position as Apple CEO.
J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was turned down by 12 publishers. When Bloomsbury Publishing finally took her manuscript, the editor told her to “get a day job.” Instead, she doubled her efforts and went on to create one of the most successful book series of all time.
2. “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this.” —Terry Pratchett
My cat exudes a pretty obvious sense of self-confidence. She is centered and poised, even in circumstances that might warrant a bit of anxiety. She is not cocky, just confident. Like my cat, successful people live their lives with a certain emotional invincibility.
Success comes from creating a masterpiece every day. Something people will marvel at later. No one cares about the depth of someone’s inbox, the number of cold calls they made or the meetings they attended. Only concrete results matter; tireless effort is just the stuff you do to get there.
Masterpiece creators do not consider themselves passengers on some cruise ship transporting them to retirement. They assume responsibility for their own destiny.
3. “After dark, all cats are leopards.” —Zuni Indian Proverb
My cat believes she is a gift and fully embraces that sense of privilege. From the day we brought her home from the shelter, she demonstrated in her attitude how lucky we were to have her. It is not that she is unappreciative; she frequently shows her gratitude for her privileged station in life. But when I watch her pounce—at anything that she might deem a potential adventure—I sense she is always on a glorious hunt. Successful people approach every day like it is a glorious adventure, too.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing,” wrote Helen Keller. The path to success comes from a pioneering spirit to blaze new trails to excellence, craft new bridges to a treasured dream and tenaciously pursue a quest for distinction.
4. “Cats know how to obtain food without labor; shelter without confinement, and love without penalties.” —William L. George
My cat washes herself a lot, and she does it with such luxury. There is nothing hurried about it. She seems to relish the ritual. Successful people take great care of body, mind and soul with the same gracefulness my cat uses to envelop her shiny black coat. This means treating each day as an opportunity for betterment.
“He not busy being born is busy dying,” sang folk singer Bob Dylan. Success comes from perpetual growth and daily reinvention. It takes nonstop curiosity, sincere humility and a wide-eyed recognition that who you are must constantly be trumped by who you can be. Successful people view psychic and physical maintenance as crucial to their well-being as a tune-up is to their vehicle.
Cats are amazing animals. They are also a metaphor for how to live life to the fullest. They are smart enough to focus on what matters most, not on the trivial distractions that would otherwise rob their energy and spirit. Let this year be your year of the cat!
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several award-winning, national best-selling books. Dr. Bell was a highly decorated infantry unit commander with the elite 82nd Airborne and a guerrilla tactics instructor at the Army Infantry School. He has served as a consultant to many Fortune 100 companies. He can be reached at chipbell.com.