Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Everything I Need to Know About Goals I Learned From My Cats

Some people would call me a crazy cat lady, and they’re probably right.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hoarding 100 cats and avoiding relationships with people.  But, I do refer to my three cats as my boys, talk to them, and post way too many pictures of them on Facebook.  So if that makes me a crazy cat lady, then hey, I own it. *

There’s nothing funnier to me than the cat craze that has swept the internet.  It started with LOLCAT pictures (what is an LOLCAT? See here), specifically this little guy:

Simon’s Cat continued the cat obsession with its adorable videos here.  Heck, when you type in “cat” on You Tube there are 1,760,000 results!  Then there’s the awesome collection of cat-related posters and comics on The Oatmeal (If you don’t know The Oatmeal, you must drop everything and run over here, then please come back and finish reading.  GO NOW I SAID!!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of all animals, but obviously I’m not alone in thinking cats are hilarious.  A big reason why is cats are pretty entertaining when they’re curious about something.  A cat’s goals are generally simple: get food and attention, play, sleep, and chase things.  But while they may be simple, a cat’s goals are just as important to him as our goals are to us.  People can learn a lot about goals from cats, even so-called “dog people”. **

Take Cat 1 for example.  He’s built like a linebacker, and no one would call him graceful.  He’s also one big mess of fur (I threaten to turn him into a dustmop so he’ll earn his keep).  Being klutzy is a handicap for a cat.  It results in lots of skidding across tables, rolling off couches, and climbing half-way up the tree trunk before freezing and sliding back down slowly.  I feel bad laughing when he tries to jump on the coffee table but glides across it and lands on the other side.  Really, I swear I do. ***  But even when I laugh, Cat 1 ignores me.  He’ll jump right back up on the table and plop down in his favored position.  He does what he wants to do, even if he doesn’t get it the first time.  If he can’t climb the tree right now, he’ll wait a few minutes and try again.  If it’s still not happening, he’s back the next day.  Cat 1 pushes himself but also accepts that he won’t meet his goals all the time.  Often, he’ll fail miserably, but he doesn’t give up and won't let criticism affect him.

Cat 2, on the other hand, is borderline reckless.  He lacks fear, so it's fortunate he’s super strong and graceful. Everything he does looks choreographed.  He flings himself out of trees onto rooftops.  He leaps onto my shoulder from the top of a bookcase.  He stares down large dogs, raccoons, and possums and convinces them to run away.  This makes for some awe-inspiring viewing (of course never when I have a camera handy).  Cat 2’s brain is always working the angles.  He studies, calculates, and plots.  It reminds me of the scene in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movie where Holmes envisions every second of the fight to come in great detail and then executes it flawlessly.  I once watched Cat 2 sit on the landing of my staircase and analyze how to make it around the room without touching the floor.  His head moved back and forth, eyes focused, as he studied each piece of furniture to determine a path.  A few minutes later, he stepped out with no hesitation onto the back of a chair, the treadmill, a bookcase, the tv, another bookcase, the fireplace mantle, another chair, an end table, the sofa and another end table.  He then leaped onto the stairs and started the process again, probably to see if he could do it faster.  It’s rare that Cat 2 doesn’t meet a goal, but I often see him repeating something or doing it in a different way.  He is always striving to do things better and more efficiently.

Cat 3 is still a kitten, so he’s not 100% comfortable in his own skin yet.  At times he’s just as klutzy as Cat 1, careening off the couch or dangling from the kitchen's pass-through bar because he misjudged the distance.  However, he can be as graceful as Cat 2, shimmying up a tree and leaping from branch to branch with no effort.  When he executes one of these amazing feats, he runs to me looking for praise.  If I’m not quick with it, he gives me a certain “rolling” meow that increases in volume to get my attention.  It’s the feline equivalent of a kid yelling “Mommy, Mommy” and shoving a picture he drew in her face. ****  When Cat 3’s efforts to meet a goal fail, he heads straight to me and cries with a certain high-pitched squeal.  This one’s like a kid crying for Mom when he falls off a bike into the grass, more wounded in pride than in body.  He isn’t good at gauging his limitations and strengths yet, nor is he good at figuring out ways around them or learning from his mistakes.  Cat 3 has ambitious goals, as any kitten does, but he wants to jump headfirst into achieving them without the preparation needed.  Sometimes luck is on his side, but often he’s not quite ready and fails over and over since he won’t adjust his technique or expectations.  After several tries, he’ll sulk off and attack one of the other cats or my feet in irritation.

Sometimes I’m like Cat 1, fumbling and making lots of mistakes but plugging along trying to accomplish what I desire.  I occasionally make a fool out of myself.  Sometimes I figure out I’m not quite ready and need to regroup.  However, I often meet my goals.  Like Cat 1, I don’t let it get to me and keep trying until I get it.

Other times I’m like Cat 2, refusing to accept that it won’t work and fearless in taking something on.  I’ll leap out and grab what I want with both hands and not let go.  Confidence carries me through sticky situations just like it carries Cat 2 across the divide between tree and roof where failure means a long drop to the ground.

With my writing, though, I’ve often been like Cat 3.  For the longest time, I wasn’t comfortable in my writing skin at all.  Like lots of new writers, I looked for praise and when I didn’t find it, I’d get discouraged.  If I tried something and failed, I’d beat myself up and whine.  I couldn’t accurately gauge when to make a leap, and my lack of preparation would drag me down.  Sometimes I’d get lucky and hit the target, but usually I fell just a bit short.

I might never be 100% comfortable in my own skin as a writer, but I’m growing into it, like I know Cat 3 will do.  I’m at the point where I recognize my limitations and difficulties and am finding ways to work around them and improve in those areas.  I know I have issues with certain aspects of my writing, so I’m working around them by using critique partners and doing revision passes to look for these issues.

Just like Cat 1, I need to recognize my limitations but not be afraid to keep working towards my goal even when I fail.  Just like Cat 2, I need to keep my confidence in my abilities high but recognize there is always room for improvement.  And, just like Cat 3, I need to remember that sometimes I need to curl up in a corner, have a good cry, and lick my wounds.  The tricky part will be to learn to balance all three.

So what about you? Are you more like Cat 1, 2, or 3 in your life and/or your writing?

Hope you enjoyed this post.  See you next week!

*DISCLAIMER: As much as I love cats, I would get a dog also if I didn’t have a crazy schedule and had an actual yard.  I heart doggies.
** “Dog People” isn’t meant to be an insult, it’s just a handy reference for people who prefer dogs as pets.  Please see disclaimer above.  Dog people rule too.
***Laughing when your cat does goofy things is not animal cruelty, so please don’t send me any nasty messages.  You can, however, ask me to post videos on YouTube for a fee.
**** Yes, I compared my cats to your human kids.  As anyone with pets (cat, dog, rabbit, ferret, etc.) will tell you, taking care of pets is often not that different from taking care of children.  Many will even talk back to you.  I’m not saying I’m better than you, busier than you, or work harder than you.  I am, however, much more likely to grab my passport and fly off to Paris at a moment’s notice unencumbered by anything other than changing the cat litter and dumping a bunch of food and water into bowls.


  1. I chuckled my way through your post. My pups are similar to your cats in that they are all three distinctly different from one another. Nice tie-in to your writing, and I love the disclaimers at the end.

    1. Thanks LK! I love how animals have such distinctive personalities. My friend Iona's been telling me for months to write about the cats since they're such characters! I bet your pups could tell a few tales too :-)

  2. Great post Jessica!!

    You did a great job, very clever - cats with goals!!

    Which cat am I? hmmmm, whatever I say, someone who knows me will say, "No way!"

    Can I say somewhere between 1 and 2??

    1. Thanks Lynn!
      I think we all aspire to be somewhere between 1 and 2 :-)

  3. Your writing career is going to blossom this year. This is going to be your year. You must keep writing. This is such a great site and you have such magical powers. Go writer!

  4. Thanks Jaye! That's very kind of you to say :-)