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Life lessons from my cat

Once upon a time, I met a beautiful, charming and witty woman and fell deeply in love.

Over the months we dated, I was the consummate romantic. I brought her flowers; wrote heartfelt love letters; and on occasion even sang to her. At one point she remarked that no one had ever treated her better. Then suddenly and unexpectedly she left me. I was devastated. When I asked her why, she replied, “You never listened to me.”

I had no clue what she was talking about.

Of course I listened to her. Didn’t I know her favourite foods, music and vacation spots? Absolutely! I also knew of her past struggles, her frustrations at work, and even her dreams for the future. Apparently, it was not enough.

In retrospect, I finally figured out the problem was that I had been too busy following the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Remarkably, it wasn’t my ex-girlfriend who taught me this lesson, it was my cat. One morning while I was enjoying my coffee on the back porch, Roxy came up to my chair and meowed for attention. I picked her up, held her and started rubbing her soft fur. I knew from past experience that she didn’t like that, and she immediately began to squirm and try to jump out of my arms. Nevertheless – in the spirit of Albert Einstein’s observation that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – I hoped that she would start liking it.

Finally, I turned her loose on my lap and petted her. She became very affectionate and gave me lots of nudges with her head and purred loudly. I used to think that my other cat, Spike, was the more loving cat because he likes to be held and cuddled, which is of course, what I want to do with a cat. Roxy does not like to be cuddled, and when I attempt it all she does is try to escape. I’ve learned that she still wants loving and wants to give it back, but it has to be her way. I realized it is that behaviour which causes many people to see cats as aloof and unresponsive.

As Roxy worked her way around my lap, rubbing her face against my arms, legs, chest and face, I thought, “Everyone comes into our lives for a reason – usually to teach us something.” I looked at Roxy and said, “What are you here to teach me?”

Then it dawned on me that she was there to teach me the Platinum Rule:
“Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

In contrast to the Golden Rule which is all about Me, the Platinum Rule is all about You. The Golden Rule is about controlling. The Platinum Rule is about giving.

In other words, to motivate someone, give them what they want. I should have known this intuitively from the years I spent in the advertising business. I have taught hundreds of seminars where I advised my students, “When you create an ad, always put the prospect first; because when they see or hear it, all they are thinking is: What’s in it for me?”

I’m reminded again of the wisdom of Dale Carnegie who noted, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

To do that he advises: “Be a good listener; encourage others to talk about themselves; talk in terms of the other person’s interests; make them feel important – and do it sincerely.”

He then adds, “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”
Surely, he’s talking about cats!
–Robert Wilson

• Robert Wilson is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He is also the author of the children’s book, The Annoying Ghost Kid. For info, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.

Posted: Oct 2, 2012

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