Saturday, November 21, 2015

What We Can Learn From An Amazing Cat

Flower (aka Flora) is an amazing cat.  What makes her amazing is that she's not only a survivor, but a cat that has managed to thrive in adversity.  She has never really known a home, as her family kept her outdoors almost all the time.  When the family moved, they just left Flower behind.  She spent 2-1/2 months on the streets until we learned that Animal Control was going to pick her up.  They said they would give her a week to be adopted before they'd have to put her down, since all shelters were filled.  Margie and I drove to southern New Jersey, picked up Flower (called her Flora after the fragrance Flora Danica, because she was so sweet) and brought her home.

Now we're looking for a permanent home for the little girl, as the cat we adopted as an abused and traumatized kitten has literal panic attacks seeing a new cat.  There's a lot we can learn from Flower, and my hope is that her inspiration will inspire a family to take her in.

So how did Flower survive months of abandonment?  The first secret to her success was that she was super outgoing and went to people whenever she had a chance.  No one in the area could adopt her, but they did feed her and make a garage available for shelter.  When someone was walking their dog, Flower would come join them.  When someone left their home to go to work, Flower would trot over to say hi.  She had no reason to trust people, given her abandonment, but she never lost the desire to connect.  

This is an important learning lesson.  So often, we respond to setbacks by setting back.  We retreat and withdraw.  We berate ourselves and lapse into a funk.  Yet it's precisely when we're at lowest ebb that reaching out to others can provide the greatest support and inspiration.  When my trading hit a rocky patch earlier this year, I made a point of initiating conversations with some of the most creative traders I know.  Instead of hiding my "failures", I spoke openly of them and brainstormed ways of addressing them.  One conversation led to a revolutionary insight that reorganized my decision-making process.  Since that time, my hit rate has increased meaningfully and I've recently hit my high water mark for the year.

Instead of hiding her vulnerabilities, Flower put them on display for all to see.  That made her stronger.

Flower's second strength is that she is unusually expressive.  She is so appreciative of any attention that she purrs and purrs and flops over whenever someone pets her.  She loves to have her belly rubbed--almost like a dog in her trusting of others.  Many nights I've stayed in the upstairs bedroom to keep Flower company and she'll curl beside me, purr, knead, and drift off to sleep.  In her expressiveness, she is a walking model of gratitude.

How many of us, if we were abandoned and rejected, would approach the world loudly expressing appreciation and gratitude?  Flower is a happy cat, not because of her situation, but in spite of it.  This past week, when I had a setback in my work, I thought of Flower purring and immediately felt better.  If she can express positivity in her situation, I surely can connect to all that is right in my life.

Reaching out to others in the worst of times.  Digging deep, connecting with all that is right in our world, and expressing gratitude and positive attitude.  Those two strengths are a great formulation for resilience.  When all is going wrong, that's when it's most important to find what's right and use that to build a network.

So now it's the shrink's turn to ask for help.  If you know someone in the northeast U.S. who would love an amazing cat, please drop me a line via Twitter (@steenbab) or email (brett dot steenbarger at gmail dot com).  Flower has all her vet papers, is completely healthy and spayed, and is fully litter trained.  She's three years old and would love a family as amazing as she is.  Thanks--