Smarter Than the Cat


That’s what Mowgli the cat says when he’s been cooped up too long because of the cold outside.

It’s more like meow, meow, MEOW.

Or, when I’m eating, he pesters me because he can’t scavenge for mice outdoors. So naturally, he wants to eat my food too. 

I move him away. He comes back again. I move him. He comes back. You get the point. You can probably visualize my dilemma if you have a cat or dog. Goldfish, hamsters, and turtles are not as relatable.

The bottom line is Mowgli’s behavior is distracting and annoying.

Consequently, I get annoyed.

I’ve written about our cats before; our daughter wanted cats because she loved animals.

I think I needed cats because of what they teach me about myself.

But back to the meowing and the scavenging; my daughter recently asked me this question: Why do you get annoyed at Mowgli’s behavior? Her reasoning (correct reasoning, I have to admit) is that the cat is just doing what cats do.

Yes, we could try to train him, and some people successfully do that with their cat(s), but that doesn’t seem to be our superpower. It seems that training the cat would require a level of attention, discipline, and consistency that we don’t have. It’s like teaching a child to do something rather than just doing it yourself, but with far less reward.

Back to the original question, why do I allow myself to get annoyed? Because it isn’t really the consequence of the animal’s actions; it’s all on me.

More to the point my daughter wanted to make with me—why do I take it personally?

Mowgli is doing this to me deliberately, bothering me, interrupting me, distracting me, and preventing me from accomplishing what I need/want to do today. 

Yup, that’s how it feels.

Which is ridiculous! He is a genius manipulator, trying to get what he wants. But he does so without having me as his point of reference at all. He isn’t plotting against me. He isn’t even thinking about me, except as a tool to ensure his life of comfort and ease. Really, I’m smarter than the cat. I can be smarter than that.

But the more important question that this leads to is what other situations do I confront, where a person is just doing what they do? It feels personal but is it really? Maybe I should say, when I find myself in such a moment, “this situation is just what it is, nothing more. Don’t read too much into it.” After all, other people’s behavior really doesn’t have much to do with me a lot of the time. Usually, they’re simply being themselves.

I think that if I practice not taking our cat’s behavior personally, then I’ll get better in higher-stakes situations, with people.

Oh, and as I’m writing this, Mowgli is meowing at me. He must want me to fail. Or maybe, he just wants to go outside.

But he’s giving me a chance to practice immediately.

What about you? What are your low-stakes situational misunderstandings and triggers that could help you practice to better handle the high-stakes ones?

Fran Katsoudas, our podcast guest this week, knows a lot about people. She’s a 25 year veteran of the technology company Cisco. She is currently the Chief People, Policy and Purpose Officer, who knows that our “work selves” can’t be separated from our “regular selves” – especially when we work from home (and have cats). 

Fran shares how we can bust commonly held myths about employee satisfaction, use tech to facilitate leader attention, and why hybrid work can be a powerful force for inclusion.  

As always, thank you for being here! I love hearing from you and responding to every email…. albeit slowly.

My best,


P.S. Thank you, thank you for buying Smart Growth—the book hit the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists. This means more people will know about the book and have a map of what growth looks and feels like. AND it is just plain fun! So, thank you!

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