A man who carries a cat by the tail...

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"A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way".

I read this the other day and smiled at the imagery it conjured up, as well as how it re-enforced Mark Twain as a master of the analogy. I will say up front I have not literally carried a cat by the tail, but I would envision something like this... 

A piercing cat cry, followed with screams and hisses of recognition, as the cat finds itself in a very unnatural vertical position facing the ground. Ears folded back and sharp incisors snapping, the cat brings it's claws to bear, violently lunging and contouring its sleek body up to defy gravity. The poor soul, who thought this was a good idea, tries to hold on to the tail, stay balanced and is forever compensating to avoid the angry cat's weaponry. And remember, the cat is being carried, so this is all happening on the move.

Reflecting on this somewhat comical and unsettling image, I can't help but think of it in the context of the challenging situations, problems and opportunities we can be faced with. Mark Twain is good that way, offering a full spectrum analogy.

Sometimes you just shouldn't carry a cat by the tail: I am a big believer of growing, changing and exploring new things, but sometimes it makes sense to leave well enough alone; particularly if you are not prepared for, or don't have a clear picture of what you will get from "carrying the cat"... other than expended energy, acquiring telltale scars, and haunting memories.

Sometimes you just have to carry a cat by the tail: Some say experience is the only real teacher and the only way to truly learn how to "carry a cat by the tail"... is to do it.

  • You will learn how not to let go when the going gets difficult (or painful)
  • You will learn new skills to deal with new situations. 
  • You will learn how to adapt and manage ever changing dynamics.
  • There is knowledge and development that only comes with what is inherently difficult.
  • With some things, you can only learn from your mistakes.

Sometimes you have to carry a cat by the tail so one day you will be able to carry a "Tiger" by the tail: The premise of carrying a cat by the tail is that it is difficult by nature and by working through this difficulty; lessons, skills and knowledge come your way. With overcoming the challenges of carrying a cat, it prepares you for the time when you may need (or want) to carry a "Tiger" by the tail. And I will suggest they are magnitudes more difficult.

There is something about the image of carrying a cat by the tail that is simply a painful endeavour; something most people would not entertain. On the other hand, those who take on the metaphorical challenge of "carrying a cat by the tail", endure the struggle and the pain, will have learned unique and important skills that will serve them well in the future. So when challenging problems and situations present themselves, grab them and hold on.

Please note, I am not suggesting you literally carry a cat by the tail... it is just cruel, and I would suggest you will lose the battle, with a trip to the doctor in your future.