The best advice can come from the strangest places, and you need all the advice you can get if you’re running a small business. Traditionally businessmen and women have turned to mentors, textbooks, trade journals, and colleagues. Those are all good sources but you may not need to go that far to learn something useful.
In fact, you may not need to look any farther than your couch or the nearest window sill. With any luck, you’ll find a small furry mammal that is either sleeping or pointedly ignoring you. Cats are, after all, one of the most popular pets in the world. They’re known for their natural grace and poise, but also their energy and playfulness. One thing they aren’t known for however, is their utility.
While pleasant to look at and interact with, few people would actually describe cats as useful (unless they have a serious rodent infestation). However, a cat can teach you a lot about business, even as it goes casually about its life. Keep an eye on your cat, and you may come to understand some of these important lessons.
Pursue Your Goals Aggressively
A cat does not choose much in its life to be interested in, but when it does become interested, it pursues its interests with tireless vigor. In the case of cats, the interests are probably limited to things like toys and laser pointers. Your interests and your ambitions are probably a lot more complicated, but you can still learn from the cat’s approach.
The laser pointer is an excellent example. Almost everyone who has owned a cat has enjoyed taunting it with a laser pointer. Cats seem to find the small bouncing light irresistible as it moves around the room with each flick of the wrist. Cats will do everything possible to get the light, even if it means fruitlessly chasing it for hours on end.
It’s certainly easy to mock a cat for desperately chasing something it can never really catch, but we should admire the dedication instead. Imagine what we could accomplish as a species if everyone showed as much dedication in pursuing their goals as the common house cat.
Hygiene is Key
Cats are remarkably hygienic for an animal that lacks the human understanding of concepts like common courtesy or germ theory. While you won’t need to spend most of your waking hours meticulously cleaning yourself, you should take your cat’s dedication to personal grooming seriously.
Not only will a great sense of hygiene allow you to have fewer illnesses that stop you from working, it will make a great impression on all the people you meet when you are trying to expand your business. Great hygiene leaves the best impression on clients, employees, investors and partners.
Great hygiene is also the first step toward controlling your image, which is something else your cat can teach you about business.
Control Your Image
Cats are well-respected for their natural grace, but that doesn’t mean that they can keep that grace working in their favor every hour of the day. Keep an eye on your cat long enough, and you’ll be able to see the grace fail, if only for a moment. A misstep or a miscalculated jump can send your cat sprawling unceremoniously to the floor.
It’s not the failures that we can learn from however, it is the way that the cat responds to the evaporation of its carefully crafted image. Cats do not wallow in their wounded pride, or expect sympathy. The cat immediately rises and pretends that the mistake never happened. The cat may even immediately engage in grooming or walk off as if the mistake was intended in the first place—just a quicker way to head in the right direction.
That is how you should respond to your mistakes in business. Don’t let anyone laugh at you or pity you when you’ve made a mistake. Instead, immediately get up, brush yourself off, and go back to pursuing your goals. Don’t let anyone try to define you by your failures. Simply treat those failures as a new path toward getting what you want.
Always Be Ready for the Next Big Thing
Cats enjoy their sleep. They spend more than 2/3 of their life sleeping, after all (we’ll get to that next). However, cats are always on alert, even when their body is still and their eyes are closed. The slightest sound, movement, or aroma can cause a cat to be roused from even the deepest slumber. Even with only one half-opened eye, a cat will immediately appraise anything that enters its environment.
You should apply the same attention to your own work. You can do this by understanding your business completely. Always know when new developments are introduced. Keep in touch with the other people who work in your field, and always keep a close eye on your competitors. Be ready with a response to anything that could change in the market.
Take time to Relax
If there is anything in this world that understands the meaning of downtime, it is the cat. Cat’s sleep up to 20 hours per day, in the most comfortable spots they can find. Obviously, a human is not going to get a lot done on that kind of schedule, but too few of us focus on getting the amount of rest that we do actually need.
A lot of people are convinced that there is no way to make it without giving up on your basic needs. That may have worked out for some people, but the theory has very serious limits. Without the proper amount of rest, you’ll begin to suffer from loss of memory and the ability to keep your thoughts organized. Your creativity and critical thinking will suffer. After a certain point, even your health will become victimized by choosing work over sleep.
Take the way of the cat instead. Be greedy with the time you need for your own rest, and take time to just relax between goals. You’ll find that it’s easier to pursue your goals and predict the best next step when you are well-rested and ready to go.