When I first came across this quote, a short film started playing in my head:
Someone (not me, I promise!) is carrying a cat by its tail; the cat, seeing that its upside down, is understandably confused and angry, violently lunging to attain a normal posture. After several attempts, it finally manages to strike the person with its paw. Tables have turned and now the man is angry and confused.
And the cat, well, it’s beaming with pride. It has had vengeance.
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels with our lives and the challenges that they entail.
Challenges, problems, opportunities- whatever you might want to call them.
Should we or should we not carry a cat by its tail?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer here.
What does this quote mean?
Learning cannot be complete without making mistakes.
Agreed, it is much wiser to learn from mistakes that others make and avoid making them. But that is not always going to be the case.
Individuals are unique, and so are their environments and their learning mechanisms.
Your mom tells you to stay away from the kitchen. You, thinking that you know better, march right in and have boiling water fall on your feet.
You were warned about the cat, weren’t you?
But, you still wanted to hold it upside down by its tail – you wanted to make your own mistake.
When I was a kid, I used to come home with all sorts of cuts and scrapes from all the running and playing around. I would come home crying. My mother would tend to the wounds and tell me that wounds make children grow faster and stronger.
I would believe it and feel proud of the imaginary centimeter that I would add to my height after every scrape.
We all have to carry the cat by its tail at some point to understand that persistence in the face of adversity is what eventually makes us stronger.
Braving difficult circumstances prepares us for ups and downs that life subjects us to. We know we can do it in the future, because we have done it in the past.
And history, as they say, repeats itself.