Business and Life Lessons I Learned from Li-Li the Cat

History Smiths

Less than a year ago, I took up residence in a friend’s condo in Salem, Massachusetts, while she was out of the state caring for her ailing sister. She had been gone for a long time, and while neighbors had fed her cat, Li-Li, he was very lonely. It took a while for him to trust me, but he did (yes, there is a forthcoming book with the full story!). And it took a while for me to adjust to living with this kitty-cat and his ways, but I did, and I fell in love.

The friend who first told me about this potential living situation had warned me, “Oh, and there’s a cat.”

A CAT? Are you kidding me? He is so much more than that! I have learned much from this wise, large, older gentleman, including lessons that are directly applicable to your business and your life. Here goes, in no particular order.

Be connected to your passion, every day.

Every time, without fail, morning and night, when I open the bag of dry food and Li-Li hears that sound, his whole body starts quivering with anticipation. He never tires of his passion. And neither should we! He’s clear about what his passion is, and we should be too!

Know, and let others know, your boundaries.

Li-Li is VERY clear about what he will tolerate and what he won’t. No waffling with this one. A simple “rrrrrrrrrrrr” and I know to back off (unless it’s an emergency, of course).

Know what you want, and be focused.

Li-Li is very skilled at getting what he wants. He has multiple methods he can use. He sets his goal, and finds a way.

Know your strengths, and use them.

Li-Li is keenly aware of his strengths—endless forms of cuteness, good looks, and ways to display affection being among them. He is also very well behaved in every respect. He invariably prevails when he is trying to win someone over.

Be smart. Never dumb down.

Li-Li is a very smart kitty, and he would never dumb down his skills and talents. Neither should you, especially if you’re a woman! Not ever!

Self-promote to help reach your goals.

Li-Li is a genius at self-promotion. He announces himself when he enters a room, he joins in when new and interesting visitors are around, and he reminds us daily that he is adorable and someone with whom we want to do business. His efforts at self-promotion are consistent and of high quality. He knows that marketing in any form must be ongoing, and he is open to trying new methods. When something works, he does more of the same.

Know when to ask for help.

No one can do everything, and while self-sufficiency is to be applauded there are times when we all need help. Li-Li is a very independent kitty cat. He has his own life outdoors that we know nothing about, and that’s fine. But he does need help with being fed, having the litter box changed, and putting up with the occasional visit to the vet. These things he can’t manage on his own, but he has the maturity to graciously accept help.

Know who your friends are.

In business and life, we would call this your support system. It is ESSENTIAL to have a strong support system in place as we navigate the waters in which we find or put ourselves. You must know who you can trust—and sideline the people you can’t. Li-Li knows he can trust us. And we know he knows. Lots of mutual trust and respect, which is good for all of us.   

Assume others want to do business with you. Why wouldn’t they?

Have this assumption when you head into any new business venture. Approach it with the self-confidence that of course people want to work with you. You know your stuff. You’re a great person to work with. You have a track record of success. It would simply never OCCUR to Li-Li that anyone wouldn’t think he was adorable and worth time, attention, and service! Not for one second!

Know where the client stands, and how best to reach that person.

Li-Li is gifted at summing people up and using the right approach to get through. He acts on pure instinct, of course, whereas we can go online, or talk to people we know, to do some research before we approach a new prospect. Both skills are important. Once you are armed with information, figure out which approach will work best.

Say thank you. Appreciate the support you receive.

Through his many gestures, body language, and expressive, handsome face, we know that Li-Li is grateful for all that we do. He knows he is loved and cared for, and he rewards us with affection and cuteness.

Always be appropriately attired and well groomed.

Li-Li manages both UNFAILINGLY at all times because he knows it’s important. He is willing to do the work. As a result, it is a pleasure to be in his company.

Always be well mannered.

Li-Li always is. He is an older gentleman, so he has mellowed with age and learned a few things along the way, but he never jumps up where he shouldn’t and never “deposits” anything inappropriately. There is the rare clawing of the wool rug, but he stops immediately when asked. In business, as in life, there is no excuse for rudeness or inappropriate behavior that would embarrass oneself or someone else.

Play nice.

No one likes a colleague who is angry and can’t get along with others. Li-Li starts any relationship in a cordial manner to see where it will go.

Explore the world. Be open to opportunity.

We have no idea where Li-Li goes when he is outdoors, and that’s fine, because he is expanding his horizons. We should too, always. There is ALWAYS more to learn “out there.” Be open to it. You have NO IDEA where the next opportunity or connection will come from!

Be inquisitive.

Li-Li has this down in spades. “What’s in that box? What’s in that bag? What is that thing you have that I now need to sniff?” If you don’t ask questions or investigate, how will you learn? What’s more, people who are imparting information, whatever it might be, WANT to share what they know with others.

Defend and protect what’s yours.

Your reputation, your brand—whatever it might be. As one of my business coaches says, “Be polite, and have a good lawyer.” If Li-Li is out in the driveway and a foreign creature approaches, he is on it. This 22 lb., content-to-lie-about kitty cat is at full attention and ready to guard us from approaching beasties. He has yet to be this ferocious with humans who say nice things to him, but we’re working on it.

And there you have it.

Straight from Li-Li the Cat to you. 

“Oh, and there’s a cat,” my friend had warned many months ago. Really?

And in a recent exchange with the next door neighbor, when I told him that I had carried Li-Li (who is NOT a lap cat and NOT used to being carried or held) down three flights of dark, steep, narrow, slippery stairs from my room to the food dishes, he said, “Bonnie, he’s just a cat. He’s low to the ground. He will manage.”

Again, Really? Just a cat?

I think not. And I hope the wisdom Li-Li has imparted here will help you in your journey!

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Li-Li may be contacted through me. He prefers to have others manage all forms of external communication.

Harrison Bennett, the President and CEO of History Smiths, is an expert on using history in new and innovative ways. She is a marketing, PR, event planning, and cultural tourism professional who also happens to be a respected historian (especially women’s history), author, and speaker.