My first pet as an adult was an adult shelter cat that I rescued from the PetCo in Union Square. The night before we met, I had a dream about an orange cat who slept at my feet. Then, as my then boyfriend, now husband, David and I were wandering around the city, there he was. Now this is not the cat you think you are going to rescue – he was “7-9 years old,” enormous, and plainly disinterested. And yet… he was so soft. And his eyes were a piercing green. I liked him.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“About what?” David said.

“The cat.”

“This cat?”

“Yes, what do you think of him? Is he OUR cat?”

Realizing that I was barreling head-first towards an impulsive decision, David became much more engaged. “Well, I don’t know. Let’s see.” Now, David is somewhat famous as a cat whisperer. There are cats known the world over as crotchety Fookwires but when David enters a room they are suddenly weaving in and out of his legs purring. It’s fascinating.

This cat was no different. While I was someone he was willing to tolerate, David was downright interesting. “I like him,” David said, “what’s his name.”

“This is Brandy,” the shelter worker said, coming up behind. 

David and I looked at each other. This cat’s name was clearly NOT Brandy. We had to save him if only for that reason! 

“He was rescued from an alley way in Harlem. He’s a little aloof, but he’s a nice cat.” she said.

“He’s a street cat! Poor thing.” I said, reaching out and realizing again how soft he was. “What would we call him?” I asked David.

“Maybe Socrates?” 

“Socrates.” I said, hearing it. “Sounds good.” 

Needless to say, after a spending spree at PetCo, Socrates came home with us that very day.

I had to stop at my fellowship location on my way home that afternoon. When we arrived on the scene with four bags of cat gear and a cat, the fellowship coordinator was surprised. 

“Is that a cat?” she asked.

After hearing our story, she asked if she could see him. 

“I don’t know,” I said, looking at David-the-Cat-Whisperer for guidance. “Do you think he’ll be nervous?”

“He doesn’t seem nervous” David said, peering into the bag at the utterly unperturbed cat.

“OK, then, sure.” I said, and we let him out. 

And then I witnessed for the first time the most amazing thing about Socrates. He hopped out of his bag, wandered around sniffing things for 30 seconds, then found a patch of sun to lie down in and closed his eyes. “I guess we live here now.” he seemed to say.

Within three minutes that “poor traumatized shelter cat” was settled into the good life. 

I’ve seen him do this this time and time again. 

  • Every time we moved houses. “I guess we live here now. Hey, is that a cabinet for me to hide in?” 
  • When he had to stay the night in a hotel during our move to Pittsburgh. “I guess we live here now. Move over David, I’m joining you in that full sized bed.” 
  • When he stayed with a friend of ours while we went to Ohio for Christmas. “I guess we live here now. Where are we putting my stocking?” 

As far as Socrates was concerned, the environment just didn’t matter.

Like, AT ALL. Why would it? The opportunity to sleep, eat, and escape out the front door was everywhere. Did it really matter where he pursued his dreams? Apparently not.

I really admire that. 

I get caught up in the expectations, structures, and routines of my life. When things turn upside down (like during a pandemic) or even go a little sideways (like when I don’t get a good night’s sleep), it takes me some time to recalibrate. 

Socrates, on the other hand, was just living in the flow. 

He was a cat who knew who he was and what he wanted. The circumstances didn’t change what he wanted, nor was he overly concerned about exactly HOW those needs were going to be met.

As such, he was able to seize the opportunities that were all around, opportunities other cats maybe wouldn’t even see, or would be too finicky or particular or skittish to embrace.

Watching him move from one environment to the next in his utterly unflappable manner, showed me how many opportunities I waste waiting for things to line up, fall out, be perfect, and feel ready. 

As I’ve loosened my need for CONTROL AT ALL TIMES, I’ve found that Socrates was right: the opportunities to get what you want are all around, all of the time

As a result, I’m happier, things happen with more ease, and my progress is faster. 

That’s one smart cat. 

I wonder if the same is true for you? Are you waiting for the perfect, predictable opportunity when you could get busy with the opportunity that is right in front of you? 

It’s something to think about.

Socrates lived with us across 8 homes until he was 18-21 years old. He died in August of 2019 after a few years of slow decline. 

I’m confident that wherever he is, he’s found that patch of sun. 

I guess he lives there now, and I miss him.

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.