From Lions to Pussycats

By Bill Hodges

©2000 Hodges Seminars International

As a professional speaker, I created a program entitled "Tip Toe Thru the Alligators" that I present at conferences, conventions and management meetings. The title comes from the old saying: "When you’re up to your fanny in alligators, it’s hard to remember your original mission was to drain the swamp." In today’s world of corporate downsizing (excuse me, the current politically correct term is "rightsizing"), there are a lot of people doing more with less. Many of them are just trying to hold on to their jobs. It is essential, especially in this type of climate, that we understand when someone bites and snaps at us, it is not personal but rather a stress effect of this do-more-with-less philosophy. The objective of my "Tip Toe Thru the Alligators" program is to show ways to work around obstacles (usually other people) to get a job done.

Speaking of animals, I remember hearing a story about a man named Joe who had been laid off from his job and decided to take a new path in life. He had always wanted to be in show business, but was continually turned down until he finally ended up at the zoo. Being desperate, Joe told the personnel officer at the zoo that he would take any position—even cleaning cages. As chance would have it, Joe made a comment on his desire to be in show business. The personnel officer’s face brightened. He explained to Joe that he had a bad situation and maybe Joe could help him. The zoo had advertised a new gorilla exhibit. However, the gorilla had died in transit and all of the people coming to see the gorilla were going to be disappointed. Could Joe put on a gorilla costume and act the part of a gorilla? It was the answer to Joe’s dream, a chance to get into show business, so he accepted.

Once in the cage, wearing the costume, Joe beat his chest and made snarling noises at the crowd of onlookers. The onlookers applauded and threw peanuts. This encouraged Joe to even more spectacular activity. He beat his chest harder, bellowed louder, and began to swing higher and higher on the trapeze in the cage. He expended even greater effort until he lost his grip at the top of one swing, flew over the wall, and landed in the next cage. To Joe’s horror, he found he had fallen into a cage with what appeared to be a very hungry lion. Joe thought, "If I yell out, people will find out I am not really a gorilla and I will lose my job. However, if I don’t do something, I will become lion food. Maybe I can scare the lion." So he beat on his chest and bellowed loudly, but the lion just kept coming toward him. Joe beat and bellowed some more, but the lion just kept coming. Finally, Joe, quietly said to himself, "I don’t care if I lose my job, I’m going to yell for help." The lion heard him and quickly replied, "Shut up, buddy, or we’re both going to lose our jobs."

The next time you are busy trying to drain the swamp and you run into some animals who snap and bite at you, keep our friend Joe in mind. Those alligators may be no more real than Joe’s lion. They may be people trying to keep their jobs just like you and me. Treat them kindly and they just might turn out to be pussycats.

Bill Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, and syndicated columnist. Hodges may be reached at Hodges Seminars International, P.O. Box 89033, Tampa, FL 33689-0400. Phone 813/641-0816.

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