Life Lessons from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

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While I loved “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” I have to say that Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof” is the greatest film ever…ever.  Yeah, I said it!  That movie just stretched me out.  I just love it.  Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman were amazing in portraying a married couple in a strained relationship based on “lies and liars.”  Those of you who know the film know exactly what I am talking about.  I have seen this film more than 100 times, and it is just as powerful as when I first saw it.  The strength and posturing of Maggie the Cat and Brick’s cruel and heartless behavior were intriguing and delivered with artistic flair.  I saw myself looking at this film repeatedly, and as a result, I garnered several life lessons.  I, unfortunately, had to pare them down to three.

LESSON #1- Sometimes There Will Be Hurdles

There will be roadblocks that will get in your way.  You will have to maneuver through life.  Just like a track star, you must get over those hurdles.  In “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Brick jumps over hurdles while drunk.  He makes it over one…two…but the third hurdle Brick goes down.  Why?  First, he was drunk and unable to jump over the hurdles.  Secondly, he was not physically or mentally prepared to conquer those hurdles.  I recall preparing myself physically to become an FBI Agent.  I was ready mentally, but physically I had some hurdles to conquer.  I did not care for running too much, but if I wanted to become a Special Agent with the FBI, I needed to beat that running hurdle.  After all, the running portion of the fit-test would not be waived because I saw it as a hurdle.  Running is part of the process of becoming an FBI Agent.  I had to conquer that hurdle.  I hired a trainer to help me get over that hurdle; I joined a gym to get over that hurdle; I ran every day to get over that hurdle.  And conquered I did…I beat that hurdle!

In conquering that hurdle, it was ingrained in me that hurdles would show up.  Hurdles will show up in the form of projects at work, criminal investigations, and in the state of people being people.  Work to get over the hurdles.  Just like Brick, you might get over some of the hurdles, but that one hurdle can take you down. 

LESSON #2 - Life is Not Fair

Just after Elizabeth Taylor’s character, Maggie, had an uncomfortable conversation with Big Mama about her relationship with Big Mama’s son and Maggie’s husband, Brick, she mutters, “That’s not fair.”  Life is and never will be fair.  Once you come to grips and recognize that life is not fair, you will move forward and shift from where you are—commiserating about whether something that has happened or whether something that someone has done is appropriate or not will get you nowhere fast.  This thinking will keep you planted and stuck.  You must consider you may not ever have all the information to give you clarity, but that should not stop you.  Focus on what and where you want to be and how you will push past your feelings of unfairness.  I remembered applying for a leadership position in the FBI.I was ready.  I was prepared.  I had positioned myself for this role years before.  When the opportunity to apply for the position was presented, I immediately used it.  I submitted a package for review because I was ready.  It was time to kick it up a notch.  I interviewed and interviewed very well.  Unfortunately, I was not selected.  While I came in the number two slot, I was still very disappointed.  I became discouraged and began to feel as though I was mistreated.  That job was mine, I told myself.  I connected with the right people, prepared, and positioned myself, but I was not selected for the position I worked so hard to attain.  But, the matter was I did not get the job because it was not my job!  I had to let it go.  Had I stayed in that negative place of discouragement and unfairness, I would be stuck today crying about how that was my job.  I should have gotten that job.  Well, I didn’t get it.  Get over it, Glover!  I am so glad I got over it because I would have never been able to walk through doors and experience new opportunities presented to me repeatedly.            

LESSON #3 - Think Before You Act

Elizabeth Taylor’s character Maggie tells Big Daddy about how she would try and get back at Brick by sleeping with his best friend, Skipper.  Maggie thought about what she was about to do, and realized that would not be a good idea.  Her actions would make matters worse between her and Brick and lead to the more emotional pain that I am sure she cared not to endure.  As a street Agent, I investigated drug violations for 12 years.  While assigned to one of my many field offices, I allowed another Agent to make me feel some way.  I allowed it.  Get it?  I allowed it.  So much so I no longer wanted to be assigned to the squad and requested a transfer to a newly created criminal investigative team.  That was a hasty decision on my part.  I should have calmed down, cooled off a bit, and initiated a conversation with the Agent.  While my decision was hasty, I was fortunate that requesting the transfer was a good move.  However, take it from me, you don’t want to make any changes in your life in a rush without being thoughtful and dissecting all the information.  

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