Tag Archives: career

An English Translation of a German metaphor from the guy next to me on the plane

A logical progression from the realisation that ideals are not always ‘ideal’ (unless you’re an extreme cynic, in which case you will probably always be pleasantly surprised, unless of course you become so cynical that you fail to recognise anything positive because you’re too busy questioning it, which in actual fact probably comes full circle back to the same scenario of the optimist, who is so certain that their ideal exists somewhere out there that they spend their whole life worrying about how to get there or whether or not they will miss it as a result of being where they are, as always we come back to the same point; Balance.)

Advice on career and general life choices from the German guy sitting next to me on the plane. For the record, his name is Martin.

As always it starts with a metaphor, in German it is “stallgeruch”, which directly translates to “the smell of the cage”. In the dog eat dog career world, there are two main categories; on the one side you have the pedigrees, and on the other; the mongrels, the heinz 57s, the pavement specials. The pedigrees are born knowing exactly what they are, and they spend their lives grooming, preening and living according to the book of whichever they may be, because there have of course been many pedigrees before them and a system has been devised on how to exceed at being that particular breed – what food to eat, how much exercise is necessary, how often should one be groomed. On top of this there are certain traits that have become favourable in that particular breed, and this is what should be worked towards if one wants to become a so called ‘prized pedigree’, the absolute pinnacle point in their field. The point I’m trying to make is that everything is predetermined, there are no maybes or possibilities or forks in the road, there is one path to success and if you follow it then I am quite certain you will find it, or at least rest assured that you are moving towards it. You will make the logical progression along your chosen path and while you will of course encounter obstacles and inclines and declines and probably the odd pot hole (in varying frequencies depending on the path and its upkeep and how many people walk it, or don’t), and sometimes you may look at another breed with envy and wonder what your doing as a poodle, but the thought never occurs to you that you could possibly be anything but, and without this niggling distraction of “but maybe I’d make a better pit-bull”, all your energy can be put into being the best at whatever it is that you are.

Then you have the mongrels. The cross-breeds, as with any combination of things, come in varying degrees of complexity. You get your Labrador-cross-Golden Retriever, or your Collie-cross-Alsation, then you get that funny looking wiry thing whose mother’s great grandma’s father was a Cocker Spaniel who mated with an Afgan Hound leaving a creature with so many different genetic options that its entire being is the epitome of confusion; its fur doesn’t know if it should be straight or curly, long or short, silky or fluffy, is it a hunter or a family dog, a finder or a fetcher, well groomed or just out for a good time in a muddy puddle? Sometimes, often, too many options can lead to a state of disastrous confusion, unsure of what to choose it is very easy to end up with a crazy jumbled mish-mash of different traits and characteristics. However, in my opinion, a successful mongrel will far exceed any given pedigree, however prized, simply because they have more options to play with, they are suited to travelling along various different walks of life. It is of course much harder and more risky and more painful and more confusing and there will constantly be ups and downs and not just the potholes of one road but off all the different roads you happen to find yourself on and each time you will have to become reacquainted with the nature of the hills and potholes of that particular road and how best to navigate around them, but when you do, and when you have done that for seven different roads, you will become a master of such things. They say the more languages you know the easier it is to pick a new one up, rather than just knowing the nature of the language itself you become acquainted with the principles behind language as an entire form and…. alas, as always, as the mongrel with the pedigree great aunt Margaret, I have digressed, and completely failed to offer any explanation whatsoever for “the smell of the cage”, which is probably a lot easier to understand that my metaphorical interpretation of the English translation of a German metaphor.

“The smell of the cage” refers to the labels applied to and the interaction between people in the corporate world. The idyllic view is that you can have all your different cages containing all the different animals; horses and rhinos and elephants and cheetahs and giraffes and monkeys and so the list goes on. In an ideal world, the horse could happily trot on down to the rhino cage and be all like “hey guys, let me tell you what it’s like to be a horse.” and they would be all like “awesome, do you wanna know what it’s like being a rhino?”, and so through willingness to accept this other species and appreciating the fact that they may be able to teach you something about being a rhino, they will be able to learn something from one another, and if they work together, with their combined strengths they will be able to achieve more. But the sad reality is, apparently, that the horse will come in all proud of its horsie abilities, and it’ll be all like “look how fast I can run, look how much weight I can pull!” and the rhinos’ll be all like “we don’t give a shit, we’re rhinos and we’ve got big horns and thick skin.” This all started when I voiced my desire to try my hand at absolutely everything, in the hope that I eventually become super skilled and sought after. In the corporate world of cages however, people don’t like to mix their skills, you can be super talented at being a rhino, but if you look and smell like a horse you’re never going to be welcome in the rhino cage, well, if you look and smell like a horse you’re probably going to encounter a few more problems along your road to success, but that’s another story entirely. Actually, it’s written by Kelly with the 44 faces, and it’s called Arthur the Hornless Unicorn.