Cats Don't Bark

A Guide to Knowing Who You Are, Accepting Who You Are Not, and Living Your Unique Purpose


By Shane Hipps

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At some point in life everyone is compelled to ask the primordial question — Why am I here? How we answer that question determines whether or not we will discover our true calling in life and harness our full professional, personal, and spiritual potential.

Many counterfeit voices will offer an answer, but the one true voice whispers from the inside. Cats Don’t Bark provides powerful techniques to help the reader listen for the “One Voice” and find the courage to follow it. This is a book about discovering who we are, accepting who we are not, and cultivating the habits we need to discover and embrace who we were meant to be.


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Table of Contents


Copyright Page

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A gorgeous thirty-foot midnight blue touring boat with a stunning profile and an unusual deck clad entirely in mahogany with maple inlays sat in the water before me. It wasn't flashy, but it was utterly arresting. There I stood, feeling out of place, on a private dock at a party thrown by a very wealthy man on his sprawling estate. I was there by chance. On the other side of the dock behind me sat an enormous three-story yacht, but for some reason I couldn't take my eyes off the smaller touring boat. Just then the host walked up to greet me. I turned casually to make conversation and hopefully appear to belong.

"I've never seen a boat like this," I said. "It's beautiful."

"Thanks. Yeah, I really love the way it sits in the water. Nothing quite like it."

He mentioned a few other unique attributes that were lost on me, but he didn't seem interested in bragging. Then he politely thanked me for coming and continued making his rounds with the other guests.

Later I was talking to one of the guests at the party and I asked if he had seen that particular boat.

"Amazing, isn't it?" he replied. "Do you know how much that thing costs?"

I guessed around $150,000 (an inflated estimate, I reasoned).

"Not even close. That's a Riva!" He laughed.

This meant nothing to me.

He could see that. "It's an Italian-made boat. There are only three of these in the country and only about a hundred made each year. A Riva like this would cost at least a million dollars."

My jaw dropped. It was certainly a work of art, and clearly well crafted, but I would have never guessed it. This was a simple lesson in economics. In this case, much of the value was determined by a limited supply. The price was derived not just from craftsmanship and materials, but from the boat's rarity. I felt somehow special to be in the presence of something so valuable and so rare.

Then again, it was just a boat, even if it was one in a hundred. By contrast, an estimated seven billion people are living on the earth today. That's a lot of people. Of all those billions of people, not one—not a single one—is like you. That means you are one in seven billion—a true one of a kind. In other words, a Riva has nothing on you. It's an impressive stat. But let's go back in time for a moment and consider all of human history. From this perspective the number looks a little different. By some estimates nearly 160 billion people have lived on this earth since the beginning of human history. In all that time, in all those people, no one has ever been like you. And in all the billions of people who have yet to be born, not a single one will ever be like you. No one sees the world the way you do, tastes food the way you do, laughs like you, speaks like you, is shaped like you, appreciates music like you, plays like you, creates like you, or wants exactly what you want in life.

You are completely, utterly, and incalculably unique. And here you are—walking, talking, thinking, feeling, and doing. Right now you are. I am. And one day we won't be, not like this. While you walk the earth, you are worth more than all the wealth in the world. You are a genuine miracle, and yet most of the time we are oblivious to this fact. But every once in a while something peeks into our mundane activities and we recognize it. We have a keen awareness that this life is an extraordinary moment. We know somehow—even when life is difficult—we've been given a precious gift. It is the reason that everyone at some point is compelled to ask that primordial question—Why am I here?

Beneath our conscious awareness, we can feel there must be something more to our being here. There must be a reason for the extravagant gift of existence. It can't all be just a cosmic accident. And so we search for the purpose that pulses beneath the surface.

The question can be posed in terms that are detached and philosophical or studied and existential. But my interest is only in the personal nature of the question: Why am I, [INSERT YOUR NAME], here right now? What am I supposed to be doing with this life? These are the most important questions we can ask in our lifetime.

You will find no shortage of answers to these questions. Scores of books have been written on the subject. If you are a religious person, your religious leaders and sacred texts will gladly offer a set of answers to you. Then we have our parents, spouses, partners, friends, children, teachers, advertisers, employers, and cultures, all of whom will eagerly give direction and advice. Most of the answers offered by others remove ambiguity from the search. They answer the questions for us. At first, this may seem to be a great relief, but sooner or later most of us come to realize a very important truth: in reality, no one can answer these questions for you. The reason is that the answers do not come in words from the outside, but rather as an experience, an intuition, a gut sense from within.


The word question is an interesting one. It shares the same root as the word quest. Both come from a Latin word that means "to seek." The fundamental questions (Why am I here right now? What am I supposed to do with this life?) drive our most basic quest in life. Your quest is yours and yours alone. This book does not answer the questions for you, but it will help you find answers. It offers new ways of seeing, fresh tools, and proven practices designed to serve as companions as you embark on your quest. Think of this book as a compass and map in the wilderness. I do not pretend to know your starting point or your destination. But I have found some very powerful aids no matter where you are or where you're going. They work.

Think of this book as a compass and map in the wilderness.

I come by these tools honestly. I've had an unconventional career path with several unexpected turns. I started as a strategic planner in advertising, where I worked on brands ranging from Porsche to Harrah's to Formica. Then I did what every ad guy does: I went to seminary. After that I did the one thing I never thought I would do—become the pastor of a small Mennonite church. And later I served as the pastor of a megachurch. Today I'm involved in corporate leadership development, executive coaching, speaking, and writing.

That's just my professional life. My personal life is no less linear. Each one of my transitions and decisions could be made into a book all its own. Some of these reinventions were easier than others. Each one came with a cost, as well as a gift. Through them all I have been a devoted student of the process of finding and living my purpose. At times I have been both inspired by clarity and utterly lost. I have been a coward and deceived myself along the way. I have also learned to listen carefully and live courageously and creatively.

None of this is a judgment, nor is it self-congratulating. I'm simply stating what is. All of it fits in the story just as it should. Some may read the story of your life (or mine) through a lens of judgment. This is understandable—we've been taught rights and wrongs, goods and bads, morals and values. These are useful for many aspects of life. However, judgment and self-condemnation have no place in the process of purpose. They are the fastest way to undermine the first and most important ingredient in uncovering your purpose.

Judgment and self-condemnation have no place in the process of purpose.


The cornerstone of this entire process is honesty. We must be willing to be honest first with ourselves. Nothing undermines our honesty like judgment or condemnation, which fuel guilt and shame. When we deem something in us as bad or unworthy, we quickly learn to hide it from ourselves and others. We set up defenses for fear of exclusion, embarrassment, or rejection. This is when self-deception sets in. It causes all of our desires to submerge into the clandestine land of the unconscious. There they remain buried, obscuring our true desires, our motives, and our purpose. Our unconscious patterns serve as a puppet master dictating and distorting our movements. In the process we cheat ourselves, steal away our true inner joy, and live a life that is not our own.

Throughout my experiences, I made myself a student of techniques that could help me align with my purpose and listen for direction that comes from within. I also learned a lot about the cost when you ignore such direction, and the reward when you follow it. This process isn't just about career or life choices; those are only the surface changes. Beneath these shifts are basic alterations in our being, the uncovering and expansion of our true nature, the truth about who we are. Finding direction and living with purpose are as much about discovering who we are as they are about accepting what we're not.

Finding direction and living with purpose are as much about discovering who we are as they are about accepting what we're not.

Which brings me to the title of the book—Cats Don't Bark. This is the simplest way I could distill the common misunderstanding people encounter in everything from relationship problems to finding and living a purpose. In short, most of us spend some part of our lives pretending to be something we are not, and expecting others to do the same.

This is understandable. Our lives begin as an imitative process. We learn whom to be and how to behave by mirroring our parents. We learn gender roles by mimicking Mom or Dad. We see that when we act like Mom or Dad, we get positive feedback. Later we learn to imitate other people we want to like us. Our peers, possible partners, and bosses all present us with opportunities to ignore or deny our true nature and adopt or react to the vision they have. Alternatively, we may seek to exert control and manipulate others so that they are more like us, insisting they become something they are not in order to make us feel better.

Eventually, though, we learn a simple truth: We don't like living according to what others want or expect from us. And it's tiring to force, cajole, or manipulate others into speaking or behaving in ways we prefer.

The path of discovering and living our purpose is a process of coming to terms with who we really are—and what we truly want—and accepting that fact as self-evident without judgment. It's also a process of accepting others for who they are and not trying to entice or force them to be something they are not. When we do this, we soon come to the truth in a drama-free way, as simply as observing that cats don't bark. (Why would they? It's not their nature.) And the sooner we accept this fact about ourselves and others, the sooner the drama can stop and the faster we will be on a path to living our purpose and creating the life we want most.


As a pastor, I spent most of my time trying to untangle the mess religion has made of the word God. I found that word always seemed to come with a 747 full of baggage. However, I live with a deep awareness that I am utterly dependent upon something much more vast and powerful than I am. I depend on it for my very existence and everything in it. It is the source of everything I have and everything I am. It is the very breath that dances in me. Without it, I am in a box in the ground.

I acknowledge that most people use the word God to label that reality. So if you want to use the word God, that's fine with me. But it goes by many names: Life, the Source, All That Is, Infinite Intelligence, Inspiration, the Muse, the Holy Spirit, Christ, the Universe, Consciousness, Existence, Breath, Divinity, Love, the Uncreated Creator—the list goes on. Some of these names will resonate for you; others will sound too religious, New Agey, or vague. That's OK because this power doesn't need a name. Feel free to choose a name that works best for you, or no name at all.

I live with a deep awareness that I am utterly dependent upon something much more vast and powerful than I am.

The name is not nearly as important as the direct experience of this power. At some moment in life you have experienced inspiration, an intuitive hunch, deep appreciation, joy, a feeling of being in the "zone," or unexpected creativity that seemed to come from somewhere outside you. It was bigger than you, and when it came through you, it felt exhilarating. Each and every one of these moments is an experience of the Source of Life. You and I came into this world with unlimited access to an extraordinary creative power.

In the simplest terms, we were made to make. The object of our creation is not at issue here. It could be a painting, a rocket, a relationship, a family, a business, a spreadsheet, an empire, a policy, a curriculum, a cure, or a meal. Whatever it is, we are in a state of constant creation whether we know it or not. The question is, are we creating the life we want consciously? Are we awake to the things we are creating? In a very real sense our purpose is not just something we are here to find; it is also something we get to create. With this in mind, the question Why am I here? takes on a slightly different tone. Another way to ask the question might be, "How do I want to create my life?" We are here to create something that has never existed before. So what do you want to create?

In a very real sense our purpose is not just something we are here to find; it is also something we get to create.


I sat across from my boss at his desk. He was a tall, barrel-chested man with a full jaw and thin blond hair. "Why are you committing career suicide?" he asked. I had just informed him that I would be leaving advertising to attend seminary—not exactly a standard next step in career advancement. I understood his confusion. In my head I built an answer designed to steel my resolve. But it smacked of high-minded moralizing and condescension. It went something like this:

"Advertising is a form of coercion that makes use of the most sophisticated kinds of deception wrapped in seduction. It is the engine that drives the worst parts of consumer culture. It creates values at odds with…" And so on.

Looking back, I don't entirely dismiss the rant. Except that it had little to do with my actual reason for leaving a fun job that paid well. In reality, leaving advertising was not some act of nobility, but it's what I told myself and others and how I presented myself. I wanted to be someone other than who I was. There's something empowering, albeit misguided, about playing the role of a high holy hero driven by moral conviction. This stance made it a little easier to leave something I enjoyed.

In reality, a subtle dis-ease had begun to emerge in me over the course of a year. Something I couldn't explain was nudging me. It didn't make sense at first. Sometimes I wrote it off as just being overworked and feeling underpaid. Other days I thought of it as the cost of doing business or dealing with irritating clients and coworkers. But one thing was sure—I wasn't where I wanted to be. I remember asking a question: If I died today, would I have lived doing what I was made to do? The answer was a resounding no.

If I died today, would I have lived doing what I was made to do?

It was more like I had developed some strange allergy to a food I liked. Though I enjoyed the taste, I felt compelled to spit it out. A voice inside was saying, "You weren't made for this. It's time for something else." Unfortunately it didn't tell me what that was. Back then, I felt a strange affinity for studying theology, culture, technology, and psychology in my leisure time. So seminary became an unexpected but natural next step as I began the process of finding my purpose. But at the time, following my curiosity without knowing where it was leading, and not following a strategic life plan, felt like a risky decision.

The question my boss wanted to know was, why? Frankly, I wanted an answer to the same question. All I knew was that for some time something deep inside me insisted advertising wasn't what I was supposed to be doing. Deep down I knew whatever ladder I was climbing was leaning against the wrong wall. I was not doing what I was made to do. In that moment I knew I had to plan my departure and forge a different path. While that was the feeling, in reality I also knew my being in advertising wasn't a mistake. I hadn't taken a wrong turn and gotten lost. It was all part of the mysterious path of purpose, contributing experiences and skills that both clarified and expanded who I was.

This is one of my earliest adult memories of connecting with a strong sense of direction in life. It became the first of many twists and turns, all of which have led me back to myself. Until then, everything had been planned for me, as is the case for many middle-and upper-class people in the Western world. Other than deciding which college to attend or which major to choose, many of us face few significant decisions during our school years. Every major crossroad is mapped out before you get to it, until you graduate. Then the crossroads only become clear after you've passed through them, with no warning that they are coming and no accompanying ritual or ceremony.

The decision to attend seminary meant a cross-country move from the frozen tundra of Minnesota to sunny Southern California. That little detail made the adventure all the more exciting. Soon after arriving and getting settled, I eased my way into the unknown. The path remained unclear for several years. I thoroughly enjoyed seminary and the studies, but none of it seemed to lead me any closer to my next step in life. In time I found myself in an unexpected depression. The question my boss had asked me started to make more sense. Why did I commit career suicide for seminary? If I didn't want to be a pastor, then why was I in seminary?

I found myself adrift in a sea of ambivalence. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. The natural roles for seminary graduates—pastor, chaplain, professor, missionary—didn't appeal to me. So I went looking for help. I talked with mentors, a therapist, chaplains, and several of my professors. None of them had the answers to my fundamental questions: What am I supposed to do? Why am I here? It's not that they didn't try to help, but they couldn't possibly have known the answers.

Eventually I found a guide who pointed me in a new direction. She showed me unusual techniques that led me to an unexpected place. In time I learned that the answers to the questions I was asking come only from within.

In time I learned that the answers to the questions I was asking come only from within.


    "Really profound...helpful...inspiring." —Rob Bell, Author of Love Wins
  • "There are, in Hipps' SELLING, a sturdiness and brilliance and simplicity of theology and an accessible and God-drenched grace that make it the humblest, clearest, most comfortably compelling statement yet of the difference between "religious Christianity" and the Jesus way. In sum, this is one of the most instructive and pastoral books I have read in the last ten years and, Lord knows, one of the most needed."—Phyllis Tickle, Lecturer on Religion in America and Author of Emergence Christianity: What it Is, Where it is Going, and Why it Matters
  • "Shane Hipps brings us news that is too good not to be true: that what we thought we had to wait for, work for, strive for, reach for, fight for, die for, earn, learn, master, or attain is actually already a gift fully given in the present of this moment, graciously and freely ours if only we would awaken to it. This book not only offers us this good news with great clarity and delight; it also helps us-gently, wisely, simply, and profoundly-to be roused and raised into that blessed state of awe and awakening."—Brian D. McLaren, author of Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (
  • "Masterfully weaving story, metaphor, and scripture into a tapestry, Shane Hipps puts his finger on something we all long for: a connection with the Divine. SELLING WATER BY THE RIVER will be a wonderful discovery for the many people who feel that true spirituality has been corrupted by culture and religion."—Tony Jones ( is a theologian and the author of many books, including The New Christians
  • "This book is one of the flare-ups from that religionless Christianity that more and more is breaking out in our world. Some of us will flee from what Shane Hipps tries to tell us in this book. Others will find what he has to say helpful in their efforts to live out the Jesus lifestyle in the landscape of a post-modern world. Whatever your reactions might be you will find the words on these pages cannot be ignored."—Tony Campolo, Eastern University
  • "Shane Hipps manages to take your beliefs and assumptions about God and the Bible and artfully, yet mercilessly wrings them out, leaving behind whatever drips to the floor, (the things that never belonged in there anyhow), then shakes them out and shows them to you again now free from what had clung to them -and before you is something beautiful, true, new and familiar."—Nadia Bolz-Weber, Founding Pastor, House for all Sinners and Saints
  • "Shane Hipps offers us a compelling and life-giving reminder that the work and life of Jesus is not identical to what we know to be Christianity. Without falling into cynicism or mere critique Shane invites us to encounter a wild ride with Jesus. The fruit of reconsidering the gospel in light of full humanity-his and our own-is like being given a refreshing IPA after a long dusty hike. Let the breath of God blow you into new wonder and hope."—Dan B. Allender, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

On Sale
Oct 6, 2015
Page Count
224 pages
Center Street

Shane Hipps

About the Author

Shane Hipps is the chief leadership officer for Aspen Heights, a national real estate development company. His focus is human development in the corporate world. Through his unique coaching techniques, training, and workshops, he unlocks purpose, potential, and creativity. Hipps is also a sought-after speaker and author of several bestselling books. You can visit his website at

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