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Someone Moved My Cheese… Again!

“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? ”– Robert H. Schuller

In 1998, a man named Spencer Johnson wrote and published a book called “Who Moved My Cheese?” It has been a phenomenally successful book selling close to 30 million copies in more than 37 languages. Today, it remains one of the bestselling business books ever.

While the book’s theme about surviving and thriving in times of change has always been important, it may be even more so today, in the world of COVID-19 and rapidly changing paradigms. The simple story was a life-changer for me personally. If you have not read it, or the sequel, “Out of the Maze,” now may just be the time.  Simple. Powerful. Insightful. Plus, both books are super-quick reads; big type fonts, graphics, and wide margins… most could read both books in a couple of hours. Might just impact your life at an important time.

“Who Moved My Cheese?” is a short fable involving two mice (Sniff and Scurry) and two tiny people (Hem and Haw) and how they respond when someone moves their cheese. In this fable, cheese is a metaphor for whatever you might want in your life. For some, the “cheese” might represent work, a good job, money, career, or possessions. For others, the metaphorical cheese might be relationships, love, happiness, or spiritual peace of mind (to name a few varieties).

The maze is a metaphor for where we look for our cheese, what we want in life – our place of work, family, social networks, or perhaps the communities in which we live.

For almost all of us, COVID-19 has, in one way or another, taken away, or moved, our cheese. An estimated 38 million people lost their jobs since early March, some temporarily, many permanently. Thousands have lost loved ones, directly or indirectly, to the virus. The pandemic has accelerated a growing gap between the “haves” and “have nots” of the world.  Workers have been labeled as essential, and unfortunately, non-essential. Our ability to socialize, network and be with loved ones has been drastically changed. Millions are lonely, and millions are hungry, even desperate for food and necessities. For almost everyone, our cheese has been moved. Mine has, how about yours?

While millions have lost their jobs and have no other option but to go in search of new “cheese.” Other people, while still employed, may find this to be a near perfect time to explore new opportunities. Maybe you have always wanted to explore a new field or career; this could be your signal that now is the time.

I described the first book as a life-changer for me. More than 20 years ago, I had what most people would have described as a wonderful job, working with great people in a great company. Even though I loved the work I was privileged to do, my heart ached for something new and different. My passion has always been to help people learn, grow and experience greater levels of success. I wanted to run my own seminar and workshop practice for that purpose.

“Who Moved My Cheese?” had just been published and I picked up a copy at an airport bookstore on my way home from an out-of-state meeting. That evening, lying in bed reading with my wife, I came across the following thought-provoking question, like Dr. Schuller’s quote above:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

I put down the book, interrupted my wife’s reading, and pronounced I wanted to quit my job. In short, her response was, “What are you reading? And whatever it is, please stop reading it!” You might accurately guess a much longer conversation ensued, but the bottom line was; in that moment, I began planning the next chapter of my career and searching for new cheese in a new maze.

Of course, moving to a new maze does not mean there will not be dead ends, sharp turns, obstacles, and problems to be solved in the continuous search for new cheese. I was a newly minted consultant when 9/11 occurred. I thought I had things figured out when the 2008/09 economic collapse happened. Both events triggered the need for new learning, growing, exploring, and cheese-finding.

Now, here we are, COVID-19 has been devastating for “cheese sources” everywhere around the world. Entire industries have been decimated, including the seminar/workshop industry, my source of cheese for more than 30 years. Millions and millions of people are now looking around asking “Who moved my cheese?” So, once again, we must learn to “pivot” in the continued exploration of new cheese.

While I would encourage you to read or re-read the book for yourself, here are a few key points from my notes and personal experience for your consideration as you seek to find and enjoy new cheese:

  • The variety of cheese in the world is vast. – When young, I only knew, and liked, one cheese and that was American (I knew two varieties if you count Velveeta as a cheese.) There is an infinite number of cheeses out there just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. You do have to have a sense of adventure and a willingness to explore.
  • Cheese spoils over time. – We must always be on the lookout for new sources, continuing to search, grow, learn, and explore. If you get stale, so might your cheese.
  • Cheese will continue to get moved without our involvement or permission. – After COVID-19, there will be something else, a new technology, new paradigms, and new financial challenges. Have a mindset that it will get moved again. Your attitude matters.
  • You may discover you are in the wrong maze. – Perhaps the cheese you seek is in a completely different maze. How many people do you know who majored in a subject in school or college and are now in a completely different field? Maybe it is time to explore other mazes.
  • The more important “your cheese” is to you, the more you want to hold onto it. – Change requires you to let go of the past so that you can move on to the future.
  • Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese. – Mandy Hale said, “Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.”
  • When you stop being afraid you start feeling good. – Courage is not the absence of fear but acting in the face of fear.
  • The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you will find new cheese. – C.S Lewis said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
  • Old beliefs do not lead to new cheese! – Just maybe we need to start thinking in new and different ways about the future. Maybe our beliefs about how the world used to work are part of the problem. Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.”

How will you live, or lead, differently or better this week?

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Bryan Yager

“Expanding Your Capacity for Success?

Bonus Quotes:

  • “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” – Lao Tzu
  • “You can’t reach what’s in front of you until you let go of what’s behind you.” – Louise Armstrong
  • “We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action.” – Dr. Henry Link
  • “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go — no one else.” – Les Brown
  • “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn
  • “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “I love the big fresh starts, the clean slates like birthdays and new years. But I also really like the idea that we can get up every morning and start over.” – Kristin Armstrong