Who moved my cheese? What a ridiculous title. If you look up a YouTube video, you will see a few cartoon mice playing out a scenario where cheese in a maze has been moved and how two sets of mice react to it. Sniff and Scurry versus Hem and Haw is a fable playing the childish reactions, illustrated in a childish setting. It is possibly the most realistic book I have read.
I have had to remind myself of this story many times in my career. When a big company came into a group I was privileged to help grow, I spoke of this book to my team. This was more of a formality as I didn’t quite buy into the idea of the changes myself. I just needed to lead my team to do so. I believe this strategy was my departing factor.
Moving to the free agent world, I had the honor to work with some great companies and help them find just where to put their cheese. This landed me with a fantastic group of men and women in Michigan that helped me develop skills of Sniff and Scurry through many challenges of growth and COVID operations. One day, I got the call to have my cheese moved once again and took a chance with a group that had a long history and was also going through some huge changes. They were being bought themselves while acquiring other brands. Becoming used to the cheese moving, I took this leap from a family-owned company to big private equity heavy into acquisitions. Not only were the leaders of the company being challenged to change, but they were challenging other companies they acquired to do the same.
Seek the Prize
Change is not easy for most. It takes them out of their comfort level. Comfort is a blanket. Blankets are used for protection and warmth. It also creates restrictions. The blanket wraps itself around you, restricting your movement, and tells you to stay put. We are comforted with warmth and security while we stop progressing, stop pursuing our goals, stop trying to be great.
If you want bigger muscles, you must push yours to the limit and then some so your body knows to make them better. If you want more intellect, you push aside your TV in pursuit of courses or books to broaden your mind. If you want more wealth, you work harder, search for other opportunities to achieve your goals. If you want comfort, you do none of these.
When I write you articles every month, they typically come from experiences of my own (both past and present). In the past few weeks, we have welcomed new leaders into our group. Sadly, we have said goodbye to some fantastic leaders as well. The sadness of the losses and the uncomfortable feelings of new leaders bringing in change can push many inside their blanket once again. I have taken part in looking for my blanket and uttering the words of Hem and Haw and these actions will do no good for me.
Sure, it feels good. As you struggle with your emotions of fear you latch onto conversations with others who share your fear. The words shared with others about the woes of change brings you comfort as you unify your thoughts with others. At the end of the day, you have made a solid network of blankets to share “used to be” stories with. As hungry as you get for that cheese, the realization is that it’s not there challenges you. You can Hem and Haw with the group starving for comfort. You can set out to understand the challenge and find the cheese once again.
When you take that leap to leave comfort, and you find your cheese, the reward never tastes like it did in the old days. The journey that you went on to find the new, the strength you gained to push yourself past comfort and the knowledge you received by sacrificing your comfort time will bring you to a different you, and a different appreciation of the rewards.
I write this to my team, to my past teams, to those who will eventually get bought out by another company. To those who have to lead others through the changes while trying to accept them yourself. To those who left because of change and to those who will be told to leave because they will not change. There are no external constants in your life or in this world. The internal constant is the only thing that can help you or hurt you on your path. Accept there is change, challenge yourself on how you can grow from it. Put your blanket away and Be Great!