The Sunday Mail
WHEN things are working it is easy to relax, acquire bad habits and forget about your running shoes. The challenge of success is that you have to keep running. When the terrain changes, terrible things can happen if you do not change. So long as you are green you are growing. Once you are ripe you are about to rot.
When things stop working as they used to it cannot be business as usual and it is the ding-dong wake up call. When things stop working, as it happens sometimes, it is not time to stop working. It is time to work differently and think outside the box. Pretending is not tending over your affairs with responsibility.
This is what I realised when I had my memorable conversation with my late father one evening.
I was at University of Zimbabwe and taking a BSc. Honours degree programme in Statistics. On one of the long holidays I went home to visit my parents in the bustling Tshabalala Township where I had spent most of my life.
I sat on a little stool in a crowded room sharing the experiences of my University life.
My father, who was lying on his bed and smoking his pipe, raised his hand as though to stop me and asked suddenly: “Why are you not taking a BA degree?”
I tried to explain as plainly as I could what I was studying and why it would not lead to a BA.
After some moments of trying to explain to my intelligent truck driver father what my course was all about in terms that did not defy parental courtesy, he sighed heavily and gave me a blank, distant, nostalgic and despondent stare.
He then went quiet for about five minutes which felt like two hours. Then slowly as though waking up from a near-death nightmare he started recounting how most of his contemporaries and black luminaries of the 1950s and 1960s who went to University and were admired would come strutting off some BA degree.
Being the only son, my father had hoped he would proudly let all who cared to listen know that his son had also attained a BA.
He was gutted. After all the hope, his son would not come home with a BA after all. It was an irreconcilable disappointment.
In his mind to go to University and come back without a BA was just a waste.
What would he tell his friends that he had already told of the impeding graduation? Somehow, his world, pride and hope had been somewhat dashed. What had seemed like a working plan, fatherly aspiration, set destination had stopped working. All hope however was not lost.
What you do not understand does not mean that you have lost your way. What worked in the past will not always work in the future.
You may have heavily invested in a dying legacy, but it is never too late to change. Sometimes it is better late than never.
When you can no longer be changed, you can no longer be helped. Arrogantly digging into your heels will not help many.
When what used to work stops working, stop blaming and take personal responsibility.
Nothing changes so long as you are stuck in the past, and you pretend that everyone lives in the history faculty of life.
Refuse to let life pass you by while you play a new game using old rules. Thinking and behaving analogue in a digital world makes you a laughing stock.
Who Moved My Cheese?
Some years ago I read a small book entitled: “Who Moved My Cheese?” The book is a fable on dealing with change.
The book is a story of four little characters, two mice and two little people. The mice are Scurry and Sniff.
The two little people are named Hem and Haw. The fable represents various personalities or looked at differently, various parts of our nature. Cheese represents the goals that we all work to pursue.
Sniff, just sniffs around for the cheese. Once he located the direction of the cheese, Scurry, dashed into action and straight into the maze looking for cheese. Quick instincts and fast action are key to survival.
In the book, all the four characters wake up everyday and go into the Maze looking for cheese.
One day they find cheese at Cheese Station N. It is all happy days. They build a lifestyle and attachment to the cheese.
They put away their running shoes and think that today’s cheese will be there forever.
One day, almost without notice, they come to their cheese station to find it without cheese and deserted. It is unbelievable and unthinkable.
The two mice do not spend all their time over analysing the cheese-less situation. Sniff, puts up his nose and Scurry dives into action.
When things change, it is time to smell where the cheese has gone to and to follow it. You have to dance to the music which is playing not the one you wish was playing or that was being playing before.
You cannot keep wishing for circumstances that are not present and that may likely never return.
You have to manage the circumstances you find yourself in. You cannot allow the circumstances you live in to live in you and occupy your mind like a computer virus. Rebel against stagnation and complacency.
As fate would have it, the little people, now overweight and spoilt by an entitlement mentality also arrive at the familiar Cheese Station and find it cheese-less.
They stage a demonstration, rant and moan. They shout all the abuses and demand justice. They demand that whoever took the cheese has to put it back or else.
They refuse to go anywhere else and state that the cheese is theirs and will not be taken away from them. Such is human behaviour and so are we spoilt? There is no forward momentum so long as you think you are a victim, and that someone owes you a living.
To mess your proverbial diapers and think that someone will follow you around to clean up your mess while you play and party is insanity.
Unless you take personal responsibility you will never grow or progress. Systems that foster entitlement and reward eating without working kill people’s initiative and creativity. Substituting begging for innovation takes your mind to sleep.
Of the two little people, Hem remains hemmed into his cheese-less situation. He refuses to change and will not move an inch or think any differently.
He just wants whoever took his cheese to put it back. He thinks blaming someone for his fate is worthwhile work.
Staying stuck in what does not work never makes it work until you work differently.
Haw on the other hand begins to think. Firstly, he realises that the mice have gone.
He asks, “Where are they?” He also begins his journey of discovery. The journey starts with visualisation. He realises that you have to see a different picture for you to take different action. He realises that the cheese did not suddenly disappear. It was getting mouldy and shrinking daily. Had he been measuring and keeping score he would have noticed this.
He realises that it is better to search in the maze than to stay in a cheese-less situation. Of importance, Haw faces his fears and asks what he would do if he was not afraid. Fear can imprison potential. Most of our fears are self-inflicted wounds and self-styled handcuffs.
Finally, Haw gathers enough courage to step away from his negative friend and step into the maze to start his search. Along the way he meets some disappointment, but he is determined to search for new cheese, that in time he finds.
Inspired by the example of Haw we can all rise beyond our fears and find new cheese.
When what used to work stops working, you have to be bold enough to throw away what no longer works.
The past is a great asset but to be the world’s museum when there is so much potential and opportunity is a shame. You never graduate from learning. Learning a new lesson that you already know will not yield new revelation.
Do not saw saw-dust. Boldly face your fears, jettison your pride and do what you must. Painless progress is a fantasy.
Easy solutions that absolve you from taking any responsibility are not real solutions. Unless you are willing to face the brutal facts and take massive action, you will stay where you are while everyone is wheeling past. Face your fears, challenge your limits, refuse to stay in your cheese-less situation and face forward.
Stop dreaming about success and greatness, starting working for them diligently and with the focus of a dying person who knows that his days are numbered.
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a cutting-edge international transformational and inspirational speaker, author and coach. He is a strategy and innovation consultant and leadership coach. His life purpose is to inspire people to release the greatness trapped in them. He can be reached at: [email protected] and on Whatsup at: 0772422634.