Who Moved My Cheese?
One of my favorite books ever is “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard. I didn’t read it until I was out of college but I know a copy of it appeared in my house when I was still in high school. My foggy and clumsy summary of the book is this:
Shit is going to happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. The faster you can accept what the actual reality of the situation is, the more successful and happy you will be. The end.
Now – as a child I was always looking forward to the next thing and was never really satisfied with where I was or what I was doing in the moment. Maybe this is why I identified so much with Luke Skywalker as a kid.
“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”Yoda – The Empire Strikes Back
I know – my nerd is showing…
In my defense – being a kid kind of sucked. I moved a fair amount and I was constantly having to make friends and learn local “kid customs” and social structures. Present me is grateful for the experience of learning how to adapt and while while it sucked for younger me – it was also kind of exciting. In a way I kind of grew up inside of that book and over time I came to understand that the sooner I got out exploring my new situation the happier I would be.
If you aren’t focused on mourning the loss of what was, you’ll be able to see what an amazing opportunity a fresh start really is.
So that’s what I did on this particular run. I had been looking for a new place to live and finally found one. I was set to sign the lease a couple days later so I couldn’t resist going out to run in my future neighborhood.
The good news is that I was only moving about a mile and a half from my other place and I really wanted to run every nook and cranny of the new place. I’ve been there before – when I was in college a friend of mine owned a place in there and then after college another friend bought his first family home there. I had even run through there a couple of times in more recent years after I moved to the Annapolis area and as recently as this past year a couple times but I didn’t pay too much attention to anything other than trying to pick out where my friends had lived.
This time I wanted to explore every road, every trail (there are a couple), every little detail so that I could imagine myself there and how living there would be.
So a mile and a half there and a mile and a half back meant I would need to run 10 miles in the new place. As it turns out there are just about 5 miles of running in the new place so I just ran every road in there twice. Worked out pretty well.
Running it twice gave me a chance to look at everything a second time. Yes – I know how that sounds but hear me out. There’s a great Marvin Minsky phrase I love to use in the context of teaching and learning and that is
“You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way”Marvin Minsky
So looking at everything a second time I tried to see it in another way.
Not The Run
Honestly I need to start using this approach more when I’m trying to figure out how I want things to be when it comes to running and playing trumpet and writing music. I use it all the time with stuff like “my life” – where I want to live, what I want to do, what I want to have.
It feels a little bit like obsessing over something, but what I believe is that if you focus long enough and hard enough on some end state, your brain will fill in the gaps as long as it has the information it needs in order to so.
“I can’t stop thinking about Five Guys burgers. “
- You know where it is
- You can drive
- You have cash
- You know how long it will take and the amount of effort it will require to get there
- You also know what it’s like to succeed
It’s so easy because you have all the information and resources you need at your fingertips. Even if you were missing some of the information in this case, it’s easy information to come by.
“I really want to run a 5 minute mile.”
- Can I? Like physically is this even possible?
- How much will I have to train? How often? How long? How Hard?
- Will it be worth it?
It’s not as easy as grabbing a burger because not only are there more unknowns – but finding the answers to these questions is harder than finding the answers to the burger thing. Like – where do you even start?
Finding as many people who are as much like me as I can find and who have already done what I want to do and asking them how they did it has always worked for me. They can help break most of it down for me so I have the information I need to answer the unknowns as they apply to my situation.
I think we all do this naturally when life gets really shitty and we just need to make it better because we *have* to. Like that time my car got hit, the kitchen ceiling collapsed, and we lost a household income all in the same month with two kids under 5 in the house. You can’t ignore that shit. You can’t focus on *anything* else until the pressing needs are met, until you figure out a way to make it happen.
But what if I could get ahead of things and apply the same focus on creating what I desire rather than fixing what I can’t live with? When things are “fine” I tend to coast and leave things as they are – rather than pursue what’s in my heart. Looking back, when I did stay motivated there were a lot of times where I made the mistake of continuing to go after more of what I already had instead of asking what really mattered to me as an individual.
But I also succeeded a lot. I know this works. I know that consistently looking into your future and understanding what you want to accomplish with as much detail and in more that one way – works. But unlike my childhood self, I’ll just be a little more mindful to appreciate the present while I’m doing it.
Next Week: The King’s Dominion Half Marathon