Who Moved My Camel?
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
In the bestselling book “Who Moved my Cheese”, author Spencer Johnson takes an insightful look at what happens to people faced with unexpected and unwanted change. This amusing tale, which takes less than an hour to read, is designed to help us live our lives more successfully, no matter what might be lurking around the corner.
In 2014, I found out just how important it is to roll with the punches in a slightly less leisurely manner, when I was caught in a sandstorm while crossing the Sahara Desert. Less “who moved my cheese”, more “who moved my camel”!
The largest desert in the world, (almost the same size as the USA!), this hostile landscape hosts a harsh climate that can soar to temperatures of around 47°C. And, in one of the most challenging experiences of my life, while I may not have actually lost our camels, I certainly lost sight of them for a while!
However, with the help of our expert Nomads, we quickly found refuge. These wonderful guides put us first at all times; so much so that they would only eat food left by our group after each meal. Loading and unloading our camels every day, they even carried a tray of a dozen eggs, unbroken, throughout our entire journey; eggs that they saved for a ceremonial, celebratory tagine at the end of our experience!
What’s more, as well as helping us to make the most of our time in the Sahara, they also kept us safe, and I can’t praise them enough for looking after us – body and spirit – during the storm.
However, what soon become apparent, was that not everybody managed to appreciate just how lucky we were. Sahara sandstorms can, of course, be deadly. An unpleasant – and often painful – fact of life for the people who live and work in the region, the howling winds can even strip paint from cars!
Nevertheless, despite our perilous situation, another ‘executive’ group appeared that seemed unwilling to adapt to the situation we all found ourselves in. A group that was clearly disgruntled at the impact the storm was having on their carefully planned schedule. In fact, this group seemed so resistant to change that, despite the hostile conditions, they insisted on being served high-tea in the middle of the sandstorm, simply because it was on their itinerary.
Of course, the ability to anticipate and adapt to change is something that many of us struggle with. But there’s no getting away from the fact that change happens, and, whether we are forced off agenda in the middle of the desert, or in today’s fast moving business environment, how we deal with this change can have a sizable impact on ourselves, and those around us.
While most people, understandably, tend to resent change – often because it leads to them questioning their own capabilities – executives, in particular, are under immense pressure to adapt to changing roles and challenges. And, importantly, they’re expected to get on board with these changes quickly to deliver results, despite an inherent desire to resist.
Ask yourself honestly, how well do you deal with deviations in your work and/or your personal life? Do you adapt and thrive, or do you dig your heels in and make life harder everyone?
The truth is, while change can be tough, not dealing with it is likely to make difficult situations even worse, jeopardising both relationships, and business outcomes.
So what’s the answer?
Well, as a starting point, I’d encourage all business leaders to look at themselves to discover blind-spots around beliefs and behaviours. Not only will this help them personally, but it will also empower them to lead the change in others.
One thing we can be sure of is that nothing stays the same, and, while we might not be able to prevent change from happening, we can transform ourselves to deal with it when it does.