Not So Moving
In a recent post, we met Aharon and Shabsi. They are chavrusos (study partners) in Yeshivas Torah Lishmah. Their rebbi (rabbinic teacher) had to take an extended absence in the middle of the z’man (semester). Aharon and Shabsi and their entire shiur (class) moved to a different shiur. Aharon and Shabsi both resented the move and their learning and moods suffered. Then Shabsi changed his mindset by reading Who Moved My Cheese, a book that suggests that change is inevitable in life and it should be embraced and dealt with, instead of denied and resisted.
Aharon thought long and hard about Shabsi’s new approach. Although he saw that the lessons of Who Moved My Cheese resonated with Shabsi, it was still hard for him to swallow. Something about accepting change and adapting to it did not sit well with him. He could not elucidate what was bothering him, but he felt an uncertainty within.
After a few days of thinking about what was concerning him, Shabsi was in the waiting room of his doctor’s office and spied a book with an interesting title. It sounded similar to the book Shabsi had told him about. He inspected it more carefully and saw that this book was called I Moved Your Cheese. He was curious and became even more intrigued when he saw the subtitle – For Those Who Refuse to Live as Mice in Someone Else’s Maze. The author was Deepak Malhotra, a professor at Harvard Business School. Shabsi picked up the book and started reading it. As he read the pages, he noticed that the points of the book resonated with him deeply. Professor Malhotra lucidly stated why Who Moved My Cheese had been hard for Shabsi to swallow. Dr. Malhotra explained that he wrote the book because he had noticed that there were many people that internalized a wrong message from Who Moved My Cheese. They understood that life requires a person to accept change and to adapt to it. Malhotra added that
a key to happiness in life is for a person to have a two part response to change. It is necessary for him to muster internal strength to ask why a change happened and then to ask how he can now conduct his life to master the change – and his destiny.
These two steps allow him to face change actively instead of being a passive recipient.
Deepak Malhotra used another parable to illustrate his point. He described a mouse named Max who lives in a maze where all the other mice indoctrinated the lesson of not questioning change and accepting it. Max was different. He resolved to figure out who did move the cheese, why they did it, and why the maze was the way it was. Max set out on a journey which took him years and included exiting the confines of the maze. Eventually, Max realized that the maze was a tiny part of a huge research lab where experimenters frequently moved the cheese to measure the reactions of the mice in the maze. Next, Max figured out a way that he could also move the cheese like the experimenters. Max explained that he was then able to redesign the maze and control the other mice by moving their cheese. The next time he heard a mouse exclaim, “Who moved my cheese,” he was going to plainly declare, “I moved your cheese.” Max was able to control the daily activities of his compatriots. But, Max continued, if a single mouse decided that he was going to focus on another goal than cheese or that he was going to leave the maze, Max would have no control over him.
Max’s powerful discovery highlighted the fact that sometimes, people are resistant to change because they feel like prisoners in their life situation. Max would argue that often, the best way to deal with change is to realize that one has the power to change his own circumstances altogether. One might focus on a different goal, or leave the organization or situation that constrains him. Dr. Malhotra’s powerful point is that sometimes it is dangerous to see change as inevitable. Often, it is merely a hurdle that one can muster the internal fortitude to sail over and to succeed.
I Moved Your Cheese resonated deeply with Shabsi. Although he understood that his chavrusa (study parter) Aharon, was able to adapt to his new shiur, Shabsi felt differently. He reasoned that if he appreciated the specific Talmudic approach of his rebbi, Rav Shlomo Eichenstadt, it might be better for him to find a different arrangement than to adapt to the new learning environment of Rav Leibel Grossbard.
Shabsi began an inquiry among the students of Rav Shlomo that were now in Rav Leibel’s shiur. Nine of them echoed Shabsi’s feelings that it was difficult for them to appreciate the scholastic approach of Rav Leibel. Shabsi asked if they would consider creating their own chaburah (study group). The students were very excited about the idea. First, they approached R’ Elimelch Cohen, a respected man studying in kollel (an advanced Talmud study program), who was one of the foremost students of Rav Shlomo Eichenstadt, and asked him if he would consider being their rosh chaburah (informal study group head) for the month. R’ Elimelech gladly accepted. Next, Shabsi met with Rav Leibel and respectfully explained their situation. Rav Leibel understood that they were only learning in his shiur temporarily and were looking forward to returning to the shiur of Rav Shlomo. Rav Leibel encouraged them to pursue creating their own chaburah (study group) with R’ Elimelech.
By the end of the week, there were ten students studying in the new chaburah (group) with R’ Elimelech. The energy and excitement was palpable and the hasmadah (intensity of study) was reaching new heights. A few days later, at lunch, one of the talmidim in Yeshiva asked the other about the new group,
“Who moved the chevra (group of students) to the new chaburah (study group)?” Shabsi smiled to himself and thought “I moved the chevra!”
What Moves You?
Which approach to change to do you feel more comfortable with, the ideal of adapting to change, espoused by Aharon, from Who Moved My Cheese, or overcoming change, as accomplished by Shabsi, from I Moved Your Cheese? Perhaps neither works for you, or maybe you feel that both are necessary. What are your thoughts?