No, not a story that moves you.
I mean literally, moving.
Like packing all your stuff and moving to a new house.
Then unpacking all your stuff.
And wondering why you have so much stuff.
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last week and why I didn’t get anything written lately.
When I told my friends and coworkers I was moving it was like I had a death in the family.
“That’s a bummer.”
“Hang in there, it will be over soon.”
“I hate moving. Good luck!”
What made this move more difficult is that it was unexpected and unintended. We were blissfully living our lives when the landlord sent us a nice note advising we had 30 days to move because he was selling the house.
You know it’s hard enough to move when you choose to move but at least you have some compelling reason and perhaps a new start or change you are anticipating. This was just a brute force move.
So anyway, as I was moving I decided to pay attention and see what I could learn about myself or work or leadership or people or anything useful that might make the effort seem a little more worthwhile.
Here are some of the observations, metaphors, and philosophical meditations that came to me along the way.
Is it me or do they seem to reproduce like rabbits somewhere during the time you load them on the truck and when they arrive at your new house? It felt like we packed maybe 20 and unpacked about 247.
This happens with some processes at work. We start with a few simple steps to fix a problem or control a variable and somehow it grows into a 52 step process that takes 4X longer. It just kind of happens unless we pay attention to the details.
Cat Fight Hands
By day 4 of the move, my hands looked like I was in a wrestling match with a gang of angry cats and lost. Who knew that cardboard could inflict so many cuts and scratches? My hands were so sore from lifting and breaking down boxes I could barely type when I returned to work.
Sometimes we don’t realize the toll that our work may be taking on our health and quality of life. The little hits we don’t really notice can eventually add up to put us out of commission. Take care of you while you are taking care of the work.
Relationship Packing Tape
I believe in generous packing tape. I’d rather err on the side of stuff not falling out of the 247 boxes. The more important the object inside, the more tape on the outside. A stressful move will test your relationship. If you don’t have some good support in place it can get ugly.
Significant anxiety and stress placed on an organization can stretch relationships to the limit. Unless there is a commitment to healthy communication and a bigger more important mission to hold things together, these small battles can explode into damaging turf wars and a lot of important things will end up on the floor in pieces.
I decided to get rid of a lot of stuff. Moving is one of those times you’re forced to take a hard look at the things you’ve accumulated. Like an entire drawer full of old computer parts and accessories because you never know when you might need 16 ethernet cables.
We are prone to becoming attached to what worked in the past or to a pet project even when it is fairly obvious they no longer add value. Every organization needs a good Spring cleaning from time to time even though it can be difficult to let go. Give up the stuff that is no longer needed and leave it behind.
Unpack Patience and Persistence
Once all the stuff was finally moved into the new house I looked around at the chaos and my first impulse was to curl up in the fetal position and close my eyes until it went away. I knew the only way past this challenge was to push through it, one room at a time, one box at a time. We also had to agree that we could not work on it 14 hours a day. We set a reasonable goal each day and knocked it out. When we finished it felt great and we loved the outcome.
Major challenges at work can bring on these same feelings. Leaders can help their teams push through by breaking down the work into manageable chunks and setting challenging but realistic goals that provide a sense of progress.
I was in the middle of one of the largest projects we had ever attempted in my work when this little opportunity presented itself. So yeah, the timing was not ideal. At first, I was pretty angry but I realized there was nothing to be gained by being upset and decided to focus on getting organized and taking action. Once we got moving we started seeing the positive side of this change.
Life doesn’t operate according to our schedule. Sometimes things end before we want them to. Change comes when we least expect it and didn’t want it. We can fight with reality or we can take a deep breath, let the emotions pass through and then move on, one step at a time.
Life is full of moving stories. They have something to teach us when we are willing to pay attention.