Executive Book Club

The book that impacted Serena Williams' life: 'It's about change and I'm not good with change'

Tim Clayton - Corbis

In 1998, at the age of 17, Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam match and it catapulted her into the spotlight.

That same year, self-help book "Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life" by the late Spencer Johnson, M.D., was published.

A teenage Williams, dealing with a huge shift in her fame and career, read the book and it had a profound effect on her.

"[The book] was very impactful in my life. It meant a lot to me," Williams tells CNBC Make It. "It's about change and I'm not good with change."

From the time Williams was a child, her life had been very regimented thanks to tennis.

"I remember in the summer, we would train from, I think it was from like 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and then 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.," Williams, now 38, told MasterClass.com. "And then on Saturdays, we would train from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and then we would have Sundays off."

So Williams, who was home-schooled along with her sister Venus to accommodate their tennis practice and tournaments, struggled at times to adapt to her new reality.

"I like a routine sometimes and do the same thing," Williams says."I like things the way they are and I don't like to change them. So ["Who Moved my Cheese"] talks about that and it was really good for me to read."

In the book, four characters are in a maze in search of cheese. The cheese is a metaphor for whatever you want to find in life, whether its a job, money or happiness. After finding a spot in the maze with abundant cheese, the characters develop routines around that cheese. But when the cheese runs out, the characters have to find new cheese. ("Who moved my cheese?" one character asks.) Those who venture out into the maze and learn to adapt along the way find new cheese, and those who are scared and angry and refuse to go further into the maze do not.

"It would be all so easy if you had a map to the Maze. If the same old routines worked. If they'd just stop moving 'The Cheese.' But things keep changing," the book says. In other words, dealing with change is inevitable, but how you handle it is up to you.

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