Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work for You--at Work and in Life [NOOK Book]


From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Moved My Cheese?, a brilliant new parable that shows readers how to stay calm and successful, even in the most challenging of environments.

A young man lives unhappily in a valley. One day he meets an old man who lives on a mountain peak. At first the young man doesn’t realize that he is talking to one of the most peaceful and successful people in the world. But in the course of further ...
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Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work for You--at Work and in Life

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Moved My Cheese?, a brilliant new parable that shows readers how to stay calm and successful, even in the most challenging of environments.

A young man lives unhappily in a valley. One day he meets an old man who lives on a mountain peak. At first the young man doesn’t realize that he is talking to one of the most peaceful and successful people in the world. But in the course of further encounters and conversations, the young man comes to understand that he can apply the old man’s remarkable principles and practical tools to his own life to change it for the better. Spencer Johnson knows how to tell a deceptively simple story that teaches deep lessons. The One Minute Manager (co-written with Ken Blanchard) sold 15 million copies and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than twenty years. Since it was published a decade ago, Who Moved My Cheese? has sold more than 25 million copies. In fact there are more than 46 million copies of Spencer Johnson’s books in print, in forty-seven languages—and with today’s economic uncertainty, his new book could not be more relevant. Pithy, wise, and empowering, Peaks and Valleys is clearly destined to becomeanother Spencer Johnson classic.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Spencer Johnson, the coauthor of the mega-bestselling business fables Who Moved My Cheese? and The One-Minute Manager, now delivers an all-purpose parable ready-made for hard times. This deceptively simple story introduces us to a young man who learns a valuable lesson from a wise older man who has mastered the art of transcending life's numerous peaks and valleys. One hundred and twelve pages that can leave a lifelong imprint.
Publishers Weekly

John Dossett's crisp and polished delivery is a natural fit for Johnson's no-nonsense style of motivational storytelling. Dossett chooses to understate the pathos, projecting a tone of wistful contemplation instead of heavy drama. Both the story and the narrative within the story surround dialogue between a weary day-to-day corporate warrior and a seasoned sage who offers a broader perspective on our familiar notions of success, achievement and happiness. In light of the current economic climate, listeners will find the messages timely, even if the paradigm shifts may not seem especially original. As an added bonus, the audio book includes an interview with the author sharing how he strives to keep the public focused on his message instead of elevating him into a celebrity business guru. A Simon and Schuster hardcover. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451606614
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 4/3/2010
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 189,224
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Spencer Johnson
has written or co-written three New York Times #1 bestsellers, including Who Moved My Cheese?, The One Minute Manager (with Kenneth Blanchard), and The Present. He received a B.A. in psychology from the University of Southern California, an M.D. degree from the Royal College of Surgeons, and is currently advisor to the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Spencer Johnson, M.D., is one of the world’s most respected thinkers and beloved authors.

His eleven international bestselling books include the #1 titles Who Moved My Cheese?® An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change, the most widely read book on change, and The One Minute Manager®, the world’s most popular management method for over two decades, coauthored with Kenneth Blanchard.

Dr. Johnson is often referred to as “the best there is at taking complex subjects and presenting simple solutions that work.”

He recieved a B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Southern California, an M.D. degree from the Royal College of Surgeons, and performed medical clerkships at the Mayo Clinic and the Harvard Medical School.

He has served as Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Business School, and is currently Advisor to the Center For Public Leadership at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

His work has captured the attention of major media, including the Associated Press, the BBC, CNN, Fortune, the New York Times, the Today show, Time magazine, USA Today, and United Press International.

More than forty-six million copies of Spencer Johnson's books are in print worldwide in more than forty-seven languages.


Spencer Johnson is an M.D. who has become better known for fixing ailing corporations than healing the sick, first with his 1982 business classic The One Minute Manager (coauthored with psychiatrist Kenneth Blanchard) and then, unforgettably, with Who Moved My Cheese?, a word-of-mouth sensation that eventually remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years and has been translated into 11 languages.

Word had slowly built up about Cheese, based on the strength of recommendations from heavy-hitter executives at Procter & Gamble, GE, Hewlett-Packard and others. Businesses, hit by the downshifting economy, began ordering copies by the thousands; by 2000, it was a national bestseller. The book sets up a story about four characters who live in a maze: Hem and Haw, who are little people; and Sniff and Scurry, who are mice.

Johnson, who based the story on the fact that mice rarely go back to the same place to look for cheese and felt that humans might benefit from the example, created the story for himself as a way of helping himself get through a divorce. Urged by former writing partner Blanchard to set the story down in book form, Johnson finally did – and nothing happened, at first. But over two years, the book picked up momentum, not only among companies who were trying to deal with everything from sales downturns to massive layoffs, but among individuals who found the book helped them gain a new perspective on personal situations as well.

Johnson’s forte is to create allegorical stories that present simple, digestible solutions (or paths to solutions) for seemingly huge challenges. The approach is far from immune to criticism from those who complain that Who Moved My Cheese? is simplistic and silly; Johnson doesn’t argue with either barb (though he might prefer "simple" over "simplistic"). His message is that being simpler and sillier makes us better adapters and decision-makers, and all of his books boil down to opening oneself to possibility and better communication. The ideas aren’t revolutionary: As Johnson said in an ABC News chat, “The challenge always for me and for others is to live the story and not just read about it.”

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    1. Date of Birth:
      January 1, 1940
    2. Place of Birth:
      South Dakota
    1. Education:
      B.A. in psychology, University of Southern California, 1963; M.D., Royal College of Surgeons
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Before The Story

Early one rainy evening in New York, Michael Brown hurried to meet someone a friend had said might help him deal with a difficult time he was having. As he entered the small café, he had no way of knowing how valuable the next few hours would be.

When he saw Ann Carr, he was surprised. He had heard she had been through some tough times herself and expected it to show on her. But she seemed upbeat and full of energy.

After some preliminary conversation, he said, "You look like you're in a good place, despite the bad times I understand you've been through."

She said, "I am in a good place, both in my work and in my life. But it's not in spite of the bad times. It's because of them — and how I learned to take advantage of them."

Michael was puzzled. "How so?" he asked.

"Well, for example, at work I thought our department was doing fine, but in reality we weren't. We'd been successful, but we'd become complacent. By the time we realized it, other companies were doing much better than we were. My boss became very unhappy with me.

"That's when I started feeling low, and the pressure to improve things in a hurry began. Each day became more stressful."

Michael asked, "So, what happened?"

She answered, "I heard a story last year from someone at work I respected. It changed how I looked at good and bad times, and what I do now is very different. The story helped me to be calmer and more successful, whether things are going well or not, even in my personal life. I'll never forget it!"

"What was the story?" he asked.

Ann was quiet for a moment, and then said, "Would it be all right if I asked why you would like to know about it?"

Michael reluctantly admitted that he was not feeling very secure in his job, and things were not going so well for him at home.

He didn't need to say any more. She felt his embarrassment, and said, "You sound like you need to hear the story as much as I did."

Ann said she would tell Michael the story with the understanding that if he found it valuable, he would share it with others. He agreed, and Ann prepared Michael for what he was about to hear.

She said, "I found that if you want to use the story to deal with the ups and downs that come at you, it helps if you listen with your heart and head, and fill in the story with your own experience to see what is true for you.

"The insights in the story are often repeated, although in slightly different ways."

Michael asked "Why the repetition?"

She answered, "Well, for me, it made it easier to remember them. And when I remembered the insights, I used them more."

She admitted, "I'm reluctant to change. So, I need to hear something new often enough that, at some point, it gets past my critical, distrusting mind, becomes more familiar, and touches my heart. Then it becomes a part of me.

"That's what happened after I thought a lot about the story. But you can discover that for yourself, if you like."

"Do you really think a story can make that big a difference?" Michael asked. "I'm in a pretty tough spot right now."

Ann replied, "In that case, what do you have to lose? All I can tell you is that when I applied what I got out of the story, it had a big impact.

"Some people," she cautioned, "get very little from the story, while others get a great deal!

"It's not the story; it's what you take away from it that is so powerful. That's up to you, of course."

Michael nodded. "Okay. I think I would really like to hear it."

So Ann started to tell the tale over dinner, and then continued through dessert and coffee.

She began: Copyright © 2009 by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

Feeling Low In A Valley

Once there was a bright young man who lived unhappily in a valley, until he went to see an old man who lived on a peak. When he was younger, he had been happy in his valley. He played in its meadows and swam in its river.

The valley was all he had ever known, and he thought he would spend his whole life there.

Some days in his valley were cloudy and some were sunny, but there was a sameness to his daily routine that he found comforting.

However, as he grew older, he began to see what was wrong more often than he noticed what was right. He wondered why he had not noticed before how many things were wrong in the valley.

As time went on, the young man became increasingly unhappy, although he wasn't sure why.

He tried working at different jobs in the valley, but none turned out to be what he had hoped for.

In one job, his boss always seemed to criticize him for what he did wrong and never noticed all the things he did right.

In another, he was one of so many employees that it didn't seem to matter to anyone whether he worked hard or hardly worked at all. His contribution seemed invisible, even to himself.

Once, he thought he had finally found what he wanted. He felt appreciated and challenged, he worked with capable colleagues, and he was proud of the company's product. He worked his way up and became manager of a small department.

Unfortunately, he felt his job was not secure.

His personal life was no better. One disappointment seemed to follow another.

He thought his friends didn't understand, and his family told him he was "just going through a phase."

The young man wondered if he would be better off someplace else.

Sometimes the young man would stand in the meadow and look up at the range of majestic peaks that rose high above his valley.

He would imagine himself standing on the nearby peak.

For a while, he felt better.

But the more he compared the peak to his valley, the worse he felt.

He spoke to his parents and friends about going to the peak. But they talked only about how difficult it was to reach the peak, and how comfortable it was to stay in the valley.

They all discouraged him from going where they themselves had never been.

The young man loved his parents and knew there was some truth to what they said. But he also knew that he was a different person from his father and mother.

Sometimes he felt there might be a different way of life outside the valley, and he wanted to discover it for himself. Maybe on the peak he could gain a better view of the world.

But then doubt and fear crept in again, and he thought he would stay where he was.

For a long time the young man could not bring himself to leave his valley.

Then one day, he recalled his early youth and realized how much had changed since then. He was no longer at peace with himself.

He wasn't sure why he changed his mind, but he suddenly decided he had to go visit that mountaintop.

He put his fear aside and got ready to leave as quickly as he could. Then, he set out for the nearby peak.

It was not an easy journey. It took him much longer than he thought it would to make it less than halfway up the peak.

But as the young man went higher, the cool breeze and fresh air revitalized him. From higher up, his valley looked smaller.

When he had been down in the valley, the air seemed clean enough. But when he viewed the valley from above, he saw the pale brown stagnant air that was trapped there.

Then he turned and continued upward. The higher he climbed, the more he could see.

Suddenly, the trail he was following ended.

With no trail to follow, he became lost among the thick trees that blocked out the light. He feared he would not find his way out.

So, he decided to cross a dangerously narrow ridge. As he did, he fell. Bruised and bleeding, he picked himself up and continued on.

Eventually, he found a new path.

The warnings of the people in the valley crossed his mind. But then he gathered his courage and kept climbing.

The higher he went, the happier he became, knowing that he was leaving the valley and putting aside his fears.

He was on his way to someplace new.

As he rose above the clouds, he realized it was a beautiful day and imagined how the sunset would look from the summit. He could hardly wait to see it from up there. Copyright © 2009 by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

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Table of Contents

Before The Story

The Story of Peaks and Valleys

Chapter 1: Feeling Low In A Valley

Chapter 2: Finding Answers

Chapter 3: Forgetting

Chapter 4: Resting

Chapter 5: Learning

Chapter 6: Discovering

Chapter 7: Sharing

Chapter 8: Using Peaks And Valleys

A Summary

Chapter 9: Enjoying A Peak

After The Story

About The Author

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 34 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Perfect read for these times!

    Book gives a simple yet powerful message on how to minimize your time in the "valleys" of your work and life and how to sustain your time on the "peaks." At so many points in the book you will find yourself bringing your own situation to the story-and making applications on how to do something different next time to prevent or at least minimize the "down times" in your work and life. Excellent read for organizations as well because it gives a framework from which to view current problems, issues and successes.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011


    I thought this book was really good, and i am only twelve. I liked how it described this wonderful theory in life that people of all ages can understand. I really found this book very helpful. I even can take this advice very well at my age. I think I will become a better person growing up in general. I would recomend it for kids and adults to readand discuss. I would also recomend Who Cut My Cheese. It is also writen by Spencer Johson. Make sure to read all nis amazing books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2013

    Great read!

    Very easy read.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I LOVED this book.

    I really LOVED this book. It really made me think about a lot of things differently. It made me feel like I had or could take control of my life. Short, easy reading with lots of thought provoking messages. I read Who Moved my Cheese ALso a WONDERFUL book.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    To help you through the rough times, Spencer Johnson has another helpful guide.

    When you ar ein bad times, how do you react? Well you can react in the worst of times to be prepared for the best. This guide is helpful and I think everyone will like it just as much as "Who Moved My Cheese".

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    A new way to navigate

    A great read for students who may have "peaked" in highschool and now are moving though their higher education and coming to grips with their first real valleys ... Where do I really go next in a world that has recently changed so dramactically -- how do I alter my normal navigation system which I thought worked so well for me in order to adjust to new realities that were never on my radar screen and set a new course.

    This may be the "dialog" that parents would like to have with their children but are unable to express -- or provide to a child who can not communicate their deep concerns and certainly will not communicate to their parents.

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  • Posted July 3, 2009

    Great Read

    This book was excellent! simple, very insightful, and a great read. Really enjoyed it, especially the part about how just changing the way we view things can make valleys into peaks and peaks into valleys in our professional and personal lives. What was even more exciting was the part about making professional and personal peaks last longer through learning, great read, recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2009

    Peaks and Valleys

    Good advice for organizations.

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  • Posted June 10, 2009


    When I didn't even know I needed it, this book found me. And it will find you too because it was meant for you. I read it in 45 minutes. What better way to tell a story than the way this one has been told. Its clear and simple message transcends age, religious bias, and political caca-nonsense. But, it's really not that simple for the thought-provoking story grabs you and you begin to see yourself first in the young man and then the old, the old then the young until you come to understand you are both - you when in the valley and you when at the mountain peak. You can relate to this "story" for it is your very own.

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  • Posted May 24, 2009

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  • Posted May 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A very simple read

    This book is timely, very simple but practical read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    I liked it a great deal

    I found it very thought provoking. I have already loaned to my daughter to read.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    Peaks and Valleys Book Review

    I was anxious to read this being the latest work of Dr. Spencer Johnson, especially after having read his two previous books "Who Moved My Cheese?" and "The One Minute Manager". Dr. Johnson writes in a parable fashion which is both very easy and enjoyable to read as well. Also his writing is very principle based.
    This book is very timely given the economic situation our country is in at this time, with so many who are out of work.
    Regardless of one's station in life or one's age, each of us face our own ups and downs, and it is how one handles both the peaks and valleys of life, that really makes the difference.
    As the publisher's blurb states the story is of a young man who lives unhappy in a valley, until he meets an old man who lives on a peak, and it changes his work and life forever."
    Dr. Johnson explains that "Peaks and Valleys are connected. The errors you make in today's good times create tomorrow's bad times. And the wise things you do in today's bad times create tomorrow's good times."
    Appreciating what one has and longing for what one is missing seem to be connected to our peaks and valleys, as when you are on a peak in your life you need to appreciate what you have, but not in a boastful manner. Conversely when one is in a valley one always longs for what is missing. This seems to be one of the facts of life each of us faces.
    Dr. Johnson makes one to consider "The most common reason you leave a peak too soon is arrogance, masquerading as confidence. The most common reason you stay in a valley too long is fear, masquerading as comfort."
    We all struggle at times with facing reality, and this was the young man's problem in the story as well. It seems he either believed things were better than they really were when he was on a peak in life, or he thought things worse than they really were when in a valley of life. The key to this is enjoying the moment you are in. That is easier said than done, but one need to look for the good in things nevertheless.
    Having a genuine concern for others well being comes across in Dr. Johnson's writing. This shows through the way the old man listens to the young man, and explains how if something learned is deemed valuable it needs to be shared with others to help them as well. It would seem that too often in the culture in which we live if something works there is a tendency to want to hoard the lessons learned, only for one's personal benefit. Although it is not said in the book, it would seem as if we just don't want to share our toys.
    Dr. Johnson seems to point out through this book that life is a growing process, and in that process it is natural to have peaks and valleys. It would seem that both peaks and valleys are a gift given to us, both to enjoy and to learn from. What one needs to find out is, what the truth of the situation or circumstance they are in at the present time.
    The young man discovered using these principles at work and in life had a calming effect.
    The lessons learned in this book might seem somewhat basic, however when one is going through tough times returning to the basics is always a good thing to do.
    This was a very enjoyable book to read and though the underlying principles might seem basic, as you think about them they are timely and timeless.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2009

    Excellent reading

    The book can easily be read in one sitting and follows the pattern of the One Minute Manager Books as well as the Ken Blanchard books. In story format, the book allows the reader to visualize the characters in the book and make direct practical application to every day life. In our current economic situation that we face, we need to be able to focus on positives and not continue to dwell on the negatives in every day life. We know that we will have highs and lows but how we handle them is what is important. This book coaches the readers to do that. When finally putting the book down, I was refreshed with a positive outlook. I bought several copies of the book as required reading for the employees in my company.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    Not much meat but sneaks up on you

    The message was good and something we all know but just don't think about enough. I wish the author would have given it a little more substance like he did in "Who moved my cheese?" Then again, simple stories are sometimes more impactful.
    I was excited to read and apply another inspirational message to my life but was a little disappointed initailly. A few months after I read the book I realize that the Peaks and Valleys message has comes to mind often and I am inspired to apply what I read.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    A nice read to help you to move ahead in this troubling time

    I enjoyed the book. It was a positive motivator. Would recommend it to anyone.

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    Posted October 17, 2010

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    Posted May 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2012

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