The Barnes & Noble Review
If you're struggling to adjust to changes and transitions at work, then you'll definitely want to keep a copy of Spencer Johnson's short but effective parable somewhere nearby. Johnson's gift for taking complicated, sometimes overwhelming feelings and making them manageable as well as open to change is the key to this book's amazing success. The "Cheese" (with a capital "C") referred to in the title is simply a metaphor for whatever it is that we desire most in life -- recognition, acceptance, money, relationships, possessions, freedom, or anything, tangible or intangible, that becomes invested with desire. The problem with the world, of course, is that the Cheese is portable, leaving Johnson's characters -- two mice (Sniff and Scurry) and two "littlepeople" (Hem and Haw) -- to navigate a mazelike world in a somewhat desperate search for fulfillment and satisfaction.
In today's volatile work environment, the pithy points that Johnson makes as his characters struggle to find a kind of self-empowerment are worth bearing in mind. At the heart of the book is the assertion that "Old beliefs do not lead you to new Cheese." As Haw, the individual who is most open to the possibilities of change, discovers, "You can believe that a change will harm you and resist it. Or you can believe that finding New Cheese will help you, and embrace the change. It all depends on what you choose to believe." Perhaps this is the ultimate and quite hopeful message is the true heart of Johnson's story: Choosing to adapt will enrich your life, leading you onward to the new possibilities created in the ever-changing world of today's workplace. (Sunil Sharma)
Read an Excerpt
One sunny Sunday in Chicago, several former classmates, who were good friends in school, gathered for lunch, having attended their high school reunion the night before. They wanted to hear more about what was happening in each other's lives. After a good deal of kidding, and a good meal, they settled into an interesting conversation.
Angela, who had been one of the most popular people in the class, said, "Life sure turned out differently than I thought it would when we were in school. A lot has changed."
"It certainly has," Nathan echoed. They knew he had gone into his family's business, which had operated pretty much the same and had been a part of the local community for as long as they could remember. So, they were surprised when he seemed concerned. He asked, "But, have you noticed how we don't want to change when things change?"
Carlos said, "I guess we resist changing because we're afraid of change."
"Carlos, you were Captain of the football team," Jessica said. "I never thought I'd hear you say anything about being afraid!"
They all laughed as they realized that although they had gone off in different directions-from working at home to managing companies-they were experiencing similar feelings.
Everyone was trying to cope with the unexpected changes that were happening to them in recent years. And most admitted that they did not know a good way to handle them.
Then Michael said, "I used to be afraid of change. When a big change came along in our business, we didn't know what to do. So we didn't adjust and we almost lost it.
"That is," he continued, "until I heard a funny little story that changed everything."
"How so?" Nathan asked.
"Well, the story changed the way I looked at change-from losing something to gaining something-and it showed me how to do it. After that, things quickly improved-at work and in my life.
"At first I was annoyed with the obvious simplicity of the story because it sounded like something we might have been told in school.
"Then I realized I was really annoyed with myself for not seeing the obvious and doing what works when things change.
"When I realized the four characters in the story represented the various parts of myself, I decided who I wanted to act like and I changed.
"Later, I passed the story on to some people in our company and they passed it on to others, and soon our business did much better, because most of us adapted to change better. And like me, many people said it helped them in their personal lives.
"However there were a few people who said they got nothing out of it. They either knew the lessons and were already living them, or, more commonly, they thought they already knew everything and didn't want to learn. They couldn't see why so many others were benefiting from it.
"When one of our senior executives, who was having difficulty adapting, said the story was a waste of his time, other people kidded him saying they knew which character he was in the story-meaning the one who learned nothing new and did not change."
"What's the story?" Angela asked.
"It's called Who Moved My Cheese?"
The group laughed. "Ithink I like it already," Carlos said. "Would you tell us the story? Maybe we can get something from it."
"Sure," Michael replied. "I'd be happy to-it doesn't take long." And so he began:
The Story of Who Moved My Cheese?
Once, long ago in a land far away, there lived four little characters who ran through a maze looking for cheese to nourish them and make them happy.
Two were mice named "Sniff" and "Scurry" and two were littlepeople-beings who were as small as mice but who looked and acted a lot like people today. Their names were "Hem" and "Haw."
Due to their small size, it would be easy not to notice what the four of them were doing. But if you looked closely enough, you could discover the most amazing things!