Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life


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Notes From Your Bookseller

Change in the workplace is difficult to deal with, but when it’s out of your control, what do you do? You read this book, that’s what.


A timeless business classic, Who Moved My Cheese? uses a simple parable to reveal profound truths about dealing with change so that you can enjoy less stress and more success in your work and in your life.

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...

Most people are fearful of change, both personal and professional, because they don't have any control over how or when it happens to them. Since change happens either to the individual or by the individual, Dr. Spencer Johnson, the coauthor of the multimillion bestseller The One Minute Manager, uses a deceptively simple story to show that when it comes to living in a rapidly changing world, what matters most is your attitude.

Exploring a simple way to take the fear and anxiety out of managing the future, Who Moved My Cheese? can help you discover how to anticipate, acknowledge, and accept change in order to have a positive impact on your job, your relationships, and every aspect of your life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399144462
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/08/1998
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 8,075
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile: 900L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 - 14 Years

About the Author

Spencer Johnson, M.D., is the originator of The One Minute Manager System™ and co-author of the New York Times bestsellers The One Minute Manager®, The One Minute Sales Person, and One Minute for Myself. His other bestsellers include Who Moved My Cheese?; The Precious Present; and Yes or No: The Guide to Better Decisions.

Called “The King of Parables” by USA Today, Dr. Johnson is often referred to as the best there is at taking complex subjects and presenting simple solutions that work. He received a B.A. degree in psychology from the University of Southern California, an M.D. from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and medical clerkships at Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic. There are over 50 million copies of his books in print worldwide in 47 languages.

Few names are as recognized in American business as Ken Blanchard’s. His One Minute Manager® Library has sold millions of copies and been translated into more than twenty languages, and he has written or co-authored a number of other popular books as well. Ken is a captivating and sought-after speaker and business consultant, who has shared his unique approach with a multitude of Fortune 500 companies.

Ken has received many awards in management and leadership. He has won the National Speakers Association’s highest honor, the “Council of Peers Award for Excellence,” and the Golden Gavel from Toastmasters International, and was inducted into the HRD Hall of Fame.

Date of Birth:

January 1, 1940

Place of Birth:

South Dakota


B.A. in psychology, University of Southern California, 1963; M.D., Royal College of Surgeons

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Gathering

    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.

    ThenMichael 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. "I think 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!

    Every day the mice and the littlepeople spent time in the maze looking for their own special cheese.

    The mice, Sniff and Scurry, possessing only simple rodent brains, but good instincts, searched for the hard nibbling cheese they liked, as mice often do.

    The two littlepeople, Hem and Haw, used their brains, filled with many beliefs and emotions, to search for a very different kind of Cheese—with a capital C—which they believed would make them feel happy and successful.

    As different as the mice and littlepeople were, they shared something in common: Every morning, they each put on their jogging suits and running shoes, left their little homes, and raced out into the maze looking for their favorite cheese.

    The maze was a labyrinth of corridors and chambers, some containing delicious cheese. But there were also dark corners and blind alleys leading nowhere. It was an easy place for anyone to get lost.

    However, for those who found their way, the maze held secrets that let them enjoy a better life.

    The mice, Sniff and Scurry, used the simple trial-and-error method of finding cheese. They ran down one corridor, and if it proved empty, they turned and ran down another. They remembered the corridors that held no cheese and quickly went into new areas.

    Sniff would smell out the general direction of the cheese, using his great nose, and Scurry would race ahead. They got lost, as you might expect, went off in the wrong direction and often bumped into walls. But after a while they found their way.

    Like the mice, the two littlepeople, Hem and Haw, also used their ability to think and learn from their past experiences. However, they relied on their complex brains to develop more sophisticated methods of finding Cheese.

    Sometimes they did well, but at other times their powerful human beliefs and emotions took over and clouded the way they looked at things. It made life in the maze more complicated and challenging.

    Nonetheless, Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw all discovered, in their own way, what they were looking for. They each found their own kind of cheese one day at the end of one of the corridors in Cheese Station C.

    Every morning after that, the mice and the littlepeople dressed in their running gear and headed over to Cheese Station C. It wasn't long before they each established their own routine.

    Sniff and Scurry continued to wake early every day and race through the maze, always following the same route.

    When they arrived at their destination, the mice took off their running shoes, tied them together and hung them around their necks—so they could get to them quickly whenever they needed them again. Then they enjoyed the cheese.

    In the beginning Hem and Haw also raced toward Cheese Station C every morning to enjoy the tasty new morsels that awaited them.

    But after a while, a different routine set in for the littlepeople.

    Hem and Haw awoke each day a little later, dressed a little slower, and walked to Cheese Station C. After all, they knew where the Cheese was now and how to get there.

    They had no idea where the Cheese came from, or who put it there. They just assumed it would be there.

    As soon as Hem and Haw arrived at Cheese Station C each morning, they settled in and made themselves at home. They hung up their jogging suits, put away their running shoes and put on their slippers. They were becoming very comfortable now that they had found the Cheese.

    "This is great," Hem said. "There's enough Cheese here to last us forever." The littlepeople felt happy and successful, and thought they were now secure.

    It wasn't long before Hem and Haw regarded the Cheese they found at Cheese Station C as their cheese. It was such a large store of Cheese that they eventually moved their homes to be closer to it, and built a social life around it.

    To make themselves feel more at home, Hem and Haw decorated the walls with sayings and even drew pictures of Cheese around them which made them smile. One read:

Having Cheese
Makes You

    Sometimes Hem and Haw would take their friends by to see their pile of Cheese at Cheese Station C, and point to it with pride, saying, "Pretty nice Cheese, huh?" Sometimes they shared it with their friends and sometimes they didn't.

    "We deserve this Cheese," Hem said. "We certainly had to work long and hard enough to find it." He picked up a nice fresh piece and ate it.

    Afterwards, Hem fell asleep, as he often did.

    Every night the littlepeople would waddle home, full of Cheese, and every morning they would confidently return for more.

    This went on for quite some time.

    After a while Hem's and Haw's confidence grew into the arrogance of success. Soon they became so comfortable they didn't even notice what was happening.

    As time went on, Sniff and Scurry continued their routine. They arrived early each morning and sniffed and scratched and scurried around Cheese Station C, inspecting the area to see if there had been any changes from the day before. Then they would sit down to nibble on the cheese.

    One morning they arrived at Cheese Station C and discovered there was no cheese.

    They weren't surprised. Since Sniff and Scurry had noticed the supply of cheese had been getting smaller every day, they were prepared for the inevitable and knew instinctively what to do.

    They looked at each other, removed the running shoes they had tied together and hung conveniently around their necks, put them on their feet and laced them up.

    The mice did not overanalyze things.

    To the mice, the problem and the answer were both simple. The situation at Cheese Station C had changed. So, Sniff and Scurry decided to change.

    They both looked out into the maze. Then Sniff lifted his nose, sniffed, and nodded to Scurry, who took off running through the maze, while Sniff followed as fast as he could.

    They were quickly off in search of New Cheese.

    Later that same day, Hem and Haw arrived at Cheese Station C. They had not been paying attention to the small changes that had been taking place each day, so they took it for granted their Cheese would be there.

    They were unprepared for what they found.

    "What! No Cheese?" Hem yelled. He continued yelling, "No Cheese? No Cheese?" as though if he shouted loud enough someone would put it back.

    "Who moved my Cheese?" he hollered.

    Finally, he put his hands on his hips, his face turned red, and he screamed at the top of his voice, "It's not fair!"

    Haw just shook his head in disbelief. He, too, had counted on finding Cheese at Cheese Station C. He stood there for a long time, frozen with shock. He was just not ready for this.

    Hem was yelling something, but Haw didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to deal with what was facing him, so he just tuned everything out.

    The littlepeople's behavior was not very attractive or productive but it was understandable.

    Finding Cheese wasn't easy, and it meant a great deal more to the littlepeople than just having enough of it to eat every day.

    Finding Cheese was the littlepeople's way of getting what they thought they needed to be happy. They had their own ideas of what Cheese meant to them, depending on their taste.

    For some, finding Cheese was having material things. For others it was enjoying good health, or developing a spiritual sense of well-being.

    For Haw, Cheese just meant feeling safe, having a loving family someday, and living in a cozy cottage on Cheddar Lane.

    To Hem, Cheese was becoming A Big Cheese in charge of others and owning a big house atop Camembert Hill.

    Because Cheese was important to them, the two littlepeople spent a long time trying to decide what to do. All they could think of was to keep looking around Cheeseless Station C to see if the Cheese was really gone.

    While Sniff and Scurry had quickly moved on, Hem and Haw continued to hem and haw.

    They ranted and raved at the injustice of it all. Haw started to get depressed. What would happen if the Cheese wasn't there tomorrow? He had made future plans based on this Cheese.

    The littlepeople couldn't believe it. How could this have happened? No one had warned them. It wasn't right. It was not the way things were supposed to be.

    Hem and Haw went home that night hungry and discouraged. But before they left, Haw wrote on the wall:

The More Important

Your Cheese Is To You

The More You Want

To Hold On To It.

Table of Contents

Parts of All of Us
The Story Behind the Story
by Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D.A Gathering: Chicago
The Story of Who Moved My Cheese?
Four Characters
Finding Cheese
No Cheese!
The Mice: Sniff & Scurry
The Littlepeople: Hem & Haw
Meanwhile, Back in the Maze
Getting Beyond Fear
Enjoying the Adventure
Moving with the Cheese
The Handwriting on the Wall
Tasting New Cheese
Enjoying Change!
A Discussion: Later That Same Day
Share It With Others
About the Author

What People are Saying About This

Randy Harris

I'm giving this book to colleagues and friends. Spencer Johnson's storytelling abilities and unique insights make this a rare book that can be read and understood by everyone who wants to succeed in these changing times.
—(Randy Harris, Former Vice-Chairman, Merrill Lynch International)


An Interview with Spencer Johnson

Spencer Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese?, a simple parable about two mice and two "littlepeople" dealing with unexpected change, has become one of the bestselling business books of the past year. Business editor Amy Lambo recently interviewed Johnson about why so many people are embracing his cheesy tale.

barnesandnoble.com:  The trends and buzzwords in business books are changing more rapidly then ever. Yet your simply tale, Who Moved My Cheese?, has had remarkable sales over a long period of time. How do you explain its incredible longevity as a bestseller?

Spencer Johnson:  It's amazing. The idea is really practical and valuable to people...plus a lot of it is timing. I know I invented this little story so I could heal myself during a time when I wasn't dealing with change very well. That was in 1978. I didn't write the book until 1998. In fact, I wouldn't ever have written the book if Ken Blanchard hadn't called me about two years ago. He said, "When are you ever going to write Who Moved My Cheese?" I told him, "I'm not sure I'm ever going to write it." I didn't want to get back into the world of number of copies sold, where you are on the bestseller list, size of the advance. When you're younger, all of that stuff seems very exciting, but it doesn't really give you a sense of meaning or purpose. Then Ken said, "Do you have any idea how many people this could serve?" He reminded me how many stories we've heard from people over the last 20 years who, after hearing a simple five- or ten-minute oral version of the tale, would say, "That little story helped save my marriage," or "It changed my career," or whatever. So there's something in the simplicity and the nonthreatening nature of the story that people can basically interpret for themselves and get what they want to get out of it. And that seems to be a lot more powerful than reading a book that tells you what the answers are and what you ought to be doing. Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple parable, and while reading it, you discover some things you've probably been thinking about beforehand. It brings them up in such clear terms. What Ken Blanchard said tapped my interest in using simple, practical truths to reduce stress.

bn.com:  Where did that interest originate?

SJ:  Good question. I was always interested, since I was a little boy in being a doctor. I grew up in Hollywood, California. A lot of my parents' friends were in the motion picture industry, but I saw their doctor friends as more solid. I admired them; there was a peacefulness in them, a sense of purpose that I liked. So I became very interested in being a surgeon. I went to the Royal College of Surgeons and Harvard Medical School and all the right places to get the most high-powered training. I was educated to sort of distrust the simple as being so simple that it didn't solve problems. It was during those years of looking at all of the complexities of medicine that I began to make a distinction between simplistic, which was not enough, and simple, which was everything it needed to be, but no more. So I really became fascinated with experimenting to see how the simple would work. I came across a great comment recently from Jack Welch, whom many people consider one of the most effective CEOs in the country. He said that insecure managers create complexity. You can't believe how hard it is for people to be simple, how much they fear being simple. They worry that they will seem simple-minded. The most clear, tough-minded people are always the most simple. Now, Welch is a guy who lives in a pretty complex, large corporation. He too has learned the power of embracing what is simple. I think you have to be much more secure and much less angry to trust the simple. You've got to be in a pretty good place to trust those simple, obvious answers and, most important, to use them.

bn.com:  As I was rereading your book, I kept thinking of all of the books and articles that have been dedicated to Silicon Valley -- its overwhelming pace, it's cannibalistic drive. Is Who Moved My Cheese? a book that sells among the Valley crowd?

SJ:  Apparently it's selling like crazy among them. We're finding many companies from Dell to Apple to IBM are ordering Who Moved My Cheese? in multiple copies. The way that the book is so effective is...when people watch these little characters during the course of the story they stop and say, "Oh, my god, I think I recognize one of these characters." I think high-tech professionals are almost experts at letting go of old cheese and going after the new, because their products become obsolete so quickly. They're not married to the paradigms that we were raised with. They're probably at the cutting edge of letting go of old products, old beliefs, old ways of doing stuff...because if they don't, they're literally out of business.

bn.com:  Why the metaphor of two mice and two "littlepeople" in a maze? Did it just come to you in a flash?

SJ:  I was taking myself very seriously when I was going through life changes. And I realized that I needed to laugh at myself, particularly at my mistakes. I had heard a story some years before about the difference between mice and people -- mice don't keep going to the same place when they find there's no cheese. People keep going back to the same spot and spend a lot of time complaining that the cheese isn't there. So I created a story with characters in it that would get me to laugh.

bn.com:  What was the catalyst in your life that brought this on?

SJ:  The big "D" -- divorce. It was not much fun. And certainly I wasn't going to experience it. That was for the other person to go through, not me. It was a really humbling, eye-opening experience.

bn.com:  Your book has been a big seller among corporations. Do you think Who Moved My Cheese? translates well for entrepreneurs and independent contractors?

SJ:  It seems pretty universal. It's very much for freelance entrepreneurs and noncorporate folks as well. The Red Cross is using it. Ohio State University's athletic department uses it for incoming freshman athletes to help them with the change of going from being big cheeses in high school to a huge university with 20,000 to 40,000 students. Ohio State liked it so much they took it to the NCAA. The NCAA sent out a notice to 450 colleges and universities, suggesting that it would be very useful, not only for faculty but also for students. It's really spread out to so many areas beyond what I conceived when I wrote it.

bn.com:  Am I off base when I say that the biggest criticism you probably get for this book is that it's, pardon the pun, cheesy?

SJ:  I think that's true. First of all, you have to acknowledge that it is cheesy. Lighten up and say, "Yeah, that's true." You don't resist it, you don't defend it. Some people say, "This is the dumbest book I've ever read. I knew everything in it." I already know something about those people, even though they're right. I also know the chances are that nine out of ten of them are not living the book's message. Yes, we know you know it; now what are you doing? You get that reaction particularly when someone gives them the book and says "Here, you need this." One person said, "Getting a copy of this book is like getting a bottle of Scope from your boss." I really like to listen to those readers' comments. I have rewritten this book eight times since it was published. I remember in BusinessWeek the reviewer slammed it, saying "Does the author really think that rodents are smarter than people?" He made a very good point, I thought. In the seventh edition we did a front piece that said, The four characters in the story represent the four parts of ourselves, from the simple to the complex. Sometimes we can sniff out what's going on around us, and sometimes we can scurry into action. Other times, we're like the character "Hem" and we resist, and we like what's comfortable and we're afraid of changing. There are times when we can be like the character "Haw," and we can laugh at ourselves, and move on, and adapt. You just have to accept that a certain percentage of people don't need [this book], don't care for it, or aren't ready for it, and you have to respect that. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of people seem to enjoy it.


The Story Behind The Story
by Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D.

I am thrilled to be telling you "the story behind the story" of WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? because it means the book has now been written, and is available for all of us to read, enjoy and share with others.

This is something I've wanted to see happen ever since I first heard Spencer Johnson tell his great "Cheese" story, years ago, before we wrote our book THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER together.

I remember thinking then how good the story was and how helpful it would be to me from that moment on.

WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? is a story about change that takes place in a Maze where four amusing characters look for "Cheese" - cheese being a metaphor for what we want to have in life, whether it is a job, a relationship, money, a big house, freedom, health, recognition, spiritual peace, or even an activity like jogging or golf.

Each of us has our own idea of what Cheese is, and we pursue it because we believe it makes us happy. If we get it, we often become attached to it. And if we lose it, or it's taken away, it can be traumatic.

The "Maze" in the story represents where you spend time looking for what you want. It can be the organization you work in, the community you live in, or the relationships you have in your life.

I tell the Cheese story that you are about to read in my talks around the world, and often hear later from people about what a difference it has made to them.

Believe it or not, this little story has been credited with saving careers, marriages and lives!

One of the many real-life examples comes from Charlie Jones, awell-respected broadcaster for NBC-TV, who revealed that hearing the story of WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? saved his career. His job as a broadcaster is unique but the principles he learned can be used by anyone.

Here's what happened: Charlie had worked hard and had done a great job of broadcasting Track and Field events at an earlier Olympic Games, so he was surprised and upset when his boss told him he'd been removed from these showcase events for the next Olympics and assigned to Swimming and Diving.

Not knowing these sports as well, he was frustrated. He felt unappreciated and he became angry. He said he felt it wasn't fair! His anger began to affect everything he did.

Then, he heard the story of WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?

After that he said he laughed at himself and changed his attitude. He realized his boss had just "moved his Cheese." So he adapted. He learned the two new sports, and in the process, found that doing something new made him feel young.

It wasn't long before his boss recognized his new attitude and energy, and he soon got better assignments. He went on to enjoy more success than ever and was later inducted into Pro Football's Hall of Fame - Broadcasters' Alley.

That's just one of the many real-life stories I've heard about the impact this story has had on people - from their work life to their love life.

I'm such a strong believer in the power of WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? that I recently gave a copy of an early pre-publication edition to everyone (more than 200 people) working with our company. Why?

Because like every company that wants to not only survive in the future but stay competitive, Blanchard Training & Development is constantly changing. They keep moving our "cheese." While in the past we may have wanted loyal employees, today we need flexible people who are not possessive about "the way things are done around here."

And yet, as you know, living in constant white water with the changes occurring all the time at work or in life can be stressful, unless people have a way of looking at change that helps them understand it. Enter the CHEESE story.

When I told people about the story and then they got to read WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? you could almost feel the release of negative energy beginning to occur. Person after person from every department went out of their way to thank me for the book and told me how helpful it had been to them already in seeing the changes going on in our company in a different light. Believe me, this brief parable takes little time to read but its impact can be profound.

As you turn the pages, you will find three sections in this book. In the first, A Gathering, former classmates talk at a class reunion about trying to deal with the changes happening in their lives. The second section is The Story of Who Moved My Cheese?, the core of the book. In the third section, A Discussion, people discuss what The Story meant to them and how they are going to use it in their work and in their lives.

Some readers of this book's early manuscript preferred to stop at the end of The Story, without reading further, and interpret its meaning for themselves. Others enjoyed reading A Discussion that follows because it stimulated their thinking about how they might apply what they'd learned to their own situation.

In any case, I hope each time you retread

WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? you will find something new and useful in it, as I do, and that it will help you deal with change and bring you success, whatever you decide success is for you.

I hope you enjoy what you discover and I wish you well. Remember: Move with the cheese!

Ken Blanchard
San Diego, 1998

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