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Who Moved My Cheese?

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Book: Who Moved my Cheese

Author: Spencer Johnson

This is the story of two little mice, Sniff and Scurry and two ‘little people’, Hem and Haw. The book starts with a beautiful quote from A. J. Cronin, which clearly puts the context in place for ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’

“Life is no straight and easy corridor along

which we travel free and unhampered,

but a maze of passages,

through which we must seek our way,

lost and confused, now and again

checked in a blind alley.”

Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw live in a big Maze, where their only worry is Cheese. The author, Spencer Johnson, uses the metaphor of ‘Cheese’ to signify anything that we want in life – be it job, money, love, health or even recognition and the ‘Maze’ can be our home, organization, community. The four of them don’t know where exactly the Cheese is in the Maze, but they know for sure that they have to keep running in the Maze to get to the Cheese station. Sniff and Scurry are always on their toes in search of Cheese and they finally reach the Cheese Station C. Hem and Haw follow them. As any story unfolds, they all live happily thereafter.

One day, to their surprise, Sniff and Scurry find the cheese station empty. When Hem and Haw arrive, they find it hard to believe that there is no cheese left for them and blame the ‘someone’ who has taken away the cheese that belonged to them. Sniff and Scurry, on the other hand, don’t stop there and agonize about what has happened. They put on their boots and start running in search of the next Cheese Station. The two little men, Hem and Haw sit in that empty cheese station, forcefully thinking someone will put back the cheese. It never happens. They grow old, become tired, lose focus and surrender themselves to their fate.

At some point of time, Haw has a self-realization that there ought to be some cheese somewhere in the Maze. He decides to go in search of the Cheese, but Hem stops him and convinces him to stay back till the ‘someone’ replaces the Cheese.

Meanwhile, Scurry and Sniff have a hard time searching for the cheese, but they finally land in a Cheese Station that’s much bigger and has tastier Cheese than ever before. At Cheese Station C, Haw finally decides to get away from the wishful thinking that ‘someone’ is going to bring back the Cheese. He decides to venture out in search of new Cheese. Before he leaves, he writes on the wall, “If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct” for Hem to ponder over later.

Though, in the beginning, it is hard for Haw to move alone inside the Maze, he regains the courage and strength to believe that his journey will ultimately be fruitful.

Very soon, Haw finds small pieces of cheese here and there. He makes it a point to note his simple thoughts on the wall, as he goes ahead. He writes, “The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese”.

At one time, he even goes back and tries to convince Hem to start moving along with him in search of new Cheese. Hem just ignores him and continues to believe that someone would bring back the ‘taken away’ Cheese. Haw continues his journey and his dreams of finding some of the best cheese soon conquer his inhibitions. And he finds a new Cheese Station N after a lot of hardships. He was glad to be in the company of Scurry and Sniff once again. This time, he is intelligent enough to believe that this new Cheese Station N would also get empty one day. So, he now checks Cheese Station daily (“Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old”) and keeps on exploring the maze regularly (“They Keep Moving The Cheese”) for new Cheese.

Lessons that Hem teaches us:

  1. Opportunities are always there, but we find solace in believing that new opportunities don’t exist, so that we don’t have to work towards it.
  2. People who keep worrying about the past don’t have much to look out for in the future.
  3. Not acknowledging the change would only drain your resources and finally you become obsolete.

Lessons that Haw teaches us:

  1. There would be people to pull you down even when you are truly enterprising. The real challenge is to overcome those shackles posed by those who present themselves as tempting procrastinators.
  2. Sometimes we do not know which direction to go; what is more important is that, the direction will depend on whether we choose to go.
  3. Having good thoughts about what the future has in store has for us would help us in overcoming obstacles in life with better conviction.

Lessons that Sniff and Scurry teach us:

  1. Never stop trying, for you do not know when you will hit the jackpot.
  2. Early adapters have a lot to gain when change is imminent.
  3. Complementing each other’s capabilities will help in achieving success sooner and more easily.
This work is an interpretation of the book by the writer. It is not paid for and the writer has no association with the author and\or the publisher of the book. Prashna Performance Consulting is not responsible for any copyright issues related to this content.

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Nobin Thomas

About

Nobin Thomas is a fifth year doctoral student in Organizational Behavior at IIMA. He is currently working on his doctoral thesis on organizational learning in family firms. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai, Nobin had his work stints at United Nations, Federal Bank and Rajagiri group.

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