“Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson

Who Moved My Cheese?

Years after graduation, a group of high school friends meet after a reunion. They talk about their lives, admitting that things are not going so well. One of the classmates tells a story of change:

Once upon a time, two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two littlepeople, Hem and Haw, spent every day running through a maze “looking for Cheese to nourish them and make them happy.” They find a room filled with Cheese, and they are happy. Then one day all the cheese is gone. Sniff and Scurry are ready to search for New Cheese, and set off fearlessly, eventually finding an even bigger stash of New Cheese. Hem and Haw wait for Cheese to re-appear, feeling entitled to Cheese and afraid of failing to find New Cheese. Hem refuses to do anything, but Haw starts to laugh at his fear and then takes off, searching for New Cheese.

“Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” (1998) by speaker and author Spencer Johnson, is just as engaging and inspirational as it was when it was first published over 10 years ago. It is a timeless, short, and easy to understand story about how individuals, businesses, and even our government can be prepared for and adapt to change. It shares, in story form, how we can cope with change by taking control instead of letting things happen to us.

Haw learns so many things: that what you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine; that when you move beyond fear, you feel free; that the quicker you let go of Old Cheese, the sooner you find New Cheese. And he finds an even bigger stash of New Cheese, in flavors he had never imagined.Along the way, he leaves messages on the walls of the maze to show Hem the way.

Haw’s Handwriting on the Wall
1. Change happens. They keep moving the Cheese.
2. Anticipate change. Get ready for the Cheese to move.
3. Monitor change. Smell the Cheese often so you know when it is getting old.
4. Adapt to change quickly. Let go of old cheese.
5. Change. Move with the Cheese.
6. Enjoy change. Savor the adventure and enjoy the Cheese.
7. Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again. They keep moving the Cheese.

Here’s a twist on the search for New Cheese: to local, state, and federal governments, their “Cheese” is “Our Money.” After learning that Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie touted a $844 million surplus in his 2014 “State of the State” address, one conversation between Hem and Haw is particularly relevant in the debate over government entitlements – and the fight over “surplus” taxpayer money that is sure to follow:

Hem: “We’re entitled to our Cheese.”
Haw: “Why?”
Hem: “Because, we didn’t cause this problem. Somebody else did this and we should get something out of it.”
Haw: “Maybe we should simply stop analyzing the situation so much and go find some New Cheese?”

Have you had to adapt to a major change at work or in your life? Does change blind-side you or do you try to prepare for the unexpected?

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