What would you do if you weren't afraid?
In this summary of his best selling book, Who Moved My Cheese?, Author Spencer Johnson reveals how important it is to accept change and always be ready to adapt.
The more important your Cheese is to you, the more you want to hold on to it"
The "Cheese" being discussed in the book are the things that we want in life. For some it may be a great professional career, to others it may be a successful business, or perhaps to own all the stuff that we like. It will vary from one person to another. But the bottom line is, the Cheese is the epitome of everything we wish to have in our lives.
Who should read this?
People who always doubt themselves. Due to fear, they would rather remain miserable in comfort of the "known" than follow their dreams and venture forth to achieve them. This is a book about overcoming our fears and knowing how to adapt to change.
Who Moved My Cheese Main Ideas
Quick Summary of Who Moved My Cheese
This book is a parable about change. It's about how we, humans react to it.
The Four types of people based on the characters in the story:
Sniff - (Mouse) Someone who sniffs out and becomes aware of change early
Scurry - (Mouse) Someone who responds with immediate action
Hem - (Tiny human) Someone who denies and resists change due to fear
Haw - (Tiny human) Someone who learns how to adapt upon seeing that change can lead to something positive
Cheese - A metaphor for want we want to have in life
The Maze - Where you look for what you want in your life whether its personal, professional, or spiritual.
The story begins by telling how the days of the characters begin.
Each morning, they wear their jogging suits and running shoes, leaves their homes, and races out into the Maze to look for their favorite cheese.
The maze was hard to navigate as it was essentially a labyrinth of chambers and corridors, it had dark corners and blind alleys that lead nowhere.
However, it's the only place where they can find their cheese. And for those who found their way, a better life is their reward.
Here's how each group of characters "navigate" their way into the Maze:
Sniff & Scurry (Team Mice)
- Used a simple trial and error method.
- Run down one corridor, if empty, turn around and run down another. They remember which corridors had no cheese in them and immediately went to look at new areas.
- Thanks to his great scent-catching skills, Sniff knew how to smell the general direction of the Cheese. Upon knowing which direction it's coming from, Scurry would then run towards it.
- This simple strategy gets them lost sometimes and has them bumping into walls.
- Eventually, however, the two mice found their way.
Hem & Haw (Team Tiny Humans)
- Used their brains to analyze and come up with complex strategies to find their Cheese
- While they were superior in their way of thinking, sometimes their human beliefs and emotions clouded the way they thought and acted.
One day, all parties found cheese in station C.
After a while, everyone developed their daily routine for getting Cheese in station C.
Team Mice woke up early each morning and put on their running gear before heading over to Cheese Station C.
Team Tiny Humans did the same thing, albeit with less gusto and excitement since they knew that the Cheese will be in Station C.
This feeling of security and certainty made Team Humans feel great, happy, and successful.
Meanwhile, Team Mice simply went on with their simple routine of arriving at Station C, checking if there has been any changes to the Cheese, then nibble it down.
Their routines will go on for sometime.
One morning, all parties arrived at Station C and found out that the Cheese was no longer there.
Team Mice weren't surprised. After all, they've been noticing that the Cheese has been getting smaller everyday. By instinct, they knew what to expect and do, which is to move on to the next area to find their Cheese. And so they did.
Team Tiny Humans, however, were completely surprised to find out that their Cheese was gone.
"Who moved my cheese?!", they asked loudly.
Both were shocked. They felt cheated, unable to wrap their heads about what happened.
In their minds, they deserved that Cheese. It meant everything to them. It's what made them happy.
Now that it's gone, they were finding it really difficult to cope and move on.
That particular Cheese become such a huge part of their lives that they've built future plans around it.
Hem started to get depressed. Both ranted about the injustice of it all. How can something so important to them get taken away just like that? They both went home hungry and down in spirits.
This was "the moment" that defined the entire story. It was meant to teach us how people cope under such circumstances.
If you're like Sniff and Scurry, you'll have an easier time adjusting since you understand that things don't simply remain the same forever. They knew the Cheese supply was dwindling. Somehow they knew the inevitable will happen. But what made it easier for them was they were ready to accept change. To them it was merely a matter of moving on to plan B.
People like Hem and Hew, however, have it harder. Not because they were in a worse position, rather, because they can't accept the fact that change is inevitable. It's as if "owning" the Cheese (things and experiences you want in life) once entitles you to own it forever. This of course is impossible and unrealistic.
Time passed by and the two tiny humans were still on the fence on what to do. Hem was adamant that they stay there in Station C because he wanted to "get to the bottom of this".
On the other hand, Hew was starting to "get real" and begin thinking about the possibilities beyond Station C.
However, each time Hew began to feel inspired and hopeful, Hem rebutted with his usual, "I'm too old for that stuff. I'd rather stay here and be safe. I'm not interested in getting lost and making a fool of myself."
Even when they felt more horrible each day, the two humans still clung on to Station C and waited for something to happen.
Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry eventually found Station N---a new source of abundant Cheese.
Eventually, Haw will find the strength and courage to follow his instinct.
He would find Sniff and Scurry, realizing they've been out there for a while based on the size of their (now big) bellies.
The rest of the story will revolve around what Haw learned during his struggles and how he finally able to overcome his fears and move on to find his new Cheese.
My Personal Takeaways
- Change will always happen.
- The things we own can end up owning us.
- Our ability to adapt and thrive with change is crucial.
- Having a growth mindset is essential if you want to remain successful in life.
My Favorite Quotes from Who Moved My Cheese
“What would you do if you were not afraid ?”
“The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.”
“when you move beyond your fears, you feel free”
“Life moves on and so should we”
“The More Important Your Cheese Is To You The More You Want To Hold On To It.”
“What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.”
“Sometimes, Hem, things change and they are never the same again. This looks like one of those times. That's life! Life moves on. And so should we.”
“He asked himself those some questions too many times and felt the fears again that kept him where he was”
“I guess we resist changing, because we are afraid of change.”
“Being in the uncomfortable zone is much better than staying in the cheese-less situation .”
“He knew sometimes some fear can be good. When you are afraid things are going to get worse if you don't do something, it can prompt you into action. But it is not good when you are afraid that it keeps you from doing anything.”
“It is safer to search in the maze than to remain in a cheeseless situation”
“When you stop being afraid you feel good”
“when you move beyond your fears, you feel free”
“The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists”
“Movement in new direction helps find new cheese.”
“Better late than never.”
“See what you're doing wrong, laugh at it, change and do better.”
“If you do not change, you can become extinct !”
About the Author Spencer Johnson:
Dr. Spencer Johnson is a psychologist and physician based in the US. This book, Who Moved My Cheese, sold millions of copies and remained in the NY Times bestseller list for almost 5 years since it was released.
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