Wherever Dr John Spencer is, he makes my days by offering me the brain-tickling privilege of encountering his little fancy, but stern, book Who Moved My Cheese. I have read this little book about five times over the past 10 years. The book is an anecdotal champion for adapting to change.
What makes it more interesting is that the embodies a principle that will forever transcend time: Change is the only thing that is constant. The book was first published in 1998.
Characters: The book is a story about two little mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two little humans, Hem and Haw. Sniff who sniffs out change early, Scurry who scurries into action, Hem who denies and resists change as he fears it might lead to something worse and Haw who learns to adapt in time after he sees.
Plot: The book is staged in a cheese maze. Cheese representing all the things in life that we regard as needs and desires that will make us happy at any point in time; job, house, relationship etc. And the maze represents all the process we engage in ‘chasing our cheese’. The little characters in the book move around this maze and adapt to situations according to their nature.
Naturally, Sniff and Scurry quickly adapt to changes relating to availability and sustainability of cheese while Hem and Haw naturally take longer to adapt; actually Hem does not adapt at all and his friend eventually leaves him behind. Hem and Haw adapt less quickly to change because they are influenced by human ideology, justifications, emotions and rationalisation that the two ‘mice’ are oblivious to hence fast adapting to change.
Principles: The book has several principles highlighted throughout the plot that I will expand to reflect the general realities on change that we all encounter too and need to align ourselves in a way that allows us to sniff out change and scurry into action instead of hemming and hawing all over the place.
Having cheese makes you happy: We all have things we would like in life and we are convinced they are what make us happy people.
The more important your cheese is to you the more you want to hold onto it: The higher the value we place on the things we find important to us at a particular time, the more reluctant and resistant we will be at the prospect of letting go of those things.
If you do not change, you can become extinct: When we fail to adapt to changes in life, we can end up completely losing ourselves and everything we value and have nothing else to hold on to.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?: We should always ask ourselves what we could achieve if we confronted fears that hold us back from making the necessary changes in our lives and moving forward.
Smell your cheese often so you know when it is getting old: Always remember to audit your life so that you are aware of the impending change. Movement in a new direction helps you find a new cheese: You cannot change without action. You have to act towards change.
When you move beyond you fear, you feel free: Once you confront your fears, you feel free and energised to take on new challenges.
Imagining myself enjoying the cheese, even before I find it, leads me to it: Think about what you can achieve and what is to come instead of brooding on what has already been lost and has passed.
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese: You cannot achieve the goals needed for a new change while holding on to past losses.
It is safer to search in the maze than remain in a cheese-less station: It is better to act than remain stagnant in a situation that is already futile.
Old beliefs do not lead you to the new cheese: We need to refrain from being rigid and sticking to old beliefs.
When you see that you cannot find new cheese, you change course: We need to be open to changing our strategies when we see that we can achieve new things and win with change.
Noticing small change early helps adapt to bigger changes that are to come: Being observant of little changes and taking little progressive steps makes dealing with a bigger change easier.
It is no longer survival of the fittest; now the ones who survive are those that adapt to change quickly in a fast moving world.
I rest my case.