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Who Moved My Cheese Summary and Key Lessons

“Who Moved My Cheese?” is a business and self-help book by Spencer Johnson published in 1998. 

The book uses a parable to discuss change, presenting its lessons through the story of four characters: two mice, named “Sniff” and “Scurry,” and two “littlepeople,” miniature humans in essence, named “Hem” and “Haw.” These characters live in a maze and search for cheese, which represents happiness and success.

Who Moved My Cheese Summary

At the start of the story, all four characters discover a large source of cheese at “Cheese Station C.” 

The mice and the littlepeople establish routines around this cheese source. Sniff and Scurry simple-mindedly return every day, nibbling at the cheese, while Hem and Haw, due to their more complex brains, grow attached to the cheese and start to take it for granted. 

They build their lives around it, thinking it will always be there.

One day, the cheese at Station C disappears. 

The mice, not overanalyzing or making things complicated, immediately accept the change and go off into the maze to look for new cheese. Hem and Haw, however, react differently. 

They are shocked and feel betrayed. Hem becomes angry and refuses to move on, insisting that the cheese must return. Haw, after some denial and resistance, eventually realizes the need to move on and starts exploring the maze for new cheese, leaving Hem behind.

Throughout his journey in the maze, Haw learns several important lessons about change, which he writes on the wall as advice to his friend Hem, if he ever decides to follow. These lessons include:

  1. Anticipate change: Be ready for the cheese to move.
  2. Adapt quickly: The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.
  3. Change: Move with the cheese.
  4. Enjoy change: Savor the adventure and the taste of new cheese.
  5. Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again: The cheese will keep moving.

Finally, Haw finds a new cheese source, even more substantial than the first one. 

He meets Sniff and Scurry there, who have been enjoying this new source of cheese for some time already. He reflects on his experience and is grateful for the change, realizing that it has led to something better. Haw decides that he will be more mindful in the future, enjoying the cheese but being ready for it to move again.

Throughout the story, the author uses cheese as a metaphor for what we want in life – be it a good job, a loving relationship, money, health, or peace of mind. 

The maze is a symbol for where we look for what we want, our organization, community, or family.

The moral of the story is that we must be prepared to change and adapt when circumstances in our life do. Instead of being paralyzed by fear, we must understand that change often leads to better opportunities. We should not let comfort and routine prevent us from seeking new experiences and opportunities.

who moved my cheese summary

Also Read: 12 Rules of Life | Book Summary

What can you learn from the book? 

1. Anticipate change: Be ready for the cheese to move

This lesson comes from observing the behavior of the mice, Sniff and Scurry. They are always vigilant and aware that the cheese supply is dwindling. 

They aren’t surprised or shocked when the cheese eventually disappears. 

In our lives, this could translate to recognizing the signs of upcoming changes. In the workplace, for instance, this could involve recognizing market trends, technological advancements, or shifts in company strategy that could potentially affect one’s job. 

Anticipating change means being prepared for the inevitable and understanding that nothing remains static forever.

2. Adapt quickly: The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese

Haw took some time to realize this, and it made him suffer more than necessary. 

He was initially resistant to leaving the comfort of Cheese Station C, even after the cheese was gone. However, once he let go of his old assumptions and fears, he was able to venture into the maze and find new cheese. 

This translates to our ability to let go of old habits, routines, or comforts that may no longer serve us and adapt to the new circumstances

It’s about being resilient and embracing change quickly rather than clinging to the past.

Also Read: The Ultimate Sales Machine | Book Summary

3. Change: Move with the cheese

Change is constant. It is a natural part of life, and fighting it can lead to disappointment and frustration. 

The cheese will always be moving, and we should be ready to move with it. Hem, who refused to leave Cheese Station C, ended up hungry and unhappy. 

He was unable to accept that the cheese had moved and that he needed to change his habits and routines to find new cheese

This lesson reminds us to be proactive in adapting to changes rather than being reactive or worse, stagnant.

4. Enjoy change: Savor the adventure and the taste of new cheese

When Haw finally discovered new cheese, he enjoyed it even more than the old cheese, realizing the journey to find it had been an adventure, with its own learnings and rewards. 

This is a lesson in perspective – change can be seen as an opportunity for learning and growth, a chance to explore new horizons. 

If we approach change with a sense of adventure and curiosity, we’re more likely to savor the process and the outcomes.

Also Read: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson | Book Summary

5. Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again: The cheese will keep moving.

After finding the new cheese, Haw didn’t take it for granted. 

He often went out exploring the maze, keeping an eye on the cheese supply, and ready to move again when necessary. This lesson teaches us to not get too comfortable even when things are going well. 

The only constant is change, and we should always be ready for it. Just as Haw did, we can learn to expect change, adapt to it, enjoy it, and be prepared to do it all over again when the time comes. 

It’s a continuous process that makes our journey in the maze (life) more fruitful and less stressful.

Final Thoughts

Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson is a simple, yet powerful parable that offers profound lessons about change and how to deal with it. It teaches that change is inevitable, and instead of resisting it, we should anticipate it, adapt quickly to it, and enjoy the process.

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