‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is the title of one of the bestselling business books of all time, selling more than 25 million copies! The author, Spencer Johnson, tells a fable of two mice called Sniff and Scurry, and two miniature people called Hem and Haw.
They all live in a little maze and rely on cheese as their only food. One day, the four discover a big pile of cheese in C Station and start to enjoy eating the food. Each day they return to C Station, to eat as much as they can and bask in their incredible find. As weeks go by Hem and Haw arrive at C Station later and later each day and eventually hang up their running shoes. However, the two little mice Sniff and Scurry always arrive at the crack of dawn to begin their daily feast.
One day the mice arrive at C Station, and all the cheese has disappeared. They look around adjacent areas of the maze, and none can be found. They immediately put on their running shoes and head off to uncharted areas of the maze. Later that morning, the little people Hem and Haw arrive and are devastated that someone has stolen their cheese. They just cannot believe it could happen to them. As they had grown more complacent with how easy it was to arrive at C Station and indulge themselves, they had failed to notice during recent weeks how the cheese had started to dwindle. But they were convinced that someone would put it back soon. That night they returned home hungry and debated what must have happened to Sniff and Scurry. Had they stolen the cheese, or had they gone to look for it elsewhere? The next morning, they woke up earlier than they had of late and headed to C Station. As they opened the door, to their disbelief, nobody had put the cheese back. How could this happen to them, they asked. They had found this cheese months ago and it surely now belonged to them, surely someone would put it back soon. Haw suggested to Hem that they leave C Station and go looking around the maze for new cheese, but Hem was convinced that whoever had taken his cheese would bring it back soon. He didn’t want new cheese; he liked his old cheese. He didn’t want to venture into the maze because he was frightened of what would happen if they did not find cheese as good as that which they had become accustomed too. Plus, the maze might be dangerous, and they might get lost. The fable draws towards its conclusion with Haw leaving Hem in C Station waiting for someone to give him his old cheese back, whilst Haw builds up the courage to enter the maze searching for new cheese. The final few pages see Haw discovering the best cheese he has ever eaten in a new area of the maze called N Station, and as he enters for the first time, he is greeted by his two mice friends Sniff and Scurry who have been enjoying the fresh flavours of the new cheese for quite some time.
As he sits enjoying his new find, Haw reflects on his adventure searching for new cheese and writes on the wall of N Station the lessons he has learnt:
Change Happens - They Keep Moving the Cheese
Anticipate Change - Get Ready for the Cheese to Move
Monitor Change - Smell the Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
Adapt to Change Fast - The Quicker You Let Go of Old Cheese, the Sooner You Enjoy New Cheese
Change - Move with the Cheese
Enjoy Change! - Savour the Adventure and Enjoy the Taste of New Cheese!
Be Ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy it Again - They Keep Moving the Cheese
The fable teaches us the need to deal with change. I like this principle for and two reasons.
Firstly, no personal journey or business continues forever in exactly the same vein. All companies from time to time go through massive changes and restructuring, and it is exactly the same with our personal lives.
Secondly, a good friend of mine called Glenn Lehrer had a mother who lived well into her nineties and was still going strong. I asked Glenn what his mother’s secret was, and to my surprise, he believes it has nothing to do with diet or abstaining from alcohol or any of the things you or I would first think of. Glenn puts his mother’s longevity down to just one thing; her fantastic ability to deal with significant events that had happened to her during her long life. Her ability to look to the past with only fond memories and not sorrow or regret or a feeling of loss, and to always deal with challenges as they occur. Glenn tells me that his mother had still promptly managed to deal with major paradigm shifts in her life from the death of a partner to major surgery. Her outlook on the future was never one of worry or fear, but one of optimism and excitement. To enjoy a long life, it is essential to embrace all changes with a positive outlook.