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Who moved my cheese? Is a book that conveys how we tend to get comfortable with our daily routines and how easy it is for us to feel uneasy as soon as we are required to change, be it a situation, a challenge, or even ourselves. We are very avoidant towards change as it is something that can be very scary, we don’t know what might happen in the future and also because when we change things start getting out of our control and when they do, we become scared, furious and start blaming others.
The author Spencer Johnson brilliantly shows us how changing one’s belief towards a situation or a general worldview can help someone much more in life than trying to change the situation itself. He portrays it through four characters, Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw.
Sniff and Scurry are two mice whereas Hem and Haw are two miniature human beings the size of the mice and all four of them live in a maze-like structure.
All four of them live their lives trying to find cheese. Cheese here is referred to as success, a good life, happiness, and a sense of security both professionally and personally. Just like how we chase success, they chase cheese.
All four of them run around the maze and find bits of cheese here and there and take it back home. But there’s a catch, Sniff & Scurry take off their running shoes and tie them around their neck. Hem and haw keep their running shoes aside.
One day they find a part of the maze where there is cheese kept daily, they don’t know who keeps it there but they slowly assume that the cheese will be there every day.
Hem and Haw being humans shift their homes close to the location where the cheese is kept every day and start getting comfortable, they put away their running shoes and decorate their home with pictures of cheese. On the other hand, Sniff and Scurry still tie their shoes around their necks ready to move anytime. Sniff analyses everything and Scurry is quick in making decisions. The two mice carefully inspect the place where the cheese is kept daily and notice that the quantity of cheese slowly starts to get less and make a general assumption that the cheese over there might disappear anytime, they both explore the maze daily to keep finding new sources of cheese.
Hem and Haw being complacent, fail to notice that the cheese is slowly starting to disappear. They even go as far as to put their running shoes away as they thought they might not need them.
Then one day it happens, the cheese disappears!
Sniff and Scurry, who are already prepared for it, take their running shoes from their neck and get to explore the maze for a new source of cheese without giving much thought as to how the cheese disappeared.
Hem and Haw begin overthinking and analyzing the situation only after the cheese has disappeared. Hem starts shouting, “Who could’ve done this? Who took the cheese away?” Hem and Haw go back to their homes disappointed. Time passes and Haw notices that Sniff and Scurry are gone. He tells Hem that maybe it’s time that they too get moving. Hem refuses and says that the cheese will eventually come back. Haw reluctantly stays with Hem. Days pass again but there is no sign of cheese.
One day, Haw decides to venture into the maze and writes various notes on the walls to remind himself of the various changes he might have made. Day by day he goes out into the maze and visualizes himself having that piece of cheese and this visualization drives him more and more.
He comes back home and starts laughing at the situation he and Haw were in and said that if they would have only realized earlier that something was about to happen they wouldn’t be in the situation they are currently in.
Haw invites Hem to join him, but he still refuses to go thinking that everything would get back to normal soon enough. Haw continues to go out into the maze and finds a piece of cheese which makes him really happy that his hard work is paying off and in hopes of getting Hem motivated he takes a piece to Hem.
Hem refuses the piece saying that he will not be able to accept it as he expects his share of cheese to come back from the same place as before and that he will not have any other cheese than the one he is accustomed to.
Haw continues to go out into the maze and keeps writing notes to himself on the wall that change is necessary to find the things that you might’ve never had if you stayed in a single place. He also writes these notes on the walls in the hope that Hem might read them and might be able to take action for himself.
Eventually, Haw finds a new place where there are numerous varieties of cheese and goes out to taste every one of them. He even finds Sniff and Scurry but with a big belly this time.
Haw takes off his shoes and ties them around his neck. Sniff and Scurry chuckle as they spectate Haw. Haw realized that this time was different and every day he inspected the cheese and looked out for the small bits of changes happening in the new location. He still ventures out in the maze daily.
The story ends with a cliffhanger of Haw hearing someone approaching on the other side of the wall, expecting it to be Hem.
Lessons I’ve learnt from the book:
Laugh at your own mistakes. Don’t overthink them.
Stop overanalyzing things once they are over. Analyze things that are already happening and expect change to happen at all times.
Expect change and you won’t be surprised when it does happen.
Make small changes for yourself every day. Get out of your comfort zone.
What situations have you come across where you think it would have been better to just accept and move on rather than just sit and wait around for someone else to fix it for you? Or What thought process did you do through when you decided that you needed a change? Let me know in the comments below.