Who Moved My Cheese: Summary & Review

who moved my cheese book cover

Who Moved My Cheese teaches the readers human nature and self-development through a simple and entertaining parable of two little humans and two mice.

Bullet Summary

  • Change will happen: don’t grow dependent on the status quo and be ready
  • Don’t be afraid of venturing towards the unknown: the longer you live slave of your fear, the worse off you’ll be
  • Sometimes think less and act more

Full Summary

About The Author: Spencer Johnson was an American physician and author. He wrote several children’s books as part of his series “ValueTales”. His most famous tale is “Who Moved My Cheese?”, which also happens to be one of the biggest best-sellers of self-help books.


As a parable, Who Moved My Cheese is not easy to summarize. So I won’t try. Instead of giving you the story, I will tell you the lessons learned from it.

Just keep in mind this is a novel taking place in a maze, with two “little humans” and two mice.

The maze is a metaphor for life, and the cheese is a metaphor for what we really want in life.

#1. Act More, Think Less (ie.: we think too much)

The mice in the parable always went back and forth looking for their cheese.
The two humans instead, called Hem and Haw, plotted all kinds of strategies to make their search more efficient.
All that thinking though didn’t really help them achieve better results.

As a matter of fact, it often only confused the humans more, and they would have been better off just scuttling around as the mice did.

Lesson learned?

  • Think less, act more

#2. Don’t Take Things For Granted (ie.: practice gratitude)

When the humans finally found a reliable source of cheese they were overjoyed.
Yet, little by little, they got used to it.
They started it for granted and they even became dependent on it.

Lesson learned?

  • Stay grateful and don’t become overly dependent on anything

#3. Be Prepared for Things to Change

One day the humans woke up, only to find out that their reliable source of cheese was gone.

It wasn’t really gone, the humans had failed to see that things were slowly changing. The cheese was diminishing and it was also rotting a bit. But they ignored the signs and clung to the status quo.
They were back to square one, but now they felt horrible about it.

Lesson learned?

  • Things never last forever: don’t grow complacent and look for signs of change

#4. Don’t Cling to the Bygone Past (ie.: keep moving)

The mouses didn’t sweat the change.
They soon got back on their feet and moved again. And soon found another cheese station.

The humans instead couldn’t psychologically accept the new reality. They clang to their old good past and revisited older cheese stations that were long depleted.
It might not be a coincidence that the humans in Who Moved My Cheese are called Hem and Haw.

Lesson learned?

  • Don’t cry over spilled milk. Roll back your sleeves and get going again

#5. Move Towards Your Fears

After their cheese was gone Hem and Haw were afraid of getting back in the game. They had grown too comfortable, or “mentally fat” as I sometimes call it.
They were afraid of moving toward new alleys.

Lesson learned?

  • The more you wallow in fear, the worse things will get. Move towards your fear and the death of fear is certain (cit.: Brian Tracy)

#6. Visualize Your Goals

Eventually, Haw started visualizing himself sitting on top of his all-time favorite cheese.
How wonderful life would be again?
That gave him the strength of venturing out into new and uncharted territory.

My Note:
90% of self-help books tell people to visualize their goals. But repetition doesn’t make something that’s not (always) true, true.
For more, check: self-help myths and pop-psychology myths.

#7. Your Life is The Result of Your Mindsets and Actions (ie.: take responsibility)

While Haw got moving, Hem stayed behind instead. He kept sitting at the old cheese station, getting hungrier and growing more and more emaciated.
Wallowing in pity and anger.

Hem’s life wasn’t easy.
In the beginning, he wasn’t finding much cheese, but he was proud of himself whenever he could find any. He was growing more confident in himself and in his capabilities, also getting happier.
Eventually, Hem found a new big cheese station (ie.: he reached his goal by taking action).

My Note:
In psychology, the mindset of taking responsibility is also often associated with an internal locus of control, such as the belief that we can change our circumstances and we can change our environment.

Lesson learned?

  • Your life is the result of how you react to failure

As someone said:

Judge me not by the times I fall, but by the times I get up again.

who moved my cheese book cover

Real-Life Applications

Who Moved My Cheese is a parable about powerful mindsets to adopt in life.
It’s difficult to pick one as they are all great, but if I had to just go for one:

  • Keep on Going

In the face of failure, don’t dawdle on the past. Keep on going. The world belongs to people who stay gritty in the endless pursuit of their dream.

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”


  • Little People Have Little Power?

Putting two people together with mice and giving them so little control over their lives didn’t seem to me like a very empowering metaphor.
Sure, the attitude that you will always do your best is super empowering (and freeing).
But oftentimes we can also do a lot to change our environment. And that didn’t shine through in “Who Moved My Cheese“.

  • Visualization Was Least Powerful Message

While Who Moved My Cheese shares a lot of very empowering mindsets, I personally don’t think visualizing is the most powerful way to overcome an impasse.
Don’t get me wrong, visualizing is awesome, but I believe that visualization is only one of the many tools of mental power (and possibly not the most powerful).

  • Analyzing is Not Necessarily Bad

Analyzing the situation before acting can sometimes bring you much bigger payoffs.


Great Wisdom
Who Moved My Cheese does a great job of outlining many of the typical human pitfalls.


Who Moved My Cheese leverages a fictitious story to share deeper truths of life.

In that, it’s similar to The Greatest Salesman in The World for sales books and The Richest Man in Babylon for personal finance books.

Alongside top reviews, it also had many bad reviews by people who are annoyed by the fable format and the repetitiveness.

And while I’m not a big fan myself of the fable format, “Who Moved My Cheese” hits on many key psychological pitfalls we all have as humans.
And I think the author does a great job of mixing entertainment with important life and self-development truths.

Read more summaries or get the book on Amazon

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