Who Moved My Cheese is Spencer Johnson’s parable to show deep human truths -and shortcomings- with a simple story.
- Bullet Summary
- Full Summary
- Real Life Applications
- 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 worst off you’ll be
- Sometimes think less and act more
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 mouses.
The maze is a metaphor of life, and the cheese is a metaphor of what we really want in life.
Act More, Think Less (ie.: we think too much)
The mouses in the parable always went back and forth looking for their cheese. The two humans instead, called Hem and Haw, plotted all kinds of strategy 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 like the mouses did.
- Think less, act more
We Take Things for Granted
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.
- Stay grateful and don’t become overly dependent on anything
Be Prepared for Thing to Change
One day the humans woke up, only to found 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.
- Things never last forever: don’t grow complacent and look for signs of change
Don’t Cling to the Bygone Past: 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.
- Don’t cry over spilled milk. Roll back your sleeves and get going again
Move Towards Your Fear
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 towards new alleys.
- 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)
Visualize Your Goals
Eventually Haw started visualizing of 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.
Your Life is The Result of Your Mindsets and Actions
While Haw got moving, Hem stayed behind instead. He kept sitting at the old cheese station, getting hungier 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 confidence 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).
- Your life is the result of how you react to failure
As someone said:
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 belong to people who stay gritty in the endless pursuit of their dream.
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 overcoming 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.
Who Moved My Cheese does a great job in outlining many of the typical human pitfalls.
Who Moved My Cheese uses a fictitious story to tell us about 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 we can all learn from them.