Friday, July 3, 2009

Who moved my cheese?

If there was one book that I think contains on-point advice for what the fire service is going through right now it would be Spencer Johnson's New York Times Bestseller "Who moved my cheese?"

Who Moved My Cheese? has four characters. Two of them are mice named Snuff and Scurry and two are little people named Hem and Haw. The characters live in a maze that is the proverbial rendition of our life's environment... twists... turns... corners... unexpected things... you get the idea.

The characters are looking for cheese, which in this book represents one's happiness and success. Paired up, the mice and the little people set off on a trek through the maze in search of happiness and success (cheese). The mice and the little people come upon a cheese-rich cache at Cheese Station C.

The little people are content living off the success and happiness they are extracting from Cheese Station C and they develop a life around living off that cheese.

As it would happen, one day Sniff and Scurry arrive at Cheese Station C and find all the cheese is gone. They had been observing the cheese supply dwindling for some time so they're not terribly surprised by this finding. They were mentally prepared to set off on a new journey to find more cheese.

Later that same day, Hem and Haw also arrive at Cheese Station C and found the same thing... all the cheese was gone. They were angry and frustrated by this finding. Hem demanded to know "Who moved my cheese?" They were not prepared for this to happen. They fully expected their cheese would always be there for them. They throw a tantrum and go home hungry.

The next day Hem and Haw return to find the same thing... no cheese. Haw realizes the gravity of the situation and recommends embarking on a search to find some new cheese. Hem, still feeling victimized by the whole situation, voices his opposition to Haw's suggestion. Meanwhile, the mice searched and found a new cheese supply (at Cheese Station N).

And back at the cheeseless station (Cheese Station C) the little people are blaming each other for the lack of cheese and the situation they have found themselves in. Again, Haw proposes embarking in a search for new cheese. However, Hem is so comforted in his old routines and also afraid of the unknown that he continues to rebuke Haw's idea of moving on.

After days of living in denial the little people were still cheeseless. Eventually, Haw realizes he is gripped with fear and begins to laugh at himself. At that point, Haw realizes he needs to move on. As he enters the maze he chisels a note on the wall of Cheese Station C for Hem:

If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct.

Haw is still fearful though of the new journey and he continues to write:

What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?

He ponders the question... then he sets off on his journey. Along the way, Haw finds a few scraps of cheese here and there that provides enough nourishment to allow him to continue his search. Haw's denial slowly wanes and he realizes the cheese didn't disappear suddenly. Rather, the supply diminished from being eaten.

Haw came across another empty cheese station and be began to worry again about his unknown future. But he had a new mindset now and he set his fears aside, realizing:

When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.

Haw decided to go back and visit Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.
Stubborn and set in his way, Hem refuses to eat the new cheese.

Haw is disappointed at his friend's behavior, and decides to head back into the maze - searching farther and farther for new cheese (and having only limited success along the way).

Along the way, Haw leaves a trail of messages in the wall of the maze, hoping Hem will eventually embark on a search for new cheese and come along and read these messages.

Eventually after an extensive search, Haw finds Cheese Station N which contains an abundant supply of cheese. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience and writes these incredibly valuable lessons on happiness and success:

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 Quickly

The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese


Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change!

Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again & Again

They Keep Moving The Cheese.

Now Haw inspects Cheese Station N every day and makes a habit of exploring different parts of the maze to prevent any complacency from setting in.

In this economy... the cheese is definitely being moved for a lot of people. Embrace these lessons from Spencer Johnson's great book. It may help you get through the turbulence that occurs when someone moves your cheese.

Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO
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Andrew said...

This is an excellent book. Very simple, yet filled with a great concept.

Dr. Gasaway, I really like your blog. Keep up the good work.

Rich Gasaway said...


Thank you for the kind words and the support. It means a lot to me.