Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

The Book in a Few Sentences

A short book with a timeless message: adapt to inevitable change. Written as a parable, the book highlights how we resist change and make the simple complicated through emotions and excessive thinking.

Who Moved My Cheese summary

This is my book summary of Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. My summary and notes include the key lessons and most important insights from the book.


The Simple and the Complex

The four imaginary characters depicted in this story — the mice:  “Sniff” and “Scurry,” and the littlepeople:  “Hem” and “Haw — are intended to represent the simple and the complex parts of ourselves, regardless of our age, gender, race, or nationality.

Sometimes we act like
Who sniffs out charge early, or
Who scurries into action, or
Who denies and resists change as he fears it will lead to something worse, or
Who learns to adapt in time when he sees changing leads to something better!

Whatever parts of us we choose to use, we all share something in common:  a need to find our way in the maze and succeed in changing times.

The Story Behind the Story
by Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D.

Who Moved My Cheese? is a story about change that takes place in a Maze where four amusing characters look for “Cheese” — cheese being a metaphor for what we want to have in life, whether it is for a job, a relationship, money, a big house, freedom, health, recognition, spiritual peace, or even an activity like jogging or golf.

Each of us has our own idea of what Cheese is, and we pursue it because we believe it makes us happy. If we get it, we often become attached to it. And if we lose it, or it’s taken away, it can be traumatic.

Living in constant white water with the changes occurring all the time at work or in life can be stressful, unless people have a way of looking at change that helps them understand it.  Enter the cheese story.

In The Story you will see that the two mice do better when they are faced with change because they keep things simple, while the two littlepeople’s complex brains and human emotions complicate things.  It is not that mice are smarter.  We all know people who are more intelligent than mice.  

As you watch what the four characters do, and realize both the mice and the littlepeople represent parts of ourselves — the simple and the complex — you can see it would be to our advantage to do the simple things that work when things change.

The Story of Who Moved My Cheese?

  • Once, long ago in a land far away, there lived four little characters who ran through a maze looking for cheese to nourish them and make them happy.
  • Two were mice named “Sniff” and “Scurry” and two were littlepeople — beings who were as small as mice but who looked and acted a lot like people today.  Their names were “Hem” and “Haw”.
  • The mice, Sniff and Scurry, possessing only simple rodent brains, but good instincts, searched for the hard nibbling cheese daylight, as mice often do.
  • The two littlepeople, Hem and Haw, used their brains, filled with many beliefs and emotions, to search for a very different kind of cheese — with a capital C — which they believed would make them feel happy and successful.
  • For those who found their way, the maze held secrets that let them enjoy a better life.
  • The mice, Sniff and Scurry, used to simple trial-and-error method of finding cheese.
  • Sometimes they [Hem and Haw] did well, but at other times their powerful human beliefs and emotions took over and clouded the way they looked at things. It made life and amaze more complicated and challenging.
  • Sniff and Scurry continued to wake up early every day and race through the maze, always following the same route.
  • Hem and Haw awoke each day a little later, dressed a little slower, and walked to Cheese Station C.
  • It wasn't long before Hem and Haw regarded the Cheese they found at Cheese Station C as their cheese.
  • To make themselves feel more at home, Hem and Haw decorated the walls with sayings and even drew pictures of Cheese around them which made them smile. One read:

“Having Cheese Makes You Happy.”

  • After a while Hem’s and Haw’s confidence grew into the arrogance of success. Soon they became so comfortable they didn't even notice what was happening.
  • One morning they [Sniff and Scurry] arrived at Cheese Station C and discovered there was no cheese.
  • The mice did not overanalyze things. To the mice, the problem and answer were both simple. The situation at Cheese Station C had changed.  So, Sniff and Scurry decided to change.
  • “What! No Cheese?” Hem yelled. He continued yelling, “No Cheese? No Cheese?” as though if he shouted loud enough someone would put it back. “Who moved my Cheese?” he hollered.  “It’s not fair!”
  • Finding Cheese was the littlepeople’s way of getting what they thought needed to be happy.  For some, finding Cheese was having material things. For others it was enjoying good health, or developing a spiritual sense of well-being.
  • For Haw, Cheese just meant feeling safe, having a loving family someday, and living in a cozy cottage on Cheddar Lane.  To Hem, Cheese was becoming A Big Cheese in charge of others and owning a big house atop Camembert Hill.  
  • While Sniff and Scurry had quickly moved on, Hem and Haw continued to hem and haw. How could this have happened? No one had warned them. It wasn't right. It was not the way things were supposed to be.

“The More Important Your Cheese Is To You The More You Want To Hold On To It.”

  • “Why should we change?” Hem asked.  “We’re littlepeople. We’re special. This sort of thing should not happen to us. Or if it does, we should at least get some benefits.”
  • “Why should we get benefits?” Haw asked.  “Because we’re entitled.” Hem claimed.
  • While Hem and Haw were still trying to decide what to do, Sniff and Scurry were already well on their way. They didn't think of anything else but finding New Cheese.
  • They found what they have been looking for: a great supply of New Cheese.
  • So every day, the littlepeople continue to do what they had done before. They went to Cheese Station C, found no Cheese, and returned home, carrying their worries and frustrations with them. They tried to did not like what was happening, but found it harder to get to sleep and had less energy the next day, and were becoming irritable.
  • Haw was beginning to realize the difference between activity and productivity.
  • Finally, one day Haw began laughing at himself. “Haw, haw, look at us. We keep doing the same things over and over again and wonder why things don't get better. If this wasn't so ridiculous, it would be even funnier.”
  • “Because you don’t get it,” Haw said.  “I didn't want to see it either, but now I realize they're never going to put yesterday’s Cheese back. It's time to find New Cheese.”
  • Haw said, “Sometimes, Hem, things change and they are never the same again. This looks like one of those times. That's life! Life moves on. And so should we.

“If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct.”

“What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?”

  • When you are afraid things are going to get worse if you don't do something, it can prompt you into action. But it is not good when you are so afraid that it keeps you from doing anything.
  • He [Haw] decided that if he ever got the chance again, he would get out of his comfort zone and adapt to change sooner. It would make things easier.
  • Whenever he [Haw] started to get discouraged he reminded himself that what he was doing, as uncomfortable as it was at the moment, was in reality much better than staying in the Cheeseless situation.  He was taking control, rather than simply letting things happen to him.

“Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old.”

  • Then he [Haw] asked himself the question again, “What would I do if I weren't afraid?”

“Movement In A New Direction Helps You Find New Cheese.”

  • Haw didn't realize it yet, but he was discovering what nourished his soul. He was letting go and trusting what lay ahead for him, even though he did not know exactly what it was.
  • To his surprise, Haw started to enjoy himself more and more."Why do I feel so good?" He wondered."I don't have any cheese and I don't know where I am going.”

“When You Move Beyond Your Fear, You Feel Free.”

“Imagining Myself Enjoying New Cheese Even Before I Find It, Leads Me To It.”

  • Haw kept thinking about what he could gain instead of what he was losing.

“The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Find New Cheese.”

  • After a while Haw made his way back to Cheese Station C and found Hem. He offered Hem bits of New Cheese, but was turned down.

“I don’t think I would like New Cheese. It’s not what I’m used to. I want my own Cheese back and I’m not going to change until I get what I want.”

“It Is Safer To Search In The Maze Than Remain In A Cheeseless Situation.”

  • Haw realized again, as he had once before, that what you are afraid of is never as bad as what do you imagine. Now he realized it was natural for change to continually occur, whether you expect it or not.

“Old Beliefs Do Not Lead You To New Cheese.”

  • He knew when you change what you believe, you change what you do.

“When You See That You Can Find And Enjoy New Cheese, You Change Course.”

“Noticing Small Changes Early Helps You Adapt To The Bigger Changes That Are To Come”

  • Haw had let go of the past and was adapting to the present.
  • When he [Haw] went inside, he was startled by what he saw. Piled high everywhere was the greatest supply of Cheese he had ever seen. As Haw enjoyed the New Cheese, he reflected on what he had learned.
  • He realized the fastest way to change is to laugh at your own folly — then you can let go and quickly move on. You could be more aware of the need to keep things simple, be flexible, and move quickly.
  • He had to admit that the biggest inhibitor to change lies within yourself, and that nothing gets better until you change.
  • But Haw realized that he had already tried to get his friend to change. Hem had to find his own way, Beyond his comfort and past his fears. No one else could do it for him, or talk him into it.


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 Tase Of New Change

Be Ready To Change Quickly
And Enjoy It Again & Again

They Keep Moving The Cheese

“Move With The Cheese And Enjoy It!”