Dr Spencer Johnson

The first time I heard about this book, I was amused – as were most of my colleagues. Really, a book about cheese. A good mature cheddar does have its appeal, but I wasn’t going to invest my time on it.

Identified as talent, a few of us were booked to attend a leadership course where we encountered a wise man who introduced us to the video on Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson. I was intrigued and searched for the book, wiped the cobwebs off and leafed through the pages hungry to learn. The lessons in this book are simple and as with most things in life, we tend to take what we have for granted and only after it is gone, do we realise what we have lost. Sometimes, we still don’t learn and continue on the same path and occasionally, don’t make that change which is so necessary.

So, ask yourself, are you a Sniff and Scurry or a Hem or a Haw? Still don’t know what I am talking about, click on the link below to watch the video, or even better, grab hold of the book, have a good read and take extracts out of it as you lead yourselves, your teams, your families and friends forward. Especially now during COVID-19, it teaches us to appreciate what we have and hold onto it.

I have made things slightly easier for you and am sharing the summary of the book courtesy of my newly acquired associate Niklas Göke from Four Minute Books. Check out Nik’s website where he shares summaries of his favourite books and many other excellent much-loved volumes that we have all heard about over the years. If you haven’t had the time to read through them, don’t despair. Nik provides a summary that, I kid you not, takes four minutes to read – hence the title of his site.

Lesson 1: Stop thinking too much about your cheese and start chasing it.

The two mice inside of our maze are called Sniff and Scurry. They spend most of their time running up and down the corridors of the maze, looking for cheese. Turn a corner, run to the end, see if there’s any cheese, and if not, turn around and go back. That’s their pattern, and, while it seems kind of mindless and unstructured, it actually saves them a lot of time and energy.

Hem and Haw, two little people, also spend their days in the maze looking for cheese, but not because they’re hungry – they think finding it will make them feel happy and successful. However, because of their complex brains, they think a lot about

  • how they can find the cheese the fastest?
  • which strategies will work best in getting through the maze?
  • how to keep track of those strategies?
  • what finding the cheese will feel like?
  • when they’ll finally find it?

…and of course, they wonder if there even is any cheese in the maze at all every time, they turn another empty corner.


Life is the same. Every minute you spend wondering what success looks like, how to get it, whether it’s possible and how you’ll feel in the future is a minute not wasted working towards it. Humans are complicated beings, but that doesn’t mean we have to make everything complicated.

Be more like a mouse and just start running!

Lesson 2: Even the biggest cheese doesn’t last forever, so try to see change coming.

Sniff and Scurry soon found a big stash of cheese at Station C, and even though they enjoyed snacking a bit of it every day, they kept paying attention. The amount of cheese kept declining, slowly, but steadily, every day. Once they realized they were about to run out, they decided to move on of their own accord and soon found another huge cheese at Station N.

When Hem and Haw found station C, however, they settled there, and quickly grew accustomed to the new status quo. The cheese fest they indulged in every day soon became the centre of their lives, as they thought it was the fair reward for all their hard work. They were so preoccupied with the cheese that they didn’t notice how it was disappearing, one piece at a time, and how some corners of it even got mouldy. One morning, they woke up, only to find someone had moved their cheese.

This left Hem and Haw sad, depressed, feeling treated unfairly and in denial. Instead of venturing out to find new cheese, they kept returning to Station C, getting ever hungrier and weaker.


No supply of cheese can last forever. Change is always bound to happen, sooner or later. Instead of fooling yourself that things will stay the same forever, always keep an eye open for change.

Lesson 3: Don’t worry, there’s always new cheese to be found. The minute you start moving things will improve.

The best part about cheese isn’t that once you’ve found it, you’re set for life. It’s that there’s always more cheese to be found. Haw eventually got sick of sitting around, so he decided to go looking for new cheese all by himself.


Once he started moving, his situation instantly got better. Yes, he just found a few bits and pieces of cheese here and there at first, but this was a lot better than doing nothing and being paralyzed by fear. After having found the courage to move on despite your fears once, fear’s grip on you will never be as strong as it used to be.

Haw realized the accumulated fears in his mind were a lot worse than even the biggest challenges he encountered. Full of confidence, he kept exploring the maze, until he eventually found Sniff and Scurry at Station N, where the three of them shared the new cheese they had found.

Watch the video below