My sister and her boyfriend lent me this book saying they’d had to read it for a college class, and that it had opened their eyes. Since neither my sister nor her boyfriend are big readers, I was intrigued.
“Who Moved My Cheese” is broken up into 4 parts: a long and rambling introduction that sounds much more like a 3 AM infomercial than a prologue, a “situation” in which the author sets up his metaphor, the metaphor itself, and then a return to the “situation” where it prompts the reader to think of some discussion/practical-use applications.
While the metaphor itself was cute and easy-to-understand, I think I may have missed the window of profound enlightenment that this book touts on its front cover. The book opens with some lack-luster world building in which we meet 4 high-school friends who are meeting up at their 10 year reunion and discussing about how hard change has been in their lives. This leads one character to tell the group a metaphor that he uses to keep his company running smoothly – segue to the meat and potatoes of this book:
Two humanoid mice and two “little-people” who are basically the Liliputians from Gulliver’s Travels live in a maze where they are always in search of Cheese. When both sets finally find an area of the maze containing Cheese, the mice eat the Cheese, but keep on the alert since they eat purely for survival.
The Liliputions, however, are so excited about finding the Cheese that they move in next to It and presumably set up the ultimate American dream with a white picket fence and photos of the beloved cheese adorning their walls.
Everyone lives in harmony until one day they all wake up to find that the cheese is all gone. The mice, as survivalists, immediately go off in search of more food. But the Liliputions stay, staring at the empty, cheeseless area, and after being incredibly angry that “Someone moved their cheese,” decide the best option is to starve until someone replaces the cheese.
After starving for a while with no cheese replacement in sight, Lilipution #2 decides starving is stupid and ventures out on his own to find more cheese while his partner refuses to leave the now-dead American dream. The rest of the metaphor follows Lilipution #2 on his quest for more Cheese where he encounters dead-ends, moldy cheese, cheese crumbs, and finally the Great Cheese Mecca, which he smartly monitors so he’s not caught off guard when this Cheese pile disappears. Along his journey, he has a habit of writing his epiphanies on the wall with pictures of his beloved cheese. These profound graffiti consist of helpful sentences like “Monitor Change: Smell the Cheese often so you know when it’s getting old” and “old beliefs do not lead you to new Cheese.”
I honestly skimmed through the “discussion” section at the end, since our 4 reunion characters just seem to reiterate what I had just read in the metaphor section.
Upon finishing, my biggest comment on the text was “well, no shit, Sherlock.” Every epiphany was like a calendar of motivational posters with a cheese theme. However, I’m 28 with a job lay-off, a career change, and seven years of financial independence under my belt, so the idea of moving on when something’s dried up, or changing my thought process to look at the world in a new way aren’t ethereal, theoretical concepts, they’re just life.
However, I can see how this book would be unbelievable for a middle-class college student with little real-life experience. And perhaps to some people who’ve already lived in the world, this book is helpful because it puts a name to their experiences, but in most cases, this book is no more life-changing than a 3 a.m. infomercial.