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Who Moved My Cheese: A Fable’ Review

‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is an entertaining little fable about two mice in running shoes and two little people looking for cheese. Cheese is a metaphor for any good thing that someone might want: a lucrative career, a comfortable life, or a loving family. The important thing is that everybody values something, and life is a maze in search of that something. However, the good times may end, and the things that were valuable once can lose their luster. People change, the world changes around them, and ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ teaches people to accept these changes and look for the new valuable things, the New Cheese. Of course, being mostly written for corporate managers, it centers its lessons on the changes in the structure of the company or the market. However, the claim of the fictional characters that discuss the parable in the epilogue is that these lessons can also be applied to private lives. That is certainly the case, and most people arrive at these insights by themselves, but it does not make the advice any less valid for those who need it.

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Like probably most people that read the book, I identify with Haw the most. Haw, in the early days of his separation from Hem during the very beginning of his journey, is what most people would identify with at some point in their lives. He was uncertain and afraid, but he also remembered when times were good. He felt the call to adventure that would place him in a precarious position, but will also open up the entire Maze for him to look for the New Cheese. The Old Cheese is one of life’s constants, and people usually outgrow their desires and stagnate in their comfort zones. In other cases, life moves on and necessitates action or change, which is also how Old Cheese can grow moldy and scarce. Looking for cheese in the Maze is how people grow up, and these memories remain, either motivating people to go out into the Maze again, or haunting them by showing them how exciting their life could have been. I am also often visited by these memories, and for me, they are motivational.

I am going through the period of my life, during which the search for New Cheese is essential but scary and confusing. I have spent some time with a small mound of Old Cheese, but it was not enough to sustain me, and I knew that it would run out soon. I am uncertain about finding New Cheese, and I am afraid that it will take me a long time, but at the same time, I am finding some excitement in my desperation. Just like Haw’s journey started when he took an honest look at himself and decided to move on from an exhausted supply, so did mine, when I decided that it is time to train myself to run the Maze again.

The search for New Cheese is a part of my growing up and entering adulthood. Therefore, my Cheese Station C is my teenage years, in which I had hobbies, friends, and a set way of life in which I was reasonably confident I would survive and have some fun with my life. Now that I am becoming an adult, I am growing apart with my old friends, and the things that used to be entertaining are becoming less so. That said, there is some comfort in the familiar, and I am not willing to leave it behind. I still like many things that I used to like, such as TV shows, books, and music. The nostalgia I feel for my childhood and adolescence when I enjoy them is stronger every time. I spend a lot of time wishing that things could be the same as they were, and, like many others, I imagine what I would do differently to fix some of my past mistakes and prolong my relatively carefree teenage years. Growth is exciting and essential, but the total destruction of my foundation as a person should not be part of it.

There is an existential hunger in me that did not use to be there when I was younger. I feel like I have to find new knowledge, skills, and experiences to satiate it. I used to like listening to the same music while doing chores, but nowadays, I gravitate towards something new, like podcasts that share other people’s wisdom. Instead of spending time with other people and having fun together, I sometimes prefer solitude to introspect and sort out the mental baggage that I have accumulated over time. I am considering how I will have to build my life by myself, which is exhilarating and absolutely terrifying. I could deny myself that excitement, shield myself from that terror, and slip into old habits, but when there is a drive to grow up, one should answer it instead of turning away. After all, “if you do not change, you can become extinct” (Johnson, 1998, p.16). Besides, if I have no New Cheese, I will simply starve, figuratively and literally.

At the moment, there is nobody in my life whom I know personally that I would like to pass ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ to. Most people I know have either concluded the same things by themselves or will do so in due time. Passing the book to my past self would also likely not do any good, because I would not understand these lessons without experiencing them firsthand. The perfect recipient for ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is a person like Haw, who is at the beginning of their journey after a prolonged period of complacency. They have to have some idea that their Old Cheese had run out, and they have to understand very well why they need to move on. That person must look within themselves to find the resolve to get back in the Maze, but some advice and motivation could be of great help at the early stages of that introspection. I believe that very early adulthood is precisely that point of life, and if I meet a young adult who is a bit lost, I will surely give them that morsel of wisdom.

I have encountered my quest for New Cheese in the form of growing up. I am a young adult, and I experience all the uncertainty, turmoil, bliss, and advancement it entails. Most, if not all, have similar experiences, as Kali and Cavanaugh (2019) suggest. Emerging adulthood is a distinct part of every person’s life when they are not a child anymore but are not quite an adult. Accepting the responsibilities and burdens of adult life is a natural part of growing up, but so is accepting its pleasures and capacities. Throughout their 20s, people are at their physical and mental peak. It is the best time to lay the groundwork for one’s health, career, and identity. Emerging adulthood is when people become smarter, quicker on their feet, and more curious than in their teens. I have certainly experienced just that, as I have already mentioned, and these increased capabilities are more than matched by the increase in my cognitive appetite.

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I imagine many people feel similarly, which is why attaining education is one of the many adulthood milestones in Western society. College is the intermediary step between receiving knowledge and applying it, and it does, in many cases, ask much more of a person than earlier stages of education. That intellectual milestone is matched by the social milestone within it, as colleges are the place where people meet new friends and try new identities, having changed from their adolescence and acquired a bit of life experience. Many emerging adults struggle with the search for meaning, as they grow capable of considering such concepts seriously. The journey into adulthood involves much more learning that is much less organic than it was in adolescence. That is precisely why, I believe, people struggle to remain in their Cheese Station Teens, and are not eager to fully grow up. It is painful and frightening, and there is rarely a self-evident point to it. That is one of the manifestations of the Maze, and the New Cheese is finding one’s place in the world. That is how I believe the parable about cheese connects to human development.

‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ was written for managers and salarymen to ease their transitions brought about by the free market’s tumult. However, the insights gleaned from that small self-help book can find reflection not only in our daily lives but the essential development of a human being. Emerging adulthood is like walking through a dark labyrinth, with barely enough cheese to sustain oneself, but also enough excitement to last a lifetime.

References

Johnson, S. (1998). Who moved my cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Kali, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2019). Human development: A life-span view, Eighth Edition. Boston, MA: Cengage.

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