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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Book Review: Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson

The full title of this little book by Spencer Johnson is Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life (ISBN: 0399144463)

So will you find it amazing? Probably not.

Will it help you deal with change in your life? Maybe.

Over the past few years, I've been hearing coworker after coworker raving about what an awesome book this is and that I just had to give it a read. And this book has indeed been a big seller on the self-help shelves.

So, one night at my workplace-before-last, I spied a copy of this book lying on the breakroom table. It was thinner than I'd expected. I picked it up, saw the large print and frequent cartoon illustrations and thought, "This looks just like a children's picture book for adults."

And in many ways, it is. The book clocks in at 96 pages, and I read it cover-to-cover in 20 minutes. I'm no speed-reader -- the publishers padded this bad boy out as much as they could to make it book-length.

The text is cute and engaging and never once challenges the corporate status quo. It's aimed, it seems to me, at the harried businessperson who's too busy and stressed-out to read or process much and who could do with the confidence boost of finishing a book -- a whole book! -- on their lunch break.

Cheese does provide a useful reality check for people who find their lives in upheaval. It tells the story of four creatures -- Sniff and Scurry (mice) and Hem and Haw (tiny mice-sized people) -- who live in a maze and must search for cheese every day to survive. They've gotten used to finding a big cache of cheese in one spot, until one day it's not there anymore. Sniff and Scurry run out immediately to find new cheese, while Hem and Haw get freaked out and wonder and worry and in general waste a bunch of time. Meanwhile, the less-intelligent mice find cheese and are doing fine.

That's the book, kids. It shows you that you have to be alert to changes so you don't get caught unprepared when your "cheese" (job, relationship, etc.) inevitably disappears. It shows you that you must simply take care of business when change occurs instead of getting bogged down in overanalyzing the situation.

There is some truth in this book -- sometimes you really don't benefit much from thinking too hard about negative events like layoffs and breakups, because more madness than enlightenment lies in dwelling upon random misfortune. You just have to deal with it and move on.

But really, I wished this book had been about finding a way out of the maze and learning that you don't have to live your life like a rat caught in a lab experiment.

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