That is an odd-smelling cheese

Posted on 2012-October-19 in thoughts

CheeseJust finished Who moved my Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. A quick and interesting read about how to be prepared for change and how embracing change in your life can make a real difference.

The followed metaphore is about four characters faced with a life-changing situation: they live in a maze, they find a roomful of cheese and decide to live there. Time goes on, the cheese gets stale. One day the cheese is gone and they have to travel through the maze to find a new cheese room. Two characters move forward and find happiness further down the maze, one character refuses to move and ends up all alone and hungry. The last character evolves through the story: at first he is stuck in his comfort zone, then he learns to move forward and finally finds new cheese.

The story is short and like other self-help books, only filled with enthusiasm and positive thinking. The book fails in many ways by being so far off from reality. Change is good, but change can also be dangerous. The maze is not always just an endless stream of walls, it can also hide terrible dangers and taking the decision to leave your comfort zone could be fatal. The whole difficulty lies in knowing exactly when it is time to move on and when it is too early.

This reminded me of a Nasreddin Hodja story.

One day Nasreddin is awoken by his father at 5am. His father says: "Come on Nasreddin wake up! The early bird catches the worm! Come with me to the market, we will be the first ones there to sell our stuff".

But Nasreddin stays in bed and does not even acknowledge his father's presence. He insists: "Nasreddin, starting early is the first step on the path to wealth. Get up!"

Nasreddin does not move.

His father says: "Nasreddin, you remember when I left home at 5am the other day? On my way to the market, I found a purse filled with gold. If I had not been so early, somebody else would surely have found it before me."

Nasreddin opens an eye and says: "You know what? The guy who lost the purse woke up even earlier than you did." With that said, he goes back to sleep.

The story in Who moved my cheese? does not hold water but at least it forces you to think about change. How do you handle it? When do you realize you will soon need to change? When does the cheese start smelling odd enough that you want to move forward? To which you could add: is it better to keep gulping down stale cheese or get eaten by a cat?