A few years ago, I read a short story that described four characters; two mice, "Sniff" and "Scurry", and two little people, miniature humans in essence, "Hem" and "Haw", live in a maze, a representation of one's environment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans paired off, travel the lengthy corridor searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor in "Cheese Station C". Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese slowly becoming arrogant in the process.
One day Sniff and Scurry arrive at Cheese Station C to find no cheese left but they are not surprised. Noticing the cheese supply dwindling, they have mentally prepared for the arduous, but inevitable task of finding more cheese beforehand. Leaving Cheese Station C behind, they begin their hunt for new cheese together. Later that day, Hem and Haw arrive at Cheese Station C only to find the same thing, no cheese. Angered and annoyed, Hem demands "who moved my cheese?". Unprepared, the humans have counted on the cheese supply to be constant. After verifying that the cheese is indeed gone and ranting at the unfairness of the situation, both head home hungry. Returning the next day, Hem and Haw find the same cheeseless station. Beginning to realize the situation at hand, Haw proposes a search for new cheese, but Hem, dead set in his victimized mindset, nixes the proposal.
Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry have found "Cheese Station N", a new supply of cheese. Back at Cheese Station C, Hem and Haw, affected by their lack of cheese, blame each other for their predicament. Hoping to change, Haw again proposes a search for new cheese. Hem however, comforted by his old routine and afraid of the unknown, again knocks down the idea. After many days in denial, including a search for cheese behind the wall of Cheese Station C, the humans remain without cheese. One day, realizing his debilitating fear, Haw begins laughing at the situation. Realizing he should move on, Haw enters the maze, but not before chiseling "If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct" on the wall of Cheese Station C for his friend to ponder.
Still fearful of his trek, Haw jots "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?" on the wall and, after thinking about it, begins his journey. Still with worry, perhaps he has waited too long to begin his search, Haw finds some scattered cheese and continues his search. Slowly losing his denial, Haw realizes that the cheese has not suddenly disappeared, but has dwindled from continual eating, and that the older cheese was not as tasty and had been moldy. After a let down, an empty cheese station, Haw begins worrying about the unknown again. Brushing aside his fears, Haw's new mindset allows him to again enjoy life; he has even begun to smile again and is realizing "when you move beyond your fear, you feel free." After another empty cheese station, Haw decides to go back for Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.
Uncompromising, Hem turns away the new cheese to his friend's dismay. With knowledge acquired along the way, Haw heads back into the maze. Still going deeper into the maze, impelled by bits of new cheese here and there, Haw leaves a trail of writings on the wall, hopeful that his friend will be aided by them in his search for new cheese. Still traveling, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N. Abundant with cheese, some varieties strange to him, he has found what he is looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. Pondering a return to his old friend, Haw decides to let Hem find his own way. Finding the largest wall in Cheese Station N, he writes:
They Keep Moving The Cheese
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
Move With The Cheese
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again & Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.
Cautious from past experience, Haw inspects Cheese Station N daily and explores different parts of the maze to prevent complacency from setting in.
In the course of this past week, I have faced some very serious and difficult choices. My actions provided walking papers to 40% of those working in my office. Every single person affected by the layoff was a hardworking, intelligent employee. All were people that I had grown to admire and knew were very capable. It was very seriously one of the more difficult weeks in my business life.
Over the next few weeks, I will be leading the efforts to completely close my office, moving the operations to combine with an office about 16 miles away. It will be challenging for us to maintain our success with our current customers while preparing for and implementing the final stages of the move. There is a lot of work to do in both aspects of this challenge.
After the move, I will be assuming a new role, which is far more challenging than my current one. The challenge, opportunity, chance for success and chance for failure are all significantly greater than what I have been doing to this point. Instead of having objectives set for me by my superiors, my employees and my clients, I will have to make my own opportunities, generate success through my own initiative and innovation.
The allegory "who moved my cheese" will definitely mean more to my life than it ever has been to this point in my life.
Changes, Challenges and Cheese. Who knew life would boil down to the three C's???
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