by Spencer Johnson
About the Book
This book is about change and how it can affect how you are in life. Some people take changes
hard while others just go with the flow. Some are ready for change while others want things to
This is a story about change, where “Cheese” is whatever you want at work or in life. And “The
Maze” is where you look at it.
The story has four characters who live in a maze: the mice Scurry (scurries into action) and Sniff
(sniffs out change early), and two 'little people', Hem and Haw who represent parts of all of us
regardless of age, gender, race, or nationality – as we all share something in common: a
need to find our way in the Maze – and succeed in changing times.
Every day, these characters run through a maze sniffing for their own special cheese. The
mice had simple brains but good instincts. They use simple method of trial and error – if one
corridor is empty they run down another. Hem and Haw have complex brains with beliefs and
emotions that made their life in the maze more complicated and challenging. Finding cheese is
very important to the little people, it was a way of getting what they thought they needed that
will make them happy and successful. For some it’s having material things and for some it’s
having a peace of mind. Sometimes they do well but at times their beliefs and emotions take over
and cloud the issue.
They all found a huge source of their favorite food - cheese at the Cheese Station C and
all went very well. Hem and Haw even moved their houses to be near it and it has become
the center of their lives. They became so confident the cheese will always be there they didn’t
notice that it was getting smaller, and were devastated when they arrived at the site one morning
and found the cheese gone.
This is where the story splits in two. Scurry and Sniff quickly accepted the loss of the
cheese and went off into the maze in search of other sources. The little people, because they have
built their lives around the big cheese, felt they were the victim of some kind of fraud or theft.
Yet this only made things worse, as their clinging on ensured that they would go hungry.
Meanwhile, the mice moved on and found new cheese. The mice however focused on finding
new cheese-and found a new area - Cheese Station N - and a huge supply of new cheese. The
little people meanwhile went over and over what went wrong and blamed each other for the
situation they were in.
Finally, Haw went on finding new cheese, embraced his fears and focused on what he
could gain instead of what he might loose, and find some new cheese to keep him going. He then
felt better - at least he had the gut to move on. What you think you are afraid of is never as bad as
what you imagine. After long searching, he found Cheese Station N - the biggest chunkiest pile
of cheese he’d ever seen and there were Sniff and Scurry, their fat little bellies showed they’d
been there for some time. He realized he’d learned something from his chums who keep life simple – when the cheese moved they moved with the cheese, they adapted and were well
prepared for bigger changes that were sure to follow.
The fable captures well that moment after we have lost a job or a relationship and we
believe it is the end of the world. All the good things were in the previous situation, and all the
future holds is fear. Yet the author's message is, instead of seeing change as the end of
something, we must learn to see it as a beginning. We have all been told this, but sometimes
motivation is lacking. To make himself accept reality, Haw writes this on the wall of the maze:
"If you do not change, you can become extinct."
For life not to be wasted, it demands a level of risk and adventure. If you are willing to