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In his best-selling book Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson used a highly relatable fable to communicate the reality of constant change in our lives and the need to respond to it appropriately. The fable revolves around four characters-two mice named Scurry and Sniffy and two little humans called Hem and Haw. These characters’ livelihoods and contentment depend on the supply of cheese within the maze that they live in. When the cheese is depleted, the mice move on in search of a new supply around the maze while the humans remain intransigent about the situation. After a while, Haw changes his mind to go out in hunt of new treasures while Hem remains in denial. These varied reactions of the fable’s characters to change and the effects it has on them is a powerful lesson on change and our different reactions to change in our daily lives.
The maze in the story represents the reality of life, the dynamics of the environment in which the story’s characters live. It represents the environment in which the story’s characters hunt for the cheese, which represents the hunt for success and contentment in life. The environment is that one of constant change as represented by depletion of cheese at Cheese Station C and the discovery of new sources of cheese at Cheese Station N. These dynamics and change illustrate the fact that the environments we live in are subject to powerful forces of change that demand appropriate action from us. It is our responsibility to carefully study our environments and understand the changes that are affecting them so as to respond appropriately to these changes for our own benefit.
For a number of years, my family owned a thrift shop that sold bargain clothing. My family lived near the campus of the university of Michigan and as such we lived amongst a youthful population of students. This population provided a ready market for our shop and business was doing well for many years. The ready student population that provided a constant market for our business was the cheese that we thought would never run out. My family became comfortable and failed to pay attention to the winds of change that were sweeping across society: the rise of online commerce powered by the internet. Slowly, our internet savvy customers started shifting their shopping online. Gradually, our sales volumes and our revenue started going on a decline. The cheese had moved and we had to move around the maze for new cheese.
Like Haw in Johnson’s fable, my family was in denial at first on how to respond to the end of our cheese. But we knew we had to adapt by changes in our maze by finding new cheese. We did this by accepting that our business had to change on how we interacted with our customers and how we presented our product to them. We made a decision to interact and sell to our customers through the social media platforms that were already revolutionizing commerce. We put our business on such platforms as Facebook. By targeting the customers who had done business with us before, we saw a change in our business’s fortunes and a turnaround in sales revenue and profit. Thus by accepting change and deciding to respond to it appropriately, my family was able to turn around the fortunes of our business at a time of great social change.
One of the most significant changes I have experienced in my life is my start of college education. Starting college came with a number of changes in my life. For the first time in my life, I would be forced to live independently of my family. I would need to live in my own apartment alone, prepare my own meals, take care of my laundry and manage my time away from the help and supervision of my family. These were very significant changes for me. At first, I was filled with dread and fear. What if I was unable to handle all these? What if I found myself in trouble and my family was too far away to help me? What if I was unable to handle my college coursework and failed to do well in college? These were some of the questions nagging my mind when I set off for college. I was full of fear and dread. However, in my first week of college I met and had a conversation with a college senior from my hometown that I grew up knowing. After learning that he was doing well in his studies alongside other endeavors, I came to the conclusion that I too could do well if I faced my fears and saw opportunity for discovery and growth in all these changes in my life. All I needed was discipline, dedication and good planning as well as remaining true to myself. By approaching my transition to college in this perspective, I settled down well and started ahead in both my academic and social life. After reading Johnson’s book, I would liken myself to the character Haw who while being afraid of change initially later adopted the right approach of changing his perspective to see opportunity in change.
To prepare for change, one must not only anticipate change but also be ready for change. To anticipate change means one accepts that our lives will always be characterized by change. If change happens, then one must prepare and be ready for it in order to survive. Preparation means one must study and understand the changes taking place, determine the best way to respond to them and act fast when change requires one to change.
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