As a fresh graduate, active job seeker, and a disappointed lady who put all her eggs in this basket called “2020”, I decided to “move on” by reading business books. Just because business books have the most viable solutions. When I looked to some friends for book recommendations, one of them was quick to suggest ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’.
This easy breezy book of 95 pages by Dr. Spencer Johnson narrates a story of a maze with two mice called Sniff and Scurry, and Little people Hem and Haw. The mice have simpler outlooks and nonchalant attitudes, whereas Little people who are literally little people are a lot more complex in their approach. The story focuses on the acquiring of cheese by both creatures. In this case, “cheese” is something that could make them happy and nourish them.
What really changes your outlook in the book is the approach taken by both groups to acquire cheese. The mice go with the “take each day as it comes” attitude, and move from station to station in the maze with lesser expectations. On the other hand, the Little people do not move from one station to another. When they acquired a good portion of cheese, they set base in that one station. Of course, they did fear that the cheese in that station would get over, but fear drove them towards unhappiness instead of motivation.
The book also has little questions and quotes along on the left pages that these characters read or write along their journey in the maze. One such question that really got me thinking is: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” and “When you are afraid things are going to get worse if you don’t do something, it can’t prompt you into action. But it is not good when you are so afraid that it keeps you from doing anything”.
Other than providing a tale of inspiration, this book also made me realise what cheese is. For me, cheese is happiness, friends, family, self growth, professional development and all things fun in life. And these come in different flavours of mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar, brie, camembert and feta.
And this book may sound like fantasy or fiction, but it has examples of how people are using different methods to find their cheese, by merely altering their approach. And amid this pandemic, that is the thought we all need to master – to change, innovate, adapt, and be dynamic.
Moving forward, I sought comfort in another book called ‘The Art of Choosing’ by Sheena Iyengar. What is life all about if not choices? At the end of the day, everything that we do, or do not do are choices that we make. Before I could dive into this book, I marvelled at the author’s story itself. She herself is a case study in this book. After losing her eyesight at a young age due to retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease of retinal degeneration, she decided to become a Professor of Psychology at Columbia Business School. Inspiring, innit?
The more and more chapters I read of the book, the more I got to understand the power of influence of choice with different case studies that show how a simple choice can give you the willpower to survive while you are hanging at the edge of a cliff, how animals also believe in survivorship, the brain’s role in helping you make a choice. Well, that’s the basic science-y bit of it.
But more than that, I understood the influence of society in choice making, and how one of the biggest companies in the world, Coca Cola and Levi’s Jeans made choices smartly by constructing their brands on societal values such as individualism and collectivism. The same two core concepts that influence our decisions in many aspects of life, whether personal or professional.
The best part of this book for me has to be the very simple section that explains individualism and collectivism amid all the fancy examples and case studies that make the book more interesting. Why does it matter? Because these core values differ from country to country and they influence how you can get married (whether it will be an arranged marriage where your family will choose a life partner or you have the option to fall in love), what target audience your brand can have, how to make your brand successful, or even tough decisions like whether you can take a loved one off life support.
Since COVID-19 is a worldwide, ghastly pandemic, it yet affects us in different ways and in magnitude. No matter where you live or what you do, these two books contain solid ingredients for rebuilding your motivation, your life, and your career. I could have turned to self help books, but with the current situation, it felt like the pages of business books are lined with the best case studies of problems, solutions, reasons and theories. Remember I shared two quotes early on that caught my eye? They became my reason to write this piece to begin with.