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8-25-00 - Cheese Week:  Day Five

Okay.  I think it's about time to wrap up this Cheese business so I can get on with my life.

Who Moved My Cheese - The Genius

How did Spencer Johnson, "M.D.", do it?  How did he write this explosive best-seller?  How did he make it so appealing to so many?  How did he market his garbage to millions?  How does he sleep at night?

Well, that last one is easy to answer:  on a big pile of money.

In fact, they're all easy to answer, but I'm gonna go into more detail anyway.


First of all, let's look at this "book" in terms of its physical existence.  It's a slim hardcover, which is fairly unremarkable, especially in the business section of a bookstore.  Upon opening it, one first notices the font, which is easy to read because it's quite large.  One also notices a great deal of blank white paper.  Particularly at the top and bottom of each, the margins dominate this "book".  They are so enormous one could easily print another book on them, perhaps a better book, like The Rock Says... or Lethal Seduction by Jackie Collins. 

Books with this sort of format are immediately cause for suspicion.  My level of suspicion doubled when I managed to read 45 pages of the "book" during an eight-minute train ride.  Either I'm a remarkably fast reader, or something ain't right.  I mean, exactly what are you paying for when you buy this "book"?

To find out, I decided to compare Who Moved My Cheese? with some other non-fiction books of roughly the same dimensions in height and width (though not thickness).  I thought I'd see how it stacked up terms of word count.  

Taking a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I counted the words on an average page, which came to 324.  I also took a copy of Stephen King's new memoir, On Writing, counted the words on a full page, and got 392.  So, let's say the average non-fiction book of similar page-size has a word count of 350.

Next, I counted the words on a full page of Who Moved My Cheese? (and there aren't many full pages to choose from).  I got a total of 197, which we'll round up to 200.

Who Moved My Cheese? has 94 pages, but the actual "book" starts on page 21, after the raves, table of contents, foreword, title page, personal message from Satan, and the rest of the crap you find at the beginning of books.  So, it's really a total of 73 pages long.

Then I went through the "book" and counted up the non-pages: the pages that contain just an illustration of cheese and an inspirational saying, which are scattered throughout the "book" like profanity in a Mamet play.  There were fifteen of these pages, so I subtracted those, leaving us with 57.

Then I counted up the half-pages: the pages where the margins have filled at least half the space on the paper.  There were sixteen half-pages, meaning 8 full pages of blank, white, dead tree.  I subtracted them as well.

That leaves us with 49 actual, text-filled pages, which we'll round up to 50 so the math doesn't give me a headache.

50 pages at 200 words gives us 10,000 words in the entire "book".

If we divide 350, the number of words per page in a normal non-fiction book, into 10,000 words, the word count of the Cheese "book", we come up with 28.57 pages, so we'll be generous and call it 30 pages even.

30 pages in Who Moved My Cheese?

Well, fine, whatever.  I'm sure there are many 30 page books out there that are just fine.

But this one costs $19.95.

Twenty bucks for 30 pages.  It's incredible.  Looking at this tiny "book", you might guess, oh, $12.95.  Fifteen bucks, tops.  But it's almost the price of a full-sized fiction hardcover, which normally run about $24-$29.

Ludicrous.  Shame on you, Spencer Johnson.  You made me do math.


How is this "book" being sold? 

Who Moved My Cheese? is largely being presented to companies and organizations as a tool they can use to help their employees deal with change.  They are encouraged to buy copies for their entire staff many times in the "book" itself:

In the foreword by Ken Blanchard.

In the raves, by Joan Banks, a "Performance Effectiveness Specialist" for the Whirlpool Corporation (by the way, if your company ever brings in a Performance Effectiveness Specialist, get ready for your Cheese to be moved right the fuck out of the building).

On the back of the dust jacket, by Randy Harris, Former Vice-Chairman of Merrill Lynch (former?  Guess he found some new Cheese).

By Hem, the main character, who at one point, freezes in the maze and says "BUY THIS 'BOOK' FOR ALL YOUR EMPLOYEES."

Okay, he doesn't say that.  But I'm sure he did in an earlier draft.

Shame, "Doctor"!  You made me use a bad word!

The Program

If you head on over to, you can take a look at just how clever this Johnson bastard is.  Don't just hand the "book" out to your (soon to be former) employees, because...

"We are developing a series of Cheese Learning Programs for people at all levels in an organization: retreats for senior management, seminars for middle managers and supervisors, and sessions for all employees. Some are facilitated by certified trainers and others are self-instructional."

Yes, become a "Cheese Whiz" by attending their training seminar in Boston.  Buy the 52 page "Presenters Handbook", and the "Participant Maze Guide", as well as the "PowerPoint CD Slides" and the one-hour audio tape "Tips for Terrific Training".  Don't forget the 13 minute animated movie, and the "Cheese Squeeze (just for fun!)".

The total price for the Cheese Experience Learning Program?  Only $895.00.

The Genius

Disregard everything I just told you.

Of course the "book" is short, with a huge font, and tons of blank space.  It has to be.  No self-respecting CEO is going to invest hours into reading a real business book.  They'll read something short, something with the message presented in such an obvious manner that it becomes readily apparent within moments of reading the text.  Anything with actual substance will find its way to their bookshelf, where it will sit, unread, forever.

Of course it's $19.95.  It's being marketed as a bulk purchase for companies.  If you're going to sell in bulk, you've got to be prepared to offer bulk discounts.  Can't turn much of a profit off the discounted sale of a $12.00 book, but if the starting price is twenty or so, well, let's just say Spencer Johnson can afford to have his neighborhood gold-plated.

Of course there's a learning program and seminars and handbooks and flash-cards and toys and movies.  Just like I said back on day one, there's a tradition at work here.  You are meant to think that the "book" contains an answer, but that answer cannot be fully appreciated or utilized on its own.

And it's working.  According to the Cheese website, there are over 652 types of cheese in the world.  Oops, that was a real cheese website.

According to Johnson's website, there are 1,170,800 copies of Who Moved My Cheese in print.  It's hit number one on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Business Week.  Amazon lists it as number nine in their sales ranking, which is just about smack dab between the 2nd and 4th books in the Harry Potter and the <object> of <word kids find appealing> series.

So, despite all the bashing and whining I've done here this week, Spencer Johnson, "M.D." is a genius.  

After all, who is rich beyond his wildest dreams, and who is complaining bitterly on his dinky website?  Who has so much metaphorical Cheese he will never have to worry about it being moved, and who has to debate getting actual cheese on his burger since it's 35 cents more?  Who is rolling around naked in a huge pile of money, and who is just rolling around, naked?

It's just something I do, okay?  There's nothing wrong with it.

That about wraps up my look at Who Moved My Cheese?  Perhaps I've been a bit too cynical, or critical, or paranoid.  Perhaps I should have kept all of this down to a simple review.  Perhaps I should stop calling Spencer Johnson's house and mooing into the phone before hanging up.  Perhaps, one day, I will have my own useless business book and it will sell a million copies, and Spencer Johnson will let me roll around naked in his pile of money, and he will roll around in mine.  It really all depends on his hygiene.  But I was ticked off, even somewhat threatened by this "book", as I am by others like it, and besides, I really had nothing else to write about this week.

Have you read the "book"?  If so, send me some e-mail and let me know what you think.  I looked at some reader reviews over at, and it seems many people share similar feelings about Johnson's latest work and have written much more thoughtful and insightful reviews than what you'll find here.  If you have a few moments, I'd suggest checking them out.

(By the way, if you consider 10,000 words to be a lot, keep in mind that as of right now, my word count in writing about Who Moved My Cheese? during Cheese Week just reached the 5,000 word mark.  In spending about three hours a night, three nights this week, I've written the equivalent of half his "book", word-wise).

(Of course, if I've been boring the crap out of you, then this fact kinda loses its punch).

(Have a good weekend.)



8-24-00 - Cheese Week:  Day Four

Sorry, there won't be an update today.

I overslept yesterday morning, dashing out the door unshaven and unshowered, forgetting to bring my book with me, and missing my bus and then my train.  I got to work a half-hour late to the iron gaze of my boss.  After accidentally sending a copy of a department chairperson's salary sheet to another department chairperson, I discovered a typo on a form letter which I had sent to 600 people the day before.  The business office called, informing me that the account codes for all my purchase orders, which I had submitted several weeks late, were categorized incorrectly and would not be paid for several more weeks.  Forgetting to inform my boss he had a ten o'clock meeting, I spent an awkward few minutes explaining to the visiting architects that my boss was already in a different meeting, although I could not say where, since I had lost the room number the meeting was taking place in.  Then I spent about ten minutes consoling the hysterical woman in the next cubicle, who received a call from her six-year old daughter's school, which had apparently misplaced the little girl for about four hours.

When the President of the University called, I quickly mispronounced his name, then transferred him to the fax machine.  After leaving the confidential budget updates in the copier, I promptly e-mailed an incorrect address to the wrong employee, mailed an original set of blueprints instead of the copy, and spelled the new Director of Finance's name wrong on his brass plaque, which I had affixed to the wrong office door.

Then I went to lunch.

After getting short-changed at the sub shop, I sat outside and watched my foil potato-chip bag get swept away by the wind, drawing comments from litter-conscious passersby.  Crossing the street against the light, I was nearly run down by a Meals on Wheels truck, and while jumping back onto the curb I careened into a blind man on crutches.

Back at work, I leapt into action, both forgetting to fill in my time sheet and neglecting to distribute the agenda for a board meeting.

When break-time came, I rushed downstairs for a smoke, leaving my zippo lighter at my desk, which I ran back up to retrieve.  Reaching the street again, I discovered I was out of cigarettes, so I headed to the store, where I discovered I only had two dollars.  Heading to three ATMS before finding one that was operating, I withdrew cash, headed back to the store, bought a pack of smokes, and walked back to work, where I attempted to light up with my zippo, which was out of lighter fluid.  Heading back to the store, I got a pack of matches, and finally got my cancer stick lit on the fourteenth try.

Heading to the train station on the bus, I sat surrounded by several round Asian children who fought loudly over a Pokémon trinket, and had a hand driven into my solar plexus through the combination of a lurching bus and an unsteady passenger.  During my struggle to get off the bus at my stop, I dropped my walkman, breaking the casing and scattering the batteries.  Once I put it back together, I found it would no longer play tapes.

My train ticket, which I had inadvertently creased, got stuck in the turnstile, and after the maintenance guy had slowly retrieved it, I realized it didn't have enough fare left on it to get me to my stop, which was fine because once I got there, I couldn't remember where I had parked my car.

So, kind of a bad day.

That's why there's no update.



8-23-00 - Cheese Week:  Day Three

Full cream ahead!  Cheese Week continues.  

Today:  Who Moved My Cheese? - The Review

Read it, if only to get away from this annoying orange background.

Next time: Who Moved My Cheese? - The Genius

A close look at just how brilliant this Spencer Johnson is, and how he created a best-selling business "book" with minimal effort.

Be there or be cheddar.

Okay, that didn't work at all.



8-22-00 - Cheese Week:  Day Two

Let's forget about the book we're examining this week, Who Moved My Cheese?, for just a moment.  Instead, let's examine another question:

Who Smooshed My Car?

That's a link.  You can click it.

Since I'm still a little traumatized from dealing with that, I think we'll get to the Cheese review tomorrow.

See you then.



8-21-00 - Cheese Week:  Day One

Welcome to "Cheese Week" at Not My Desk.  I hope you're having a gouda day.

(Sadly, that probably won't be my last cheese pun.)

(And, sadder still, it probably won't be my worst cheese pun.)

(And say, if you're new here, my background color isn't normally this brain-numbingly orange.  It's normally a very soothing dark blue.  You can check it out in the archives.  Except during Women's Week, when it was kinda pinkish, like Pepto-Bismol.  My apologies to both you and your retinas.)


This week, we're going to be taking a very close look at a business "book" called Who Moved My Cheese?, "written" by Spencer Johnson, "M.D."

Normally, I wouldn't spend a whole week on just one "book", but this is a very special "book", and warrants some very special attention.  

In other words, I am royally pissed off.

In case you're wondering why I keep putting words like "written" and "book" and "M.D." in quotation marks, well, it will be made clear this week (hint: it has a lot to do with me being royally pissed off).

But before we get to the "book" itself, let's take a look at what kind of "book" it actually is, and how it really fits into the scheme of things.

Who Moved My Cheese? - The Tradition

In case you're not familiar with Spencer Johnson, "M.D.", he's been around for a while, and has written other highly successful business "books", like The One Minute Manager, which we'll get to shortly.  While most of his "books" do technically fall under the heading of "business books", they follow the traditions of another popular section in the bookstore, that being the self-help section.

Successful self-help books largely follow two rules.

1) Proclaim to be the "only book you need" to deal with depression, stress, weight-loss, relationships, flatulence, etc.

2) Spawn a sequel every few months.

These two rules may appear to be at odds with one another.  After all, why is it that each book will solve all my problems, yet I keep having to buy all the sequels?  And workbooks?  And supplements?  And pocket guides?  And page-a-day calendars?  And tickets to the Broadway show?

Because that's the tradition.  That's how self-help books "work".

Take, for instance, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, the explosively successful book written by John Gray, "Ph.D.".  Gray has produced what appear to be hundreds of sequels to this book, including Mars and Venus In Love, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, Mars and Venus on a Date, Mars and Venus Doing Laundry, Mars and Venus Eating Turkey Franks, and the list just goes on and on.

And let's not forget Mars and Venus Together Forever, which is wonderfully ironic since John Gray himself is a divorcé.  Here's a guy who couldn't even keep his own marriage together, dispensing advice to others on how to do just that.

And what do we learn from his books?  That men and women are different.  Thanks, John!  I had no idea.

Then, there was a conveniently gift-sized book called Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... And it's All Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson, "Ph.D.".  This book stressed the idea that one should not worry so much about the little details in one's life.  Don't get too hung up on small stuff, you might just miss the bigger picture.  Hey, that seems like pretty good advice to me.

Then came the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Workbook.


As my friend, Nikki, aptly pointed out:  If you are using a workbook to help you avoid sweating the small stuff... aren't you, in fact, sweating the small stuff?  

Anyway, a slew of Small Stuff books followed, advising you not to sweat the small stuff At Work, At Home, In Love, On the Toilet, During Hostage Situations, etc.

Huge sellers.  All of them.  And you need all of them.  After all, you may know how not to sweat the small stuff with Your Family, but do you know how not to sweat the small stuff On 33rd & Lincoln in Ashley, Ohio?

And don't forget the Small Stuff Special Collection: For Friends, not to be confused with the Small Stuff Special Treasury: For Mothers.

So, the self-help sections, now swollen and distended from all the books and their sequels, began spreading their tradition to other sections of the store, such as "health".

Barry Sears, "Ph.D.", put out a book called The Zone, which dealt with weight-loss.  "Read this book", he implied, "and you'll lose weight."


"Oh, and you'll need this, too," he added, hastily publishing Mastering the Zone.  


"Oh, crap.  And this."  A Week in the Zone.  "Oops, forgot this one."  The Soy Zone.  "Got one more, heh."  Zone Food Blocks.  Zone Perfect Meals in Minutes.  The Anti-Aging Zone.  The Zone Zone.  Zoning the Zone.  The Zone is From Mars.  Harry Potter and the Zone.  

Looking for The End Zone?  Well, don't hold your breath.  "Dr." Sears is just getting started.

I won't mention the Chicken Soup For the Soul books.  I simply won't.

Now, back to business books.  Stephen "R." Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a monstrous seller, so, needless to say, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families couldn't have been far behind, followed by Daily Reflections of Highly Effective People and The Seven Habits Family Collection and Living the Seven Habits and A Couple More Habits I Just Pulled Out of My Ass.

Who Moved My Cheese?, without a doubt, promises to live up to this very tradition.  While it states that it's "An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change In Your Work and in Your Life", which seems to cover all the bases, I'm willing to bet there will be sequels with titles like Who Moved My Cheese at Work, and Who Moved My Cheese at Home, and They Keep Moving The Cheese, and Yep, the Cheese Has Definitely Been Moved Again, and The Moving Cheese Family Meditation and Affirmation Workbook Page-A-Day Calendar From Venus... and more.

Many, many more.

Just look at Johnson's track record.

In the 1980's, he came out with a slim "book", The One Minute Manager, billed as "The Quickest Way to Increase Your Own Prosperity.  Well, I certainly hope everyone who bought the book prospered, because they'll need to shell out beaucoup bucks to afford all the sequels.

"Books" such as:  Putting the One Minute Manager to Work.  

Huh?  Um, this wasn't explained in the first book?  

If you buy a book called The Best Way To Catch Fish, would you buy the sequel called Using "The Best Way to Catch Fish" to Catch Fish?

Others followed:

The One Minute Salesperson.  The One Minute Father.  The One Minute Mother.  The One Minute Teacher.  One Minute for Yourself.  One Minute for Someone Else.  One Minute For That Dude Over There. One Minute Turkey Franks.

Mark my word.  They're coming.  He's "writing" them as you read this.

I should also point out that Johnson's frequent collaborator, and co-author of The One Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard, "Ph. D.", wrote a book called Empowerment Takes More Than A Minute.  While this might seem like some sort of slam on the One Minute series, it sadly isn't:  Blanchard wrote the foreword to Who Moved My Cheese?, so they are apparently still buddies.

At any rate, we can see the sort of tradition Who Moved My Cheese? seems to be following.  I'd advise any bookstore employees who are reading this to start clearing some room on the shelves.

You're gonna need it.

Tomorrow:  Who Moved My Cheese?  - The Review

Yes, a full review of the "book", so you can actually see what I'm talking about.  

Don't miss it.  It doesn't get any cheddar than this.

(Told ya.)



8-20-00 - Cheeses H. Christ

It all started with a company-wide e-mail I received in July.

To: All Employees

Subject:  "Who Moved My Cheese?" 

I read this book over the weekend and I wanted to share the name with anyone who is 
interested and has not heard of it. It takes about 1 hour to read and is a simple but 
interesting way to look at how we each deal with change. 

Who Moved My Cheese? 

By Spencer Johnson M.D.

At the time, I didn't realize the significance of this e-mail, in fact, I didn't even give it much thought.  But I didn't delete it, either.  Something prevented me.  

Call it instinct, call it a hunch, call it laziness, but something told me I would have to deal with this at some point in the future.

Well, that point jabbed me in the back this week when I read the "book", and let me tell you, dear readers, the wound is deep.

So, I'm declaring this week to be "Cheese Week" here at Not My Desk.

Why?  Because something stinks.

And it's more than just the cheese.





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