When he got divorced in 1979, Spencer Johnson felt pretty cheesed off. "I thought things ought to be the way they were," he says. Then he recalled something he'd heard about mice and men: When mice lose their food source, they go off to find another. But when humans lose something, they're likely to stay put, hoping it will somehow reappear. "We weren't raised to adapt to change," he notes.
But Johnson, now 61 and remarried, made like a mouse, and after the med-school graduate built a career as a writer (cowriting the self-help bestseller The One Minute Manager in 1982), he crafted his mouse metaphor into Who Moved My Cheese?, a 94-page parable with more than a million copies in print that has reached the top of many bestseller lists. "It's a simple fable that helps people in work and life situations," says Daisy Maryles, executive editor of Publishers Weekly. "Its simplicity is part of its appeal."
Though some readers find Cheese cloying and obvious, its appeal knows few bounds. Along with the $19.95 book, Johnson currently markets half-day Cheese seminars (at $895 per head), mugs, Post-its, even an animated videotape movie for adults and kids. "The more experience I get," says Johnson, "the more I respect the simple." Eeeek!