ENCINITAS, Calif. (AP) — Dr. Spencer Johnson, whose book “Who Moved My Cheese?” sold 25 million copies and became a business and self-help phenomenon, has died.
Johnson’s executive assistant Nancy Casey said Saturday that he died Monday of complications from pancreatic cancer in the San Diego-area city of Encinitas.
“Who Moved My Cheese?” was a slim, 94-page fable on the need to embrace change that was derived from a story Johnson had told at parties and used in speeches.
Published in 1998, it featured two mice — Sniff and Scurry — and two tiny humans — Hem and Haw — and was set in a maze. The title is a quote from one of the humans, who can’t accept that he needs to seek out food in new places, instead returning to the same place for it repeatedly.
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Eventually, Haw learns to leave his place of comfort in search of cheese.
“Before long, he knew why he felt good,” Johnson wrote. “He stopped to write again on the wall: ‘When you stop being afraid, you feel good!'”
The book became a cultural constant in the late 1990s. It appeared in the front windows of airport bookstores, was endlessly quoted in graduation addresses and motivational seminars, and was the go-to gift for Father’s Day. Parody versions soon began popping up.
“Spencer built a fable that helps people deal with change in a really accessible way,” Ivan Held, president of G.P. Putnam Sons at Penguin Group USA, Johnson’s publisher, said in a prepared statement.
Johnson was a medical doctor-turned children’s author when he wrote his first hit book, “The One Minute Manager,” in 1982, with co-author Ken Blanchard.
The book teaches three techniques for being an effective boss, offering “one-minute goals,” ”one-minute praisings” and “one-minute reprimands.”
It was self-published at first but sold wildly at conventions where the authors gave presentations. Then a major publisher picked it up and it went on to sell 15 million copies.
Blanchard made a career of the book in ensuing decades, updating the original and penning spin-offs.