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Out of the Maze

A Story About the Power of Belief

By Spencer Johnson
15-minute read
Audio available
Out of the Maze: A Story About the Power of Belief by Spencer Johnson

Out of the Maze (2018) tells a simple but powerful story that illustrates important life lessons about adapting to change, both in our personal and professional lives. It’s a sequel to the author’s famous book Who Moved My Cheese (1998) which teaches us the importance of adapting to new realities. Here we learn more about the ways in which we can actually achieve that adaptation.

  • People facing tough changes in their careers or personal lives
  • Believers in positive thinking who are looking for new paths forward
  • Skeptics who are willing to have their minds changed

Spencer Johnson was an American physician who shifted from a career in medicine to a life of writing motivational books after he found them to be his true calling. He was the co-author of The One Minute Manager and the author of The Precious Present, Yes or No and, most famously, Who Moved My Cheese? The latter was a New York Times bestseller that sold more than 21 million copies in its first five years. Johnson died in 2017. Out of the Maze was published posthumously by his friends and family.

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Out of the Maze

A Story About the Power of Belief

By Spencer Johnson
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Out of the Maze: A Story About the Power of Belief by Spencer Johnson
Synopsis

Out of the Maze (2018) tells a simple but powerful story that illustrates important life lessons about adapting to change, both in our personal and professional lives. It’s a sequel to the author’s famous book Who Moved My Cheese (1998) which teaches us the importance of adapting to new realities. Here we learn more about the ways in which we can actually achieve that adaptation.

Key idea 1 of 9

It’s easy to take happiness or success for granted – and to feel lonely, empty, scared, mad or stuck when we lose them.

Our story begins with two miniature people named Hem and Haw, who live inside a maze. They spend their lives running through the maze together, looking for cheese to eat.

One day, they discover a place called Cheese Station C, where there’s a seemingly infinite supply of cheese. They have no idea where it comes from or how it materializes, but it just keeps showing up, day after day. So they stop exploring the maze and settle down at the station. They become complacent, and start feeling entitled to the cheese.

Then, suddenly, it disappears. Haw eventually goes off to search for a new supply, but he never returns. Hem stays behind, expecting the cheese to reappear.

It never does. Days go by, and Hem feels increasingly hungry, lonely and scared. Part of him also feels worried about what happened to Haw – but another part seethes over the possibility that Haw simply abandoned him.

Let’s pause and take a step back here. In the story, the cheese that Hem and Haw once feasted on is also a metaphor for happiness and success.

Thus, on a literal level, Hem and Haw are looking for cheese, which provides physical nourishment, while on a metaphorical level, they’re just like us: searching for fulfillment, which provides personal nourishment.

When we find it, we may take it for granted and feel like it belongs to us, much like Hem and Haw. But then things change, and it goes away. Some of us move on, like Haw. Others of us try to cling to what’s gone, like Hem.

This can leave us feeling isolated and empty, as well as anxious about or resentful toward the people who have moved on without us.

Change can be difficult to accept, because it represents the end of the world we knew – the one in which we’ve grown up and built our lives. Seeing others accept it can also be difficult as it might feel like they’re ushering in, and embracing, the end of that world.

As a result, many people, like Hem, refuse to move on, until reality finally compels them, as we’ll soon see.

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