Who Moved My Fromage

John Tierney – The New York Times

An excerpt. Copyright The New York Times
Legend has it that when Napoleon’s Imperial Guard was cornered by the British at Waterloo, its leader boldly declared: “The Guard dies. It does not surrender.” Today’s French can’t even stand up to unarmed foreigners. When French young adults were asked what globalization meant to them, half replied, “Fear.”
Beneath that facade of arrogance, the French are suffering from a condition apparent to any American. They have low self-esteem. They’re not feeling empowered. They need that great engine powering our economy: the American self-help industry.
The French produce great Camembert, but they haven’t absorbed the wisdom of Spencer Johnson’s modern classic, “Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life.” They haven’t heeded Donald Trump’s instructional CD, “Think Like a Billionaire.” They haven’t mastered Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” or Anthony Robbins’s “Awaken the Giant Within.”
A few French men and women have looked across the ocean for guidance ó Robbins says he advised FranÁois Mitterrand ó but the French masses still haven’t awakened their inner giants. And they won’t, unless we help them help themselves by sending over the titans of the American self-actualization movement.
This Marshall Plan B wouldn’t cost American taxpayers much beyond a few French lessons, plane tickets and hotel rooms. The French might initially resent the intrusion ó they have that fear of new things ó but we can reassure them: there’s a precedent. The U.S. government sent them the pioneer of self-help literature, Benjamin Franklin, and Paris loved him.
The only serious objection I expect is from Americans worried about our G.N.P.: Could the American economy struggle along without these gurus? But I think we’re ready to go it alone, thanks to the billions of dollars of wisdom we’ve already stockpiled.
We’ve learned secrets like “Be Proactive” and “Think Win/Win” (two of Covey’s seven habits). We now realize, thanks to Robbins, that “the past doesn’t equal the future.” We’ve paid $19.95 for Johnson’s revelation: “Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.”
We can afford to share this knowledge with the French. If they understood Covey’s radical Win/Win theory ó “Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial” ó French students might not be marching today. They might wonder why they’d want to spend the rest of their lives (well, at least until they retire in their 50’s) working for someone who doesn’t want them around.

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