Everyone wants to be a chef

One of our local schools is recruiting for a chef. The queue of applicants is out of the door.

Another school is recruiting for a deputy head. There is no queue.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s the narrative.

Teachers, and particularly head teachers have enormous workloads, are assessed continually, have restricted budgets and get caught in any crossfire between parents and authorities.

Chefs are cool. Every other tv show features a chef, or a gardener. They are glamorous, creating culinary and horticultural works of art that last a short while, and transitory pleasure in consumption.

Celebrity chefs get to make their living serving other celebrities.

Teachers grow people. The work they do lasts a lifetime, and their capacity to deliver positive change is huge. Their “added value” over a lifetime is incalculable. They make their living, for the most part, working for the benefit of people you will never hear of.

Yet, as a society, we lionise chefs.


The Inefficient Library

Over the years, I’ve learned to read for insight as much as knowledge; allowing the mental space to make connections through what I read as much as absorb it.

Right now, I’m enjoying David Weinberger’s excellent “Everyday Chaos”.

He makes an interesting observation. It takes $150m a year to run Harvard’s Library, but every year only around 4% of the material it holds is checked out.

Some material has never been checked out.

For those with a market mentality, this is hugely inefficient. For those with a broader perspective, it contains a powerful truth.

If we only create stuff we intend to be consumed, we are both limiting ourselves and missing the point.

We are all unique, and have a tale to tell. It’s worth telling, even if there’s a real possibility nobody ever reads it.

Somebody might. And if they read it at the right time, in the right frame of mind, it could change everything.

Creativity and Love do not have to have an ROI

The Fire Carrier

Every business is started for a reason, and whilst making a profit is a key factor, it is rarely the causal factor. Most of us who have started businesses have done so as a result of an inspiration, an idea, a cause, or perhaps because we want to make a mark. Whatever the reason, it’s at the heart of the business. It’s the spark.

As the business grows, it changes. We recruit people who weren’t in at the beginning. We adopt processes to make life more efficient, but maybe a little less personal. We end up with important customers, suppliers and investors and shape our business to their needs. The business becomes professionalised.

The spark remains, but the business develops more and more layers that bury it deeper.

Before long, the balance changes. The business becomes distant from the spark that generated it and it becomes an end in itself, rather than means to an end. The business can become the master, rather than the servant.

The spark remains for a while, and can always be brought back to life if attention is paid to it.

Attention is a distictly human attribute – it suggests engagement and curiosity. A sense of being seen and acknowledged. It fans the spark.

The North American Indian Tribes always had a “fire carrier” – a senior member of the tribe whose role was to carry the embers of the campfire to the new campsite when the tribe moved on, in order to start the next fire and keep the original fire alive.

Maybe we can learn from that. Our businesses move on to new areas, but unless somebody is carrying the fire, the spark will go out.

Who’s your fire carrier?