It’s an important lesson we teach kids: you don’t always get what you want. Hard cheese, as we said for one hyperactive summer of high school. (Tough sh*t, as we later graduated to.) For huge swathes of our time, in fact, it feels like you can never have what you want.
You can see why we continue to hand down this bombshell. Strict rules and softer “ways of working” (basically: rules) are there to make things fair for everyone and allow large organisations, like schools, to deliver outcomes on a big scale. You want to go your own way? Hard cheese.
“Hard cheese” essentially means “the rules are more important than what you want to do”.
But productivity is changing. Tasks are going to become increasingly automated and the pickup, transfer, analysis and application of data is going to become more and more effective.
We used to need humans to be able to do tasks. To follow instructions. To play by the rules. To be – almost literally – a cog in a machine.
That is likely to change. And that will mean the humans will need to be the creators, problem solvers and fixers. More than ever before, we’ll need to analyse and innovate.
When you think about the size of the issues (I’m looking at you, Climate Change, with your ocean rise and rising temperatures and disappearing species and habitats), we need all the help we can get. We will need to be collaborators too. We will need to think big together, welcoming the gifts and ideas and skills of others.
So what if what you want to do is save the planet? Or be the first person on Mars? Or discover DNA? Or write a novel that changes lives? These aren’t tasks, they are big-ass wants. They are vocations, callings to change the places we live and the lives of people around us for the better.
I don’t think you can do any of those things from a place of being told “hard cheese”.
Our challenge is to accept two things at once: the reality that barriers will be in the way and the fact that the person with the most power to do something about that is you.
You’ve got to melt the cheese.
That might mean challenging the status quo. Asking “why does it have to be that way?”. (Or doing it anyway and asking forgiveness rather than permission.)
Now might be a good time to read my previous blog about how to be a Lovely Rebel, because – as all who set out to save the world know – with great power comes great responsibility. (There’s a blog about rediscovering your superhero pants too, if you’re thinking this cape-wearing lark might not be for you).
PS I was trying to make a big metaphor in order to share my ultimate cheese on toast tip but I can’t. So here is my secret tip for cheese on toast, because it definitely makes my world a better place: put chutney UNDER THE CHEESE. Who said you had to start big or complicated to change the world. Go melt some cheese.
Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.
Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
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