What we've been reading: Fitness, meaningless work, and Della Hudson

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Welcome to What We've Been Reading. It's a chance for AccountingWEB's editorial team to share the articles that have caught their interest this week. It's a bit like a book club. 

Topics up for discussion this week include meaningless work, fitness and practice owner and friend of the site Della Hudson's new book, The Numbers Business. 

Francois: Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber

Francois

Back in 2013, a short blog by David Graeber, a lefty anthropologist at the LSE, went viral. In it, he argued that the contemporary economy is filled with meaningless, made-up work. A phenomenon he labelled ‘bullshit jobs’.

He now expands this pithy analysis into a book, just released. In it, he describes how his short essay led to hundreds of unsolicited emails from people admitting to being bullshit employees. Many of them, it turns out, are well remunerated to do effectively nothing.

But instead of being a blessing it makes them miserable. The book is filled with these correspondences and, often, they’re tragically funny. In his quest to understand this, Graeber makes his share of leaps and inferences but it’s hard not to find some of his arguments compelling.

Most notable - and perhaps applicable here - is Graeber’s concept of managerial feudalism. Under capitalism, hiring excess staff to do nothing would make little sense. But as Graeber observes, many industries have long since abandoned the cut and thrust of profit and loss.

Certain industries - like the audit market - operate under huge, open ended contracts where the incentive is to expand, obfuscate and lengthen the project. Bureaucratic bloat is desirable and it’s a market that runs on bullshit.

Valme: How to stay fit forever

Valme Claro

Throughout all my years at school and high school, our physical education class was, by far, the one I dreaded the most. For years we went through the theory and practice of dozens of sports, including basketball, rugby, hockey, baseball, volleyball and badminton. Understandably, it is easier to prevent sedentarism and keep under control a group of 25 girls and boys in school age by playing team sports instead of more individualised exercise.

However, my absolute lack of coordination and general clumsiness meant that those classes make, still today, a recurrent appearance in my nightmares.

All my dreams came true the day I started my last pre-university year: I wouldn’t have to exercise ever again in my life. But of course, reality finally began to set in when I realised that wasn’t actually the case, at least if I wanted to be relatively healthy.

At the beginning, I only started (very) occasionally going to the gym because a friend would almost literally drag me there. And then, about a year ago, the unexpected happened: I started regularly going to classes... voluntarily. 15 year-old me would have never believed me. But I can even say that I actually enjoy it.  

After reading this Guardian article I realised I have followed many of these steps myself, mostly inadvertently. So yes, it works. Because, believe me, if it works for me, it can definitely work for anyone.

Tom: The Numbers Business

Tom Herbert

We’re always delighted when friends of the site drop by AccountingWEB towers - particularly when they bring presents! Yesterday Della Hudson arrived with a copy of her new book ‘The Numbers Business’.

Della set up her own practice as a one-day-a-week endeavour back in 2009, and we followed her firm’s growth and progress through the ‘Class of 2009’ series. Della’s journey culminated in the successful sale of her practice earlier this year (which she wrote about for us in this series), and she has now written a book on her experience of successfully negotiating the competitive landscape of small business.

She has written the book as “the manual I wanted when I first set up my accountancy business,” and it provides a roadmap intended to help budding practitioners start, establish, grow and ultimately sell their own businesses.

While accountants are never short of advice, particularly in book form, Della’s prose comes straight from the trenches as someone who has growing pains of expanding a firm. She includes plenty of real-life examples from her time in practice, including how to negotiate prices, build a marketing function and decide how much your services are worth.

 

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