The Theory and the Practice

A couple of my former university colleagues are currently studying for an MBA. An MBA is a Masters in Business Administration. Both of them have full time jobs working for public affairs bodies. I’m assuming they get paid reasonably well.

I am quite sure that neither of them would ever have the confidence or the audacity to run their own business. In many ways, I don’t see the point. The MBA appears to be a way people who would never make it in self employment can pretend they understand what it’s like. The MBA allows people to get on their high horse and proclaim that they know what they’re taking about when in fact they have no clue.

I am not sure why I am feeling so stand offish about something like this. Maybe it’s because of what it represents. The culture of study versus practice. That somehow just reading about something gives you the right to opine against someone who’s been there and done that.

I increasingly come up against such individuals in business. They usually take the form of bank employees. But they also infest our government, our local authorities, and other public agencies. They don’t know how hard it is to have absolutely no idea whether your next invoice is your last. They have no idea about the difficulties of believing in something whilst others doubt you, and wish you’d just get a real job.

These are the people who sit in judgement on our bank applications, credit card applications, mortgage applications, or devise ludicrously complex and bureaucratic schemes that businesses get wrapped up in and have to deliver for the sake of doing the government’s job for them.

There are many examples. The whole VAT system turns most businesses into tax collectors. MCS accreditation is full of excessive and duplicative paperwork. Insurance and health and safety regulations are nothing other than an arse-covering exercise, designed to ensure you won’t carry the can if your attention to manically writing everything down, methodically and verbosely is better than the company or individual or doesn’t.

I sound like a cranky libertarian. I am not, but I am a liberal with a small l. I believe in the importance of government to protect the powerless, and encourage equality of outcome and opportunity. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

But there is a sensible line to be drawn. There is now too much over thinking and over predicting. The law is too prescriptive, because no government wants to take the blame for the smallest inconsistency.

And it all has something to do with those in power not really trusting in people, and our general ability to make the right call for our own lives and those around us.

Freedom has reasonable constraints. We must come together and sacrifice a little for the environment, for example. We all have to pay tax for the good of keeping society running.

But let’s try and be more honest about it. Let’s say we can’t pay for public pensions, so we will have to put tax up, rather than devising yet another convoluted “pension” scheme and forcing people to sign up for it.

There are many reasons why I think this. Business has taught me to evolve my views a little… but at heart it has actually reinforced the vast majority of my ideology.

All good fun.

It’s A Girl. And Other Dry Observations.

Today I am writing a post from the comfort of my train seat. It’s yet another trip home, though to be fair I haven’t been home for 5 weeks.

I laugh at this. When I was in university I didn’t go home during term time. This usually meant 12 weeks stretches from start to finish. During that time I kept myself entertained to such a degree that I didn’t really think much about going home.

Now things ate different. I’m never normally more than three weeks away from going home again. Perhaps it’s because the trips home are basically my very short holidays. Time in which I can get away for a little bit and not do much.

But even that is now under threat. Now I usually am home for less time than I used to be. It’s only 2.5 days and I’m off again. One of those days has me in work. Another is usually a Sunday and I like to do my own thing on those. 

And I am ashamed to say that I don’t think I’ve visited my Nan in months. I’m pretty sure the last couple of times I’ve been home I didn’t have time to do so. Which is tragic, when I consider how lucky I am to still have one grandparent left.

Meanwhile news came yesterday that my friend from school, who is realistically the only one I keep in touch with is now a dad. All things that make me think the clock is ticking against me with no prospect of things changing. In the short term it also makes me feel stupid. He called on Thursday with the good news, and, me being the awkward person I am, proceeded to hold a rather stilted conversation. Generally speaking I just don’t know what to say when put into emotional situations like that. I usually resort to banalities. 

What was the weight, I asked, matter-of-factly. Really. I didn’t even attempt to make it sound engaging or personal. What’s the name? Oh, how do you spell that? OK that’s a new one.

The promise of coming to see them tomorrow might come back to bite me. That might put paid to what has become my Sunday routine. Mainly involving Radio 1. Sad.

Honestly, I have no idea what to do with myself any more.

Two Weeks On

Another day off.

It’s another bank holiday weekend, the second of three that we get at this time of year. I have come to value them immensely. If there was one bank holiday weekend every month it would be so awesome. I now realise just how much I need catch up days, back to back. Two days gives me a day to do rubbish Adult Life Chores, and then a day to relax. I’m so used to only getting one day “off” per week that that day is spent savouring the freedom, rather than doing ALCs, or the incredibly tedious things I just keep putting off.

And off and off. One such example is the mountain of computer spare parts that I have had at home for maybe a year or more. Some of them I keep for legitimate reasons, cos I might need to use them in the future. But others I have had for such a long time because I kept saying that, one day, I would get a chance to get on eBay and get rid of the valuable bits.

Yesterday, I started at 8am and by 6pm had listed a mere 15 items. But that represents the sum total of the destruction of seven laptops… most of the bits are of such low value (£1/£2) that I don’t even want to spend the time wrapping and posting them. So in the bin they went. My living room now has much less of the computer workshop vibe.

In reality, if all those 15 items sell I will get a return of about £200 for my day. Three of them have gone so far, and all the higher value items. I had a feeling they would sell quickly, but hopefully the rest will too, as I could do with a little financial kickback.

Why? Because a few weeks ago I managed to screw up a client’s computer because I forgot to take the battery out of their laptop while changing the screen. Pretty pathetic, really, but I got lazy and complacent. 99% of the time I take the battery out before doing any work. But for some stupid reason I left it in while changing the screen. It must have caused a short, as by the time I’d finished it it would never work again.

We live and learn. I have been quite philosophical about it. In all the years I’ve been doing my job, nothing serious has ever gone wrong. A couple of minor things have happened, but I’ve always been able to recover the situation. This time, however, it was such a disaster I had no choice but to throw lots of my own money at it to set things right again.

Never mind.

But it’s been a quick couple of weeks. The work has been relentless, and my life has been generally rubbish. But I don’t really complain. I am more than aware of the fact that I am quite a loner. I do enjoy my own company. I enjoy relatively solitary leisure pursuits. It’s just been me all over, and it doesn’t even affect me any more.

Not quite sure that is a good thing in the bigger picture, but there you go.