Half a Hexagon
shaping simple ideas in a complex world
Wednesday 7 April2021
Hardworking Debate......Hungarian Books........The Social Contract and the taste of ice cream
Hallo. Here's a fresh-faced me, ooh, some thirty-odd years ago, rocking my briefcase look as a hardworking twentysomething working in book publishing.
Of course I worked all hours for not very much money and I loved every second. The 1980s was the decade when 'work-life balance' crept into the parlance, but it was also the decade which saw "Greed is Good" enter the cultural lexicon.
I was reminded of how times change when the Gen Z Goldman Sachs bankers recently leaked their own Google spreadsheet showing how much they now detest the long-hours culture. The big genie is out of bottle on the world of work and suddenly work-life balance is big again.
Except work-life balance has been rebranded as Hybrid. My paper The Nowhere Office was written up in last week's Economist and I was asked all about it this week on their podcast Money Talks his week.
Last week was the first anniversary of the UK /US publication of my book The Simplicity Principle and it was published in Hungary. Thrilling, frankly!
The publishers gave me a lovely book launch, invited me over in person when travel allows, and generally made me reconnect with the simplicity of that old process known as writing and selling books.
I took the opportunity to post for the first time in 6 months my podcast on the top 6 lessons my readers, listeners and audiences liked most and yes, it's more or less 6 minutes of 'tips' - tops.
The Social Contract
Here comes my book-combo recommendation for this edition: The meticulously researched book by LSE director Minouche Shafik on the social contract, or as she puts it "the partnership between individuals, businesses, civil society and the state to contribute to a system in which there are collective benefits" and the bleakly brilliant tale of a world where there is no social contract, only social welfare, the Booker-Prize-winning Shuggie Bain.
I combine them together a) because I read them concurrently last week and b) because I was so shocked when Minouche Shafik's data showed that Denmark takes on average two generations to go from low to middle income and the UK five, with Brazil and Columbia a staggering nine generations.
But then I read Shuggie Bain describing the innocence of an ice cream van arriving on a run down unemployed estate outside Glasgow in the 1980s:
"Agnes ripped open the envelope meant to pay the catalogue. Flush with petrol-station wages, she let him take the whole crisp fiver. Across the scheme gas meters were cracked open, bronze pennies were counted, and all of Pithead spilt out into the street, trying to be first in line for a mouthful of sugar".
The truth is shockingly unshocking, then: When we all come back to work, post-pandemic, perhaps what matters is not so much the work-life balance as the work-life wage. Or maybe, just maybe, we can aim for both?
And finally, I interrupted my Easter to take part in a podcast interview with the very generous and kind writer, journalist and podcaster Christina Patterson and perhaps you might like to listen.
P.S. According to the latest Work Trend Index from Microsoft, an additional 40 billion emails were sent in February this year compared to last. That's some productivity jump.
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