I wrote a while ago about my baby roommate and novelty. The idea is that people find things interesting and exciting when they have the right amount of novelty. Things that are too predictable, like a children’s book you’ve read to a demanding kid ten thousand times, are boring. Things that aren’t predictable enough, like a long novel in a language you don’t speak, are also boring. It’s the process of forming expectations that are often right but sometimes surprised which makes something fun. So for a baby, repetitive play is fun, because every time the duck lands in the bathtub is slightly surprising; for an adult, those variants all make perfect sense and aren’t a source of thrilling novelty anymore.

But I think adults also vary tremendously in how much novelty they enjoy. There are people who reread books all the time, and people who never reread books, both of whom tend to regard each other with total incomprehension. There are people who like their nice simple job doing mostly the same thing every day, and there are people who’d die of boredom. And people are often attuned to different kinds of novelty – for me, ‘sewing dresses’ sounds like doing the same boring thing over and over again, but I bet anyone who actually does it would tell me that different fabrics and threads and stitches and fittings and other constraints make every project different.

I think we tend to talk about jobs as if everyone wants high novelty (art! research! acting! travel!) and some are forced to settle for the mindless drudgery of accounting or marketing or human resources or middle management. But that’s not how it works. Things that are an exciting and satisfying amount of novelty for some people are above the satisfying threshold for other people, and they’re just stressful and demoralizing. Things that would have some people grinding their teeth with tedium have lots of hidden novelty of just the right type for some other people.

But we don’t give kids a lot of opportunity to discover if they’re someone who would find accounting delightfully rewarding minute-to-minute. We don’t even tell them that anyone finds accounting delightfully rewarding. There isn’t really a chance, ever, to try forty things and figure out which one of them hits the right spot in your brain. Which is too bad, because I suspect that getting this right (and noticing when your job has ceased to offer it) is a major contributor to day-to-day happiness.

Why do people think accounting is boring? Learning it is boring. Doing the day to day job… you don’t just do the same thing all day. Almost everyday it’s a juggling of what’s normal important right now and in 30 mins or an hour that’s going to change and you have to shift gears because something else has come up. The part I like the most but find the least rewarding is reconciliation projects for accounts that are years old. I can spend hours digging through tons of information to figure out what caused the problem and when it’s resolved, I solved the puzzle! But all I have to show for all that work is a couple of sentences or *maybe* a spreadsheet showing what I found. But I almost never get to really dig in on those problems because there’s always so much to do that has to be done Now.

Maybe it’s more boring in companies that have sufficient staffing.

I have really been feeling that lack-of-opportunity-to-figure-out-if-you-would-like-doing-accounting lately. *Specifically* regarding accounting.

There’s a draft I never got around to posting that talks about how I’ve been considering the possibility of changing my major from computer science to accounting, but that it’s hard to tell whether that’s a good idea because I have so little sense of what accountants actually *do*. (I interact with enough programmers that at least I have some sense of what *they* do.)

I enjoy making my family’s financial spreadsheets and gathering and crunching the numbers on what possible frugality-efforts would get us, but I don’t know how suggestive that really is.

@gnomer-denois (it won’t actually let me ping you, but since I’m reblogging directly from you you’ll probably still see it), if I may ask, what made you decide to become an accountant?


#adventures in University Land #reply via reblog #adventures in human capitalism #today was the last day of my current semester #now that there’s no short-term schoolwork for a little while I was thinking of doing some digging #trying to learn about what being an accountant is like #but I will happily take stumbling across some information #(only one more month until I can make the annual report for 2017!) #(honestly looking forward to it)

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