aftermath

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Not Quite the Discriminating One

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I wrote A Guide to Nondiscrimination Requirements for Qualified Pension and Profit-Sharing Plans in 30 days.

While reading the 600 pages of new government regulations on which the book was focused, which were published on the first day of that 30-day period. Along with reviewing over a hundred additional pages of separately proposed regulations that were not finalized until a week after the book was published. And revisiting previously published regulations on related topics needed for rounding out the book. And all the statutory references and other related source material. All of which needed to be read at least in triplicate to make sure nothing was missed, most of which needed to be studied very closely and cross-referenced with other readings, and none of which was the sort of reading one can just breeze through.

Without taking a day off from work – no holidays in that period, no vacation days taken, and no sick days. And while carrying a workload that included heavy duties unrelated to the book. Yes, given my position as my company’s research actuary, it was my job to read those regulations and develop internal materials. So yes, the entire night after the regulations came out, I was giving the entire package its first pass so I could give a speech the very next day on the highlights. And throughout the next month, I did continue producing internal materials on the regulations for my employer and sharing in conference calls and working directly with clients on matters related to the regulations. Yet not only were none of those reg-related efforts directly focused on the book itself, but I also devoted over 30 hours per week to work that was completely unrelated to the regulations whatsoever.

So, no family life, right? Well, the family might argue that my mind was completely elsewhere during that month, but at least I did make the attempt. Sundays were off-limits to the book entirely: no reading of the regulations, no computer files open, not even a scribbled note on the many scraps of paper I carried around that month. And one entire Saturday during that month was devoted to taking the family down to King’s Dominion amusement park – again, an entire day off-limits to the book. So technically, I wrote the book in 25 days. And not all of those 25 days stolen from the family either. I never missed a dinner that month, reserved at least an hour each and every evening to spend with the children, and left other time open every day, no exceptions.

And the writing itself. Not only did I strive at every turn to steer clear of simply regurgitating the regulations, but I set myself the goal of attempting to have at least one unique point on every single one of the book’s 350+ pages, at least one insight per page that would not be obvious from a simple recitation of the rules themselves. And typed out the entire manuscript myself, hunt-and-peck style. And managed to make only one error in the entire book (an extra zero on page 70, a blunder subsequently rendered irrelevant by legislation that repealed the rule that page dealt with).

All of that an equation that can be solved only by including only about 20 hours of sleep for the entire month. Or, since I slept about 6 hours the night we stayed at the hotel after our day at King’s Dominion, call it 14 hours of sleep spread over the remaining 29 days of that month. Yes, your math is as good as an actuary’s there: that’s less than half an hour per night. For an entire month.

Which explains why I landed myself in the hospital on the 31st day, the morning after I had sent the final chapters of the manuscript off to the publisher. Which is something we are now dedicated at avoiding as I take up my pen to work on another book.

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Written by macheide

4 January 2009 at 10:29 am

Posted in DRAM

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