Su-do-ku and Mental Agility | AccountingWEB

Su-do-ku and Mental Agility

By Bill Kennedy - Kevin was huddled over his handheld computer at the restaurant. My wife and I were joining him and had picked up his wife Joanne on the way. As we approached the table, she said, “He’s probably doing Su-do-ku. He says it helps with his mentally agility.”

Kevin showed me how his computer let him enter the numbers one through nine into a grid so that each box, row and column had each number only once. It was an impressive system, letting him store possible answers in each cell until he decided the right one. If you haven’t tried Sudoku, it’s quite an intricate puzzle.

“I too have a Japanese way to stay mentally agile,” I said. “It even sounds a little like yours. It’s called Ai-ki-do.”

“Never heard of it. Can you get it on the Blackberry?”

If you haven’t heard of Aikido, here’s a comparison between it and Sudoku:

Sudoku Aikido
Mental Abilities
Logical Relationships 2 dimensions 3 dimensions
Language Processing None Japanese vocabulary
Mental Manipulation Numerical Spatial
Co-ordination Hand / Eye Fine Motor Hand / Leg / Body / Eye Gross and Fine Motor
Levels Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced 5 beginner levels, 7 master levels

OK, Aikido is not really comparable to Sudoku. It’s a martial art like Judo or Jujitsu. Maybe it’s silly to compare a numerical puzzle to a martial art, but the point I want to make is that, as accountants, our ability to manipulate numbers is already well developed and maintained by our work. The area we typically ignore is physical fitness. And your mental agility is intimately connected to your physical well being.

Oh No, Not Another Fitness Lecture

Like many people who divide their time between deskwork and business travel, I am somewhat overweight and underfit. Some things I have tried and learned from:

  • Swimming – I joined the YMCA [insert link here], which had the advantages of having a club in every city I travelled to, and always having at least one lane open for lengths. Swimming proved to be a great way to relax after a day of meetings. It has many fitness advantages, such as very low impact on knees and other joints, but it did not prove effective for weight loss.
  • Dieting – Atkins [insert link here] taught me the value of a high protein breakfast and lunch. A friend taught me about an apple in the middle of the afternoon to ward off drowsiness. I have already written about visiting a nutritionist [insert link here] who helped me navigate fast food restaurants. But I take the point that changing your overall eating habits is more effective than going on and off diets.
  • Personal Trainers – The accountant in me objects to the cost and perceived luxury of a personal trainer. I thought that I could guide myself through the exercise machines in the gym by reading the directions, thank you very much. The reality is that a good trainer knows
    • How far to push you without hurting yourself
    • How to translate your goals into specific exercises
    • How to stretch out before and after exercise
    • Which muscles to target and when your body is overcompensating.

    The fact is that my weekly appointment with the trainer keeps me from making excuses not to go to the gym, something I am prone to do. I have reconciled myself to the cost by limiting sessions to one per week, but going at least one other time (as well as Aikido twice a week.)

  • Aikido [insert link here] – Somehow, the addition of martial arts to the above made the difference for me: I actually started losing weight. But Aikido is much more than just exercise. It really is a test of mental alertness as you struggle with the Japanese terms, try to emulate the instructor, learn the moves, repeat the exercises and strive to remember and apply what you’ve learned. The support is excellent. It feels like there is a room full of people working to help me stop tripping over myself. While martial arts are generally about one person attacking another, Aikido is based on the idea of self-defense and doing minimal damage to your opponent, a lesson the business world could definitely use! Another advantage that I, as a beginner, have experienced is the idea of staying relaxed even while you are being attacked, again a good lesson for business.
  • Fun – Working muscles and counting calories meet nobody’s definition of enjoyment. But finding an activity that my whole family can do together as well as being thrown by my 13 year old daughter do count as fun.

    In the end, I don’t want to knock Sudoku. It’s something you can do on the subway or while you’re waiting for someone in a restaurant. Just don’t forget that there’s a physical side to mental agility.

This blog

by Bill Kennedy, CA.IT, PMP - With over 25 years of accounting experience, Bill has a varied background in accounting management and accounting systems implementation, with a focus on the charitable sector. He is also an experienced volunteer board member and fundraiser.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.