Wouldn’t you stop and listen to the words of anyone that was wise? Generally we hear that wisdom comes from a wise “old” person. I recall in the early days of my accounting career that the worthy mentors were those with a three digit SC CPA license number. I coveted same, but was gracefully granted number 1026 in June 1976…the one thousand and twenty-sixth person licensed as a CPA in the state of South Carolina. Those with three digit license numbers were the veterans of the profession, accountants from whom I wanted to learn. I asked myself how could I become as wise as these models before me. I had to gain the ever elusive intangible called “wisdom.” Many years later I am looking back and better understand. For those younger accountants seeking wisdom, allow me to share what I have deemed to be the path to gain such a coveted asset.
I believe that step one is knowledge. Knowledge is gained through education and represents what we are taught. Being teachable is a key ingredient in gaining knowledge (and eventually wisdom). Thanks to the G.I. Bill and patient professors at USC, I finally obtained the degree that said I finally had knowledge, the acceptable level of education to be called an accountant. Although no professor gave me a test after graduation, the real test had just begun.
My accounting career started (and continues to be) in public accounting. From the first day I learned that step two towards wisdom as to gain understanding. Knowledge alone was not sufficient to get paid. No CPA firm was willing to distribute a regular check to me simply because I had knowledge, a college degree. As I placed that knowledge into action I had to discern, understand how to illuminate and discover that knowledge had to be placed into motion. Without placing this knowledge into motion, I would not graduate towards my goal – wisdom. Nor would I have gotten that appreciated pay check.
Wisdom basically grew out of my understanding, yet over time. It was not automatic. Many lessons had to be learned from the application of the knowledge that I was gaining. I learned that dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s did not mean the word was spelled correctly. I learned that just because all the debits equaled all the credits did not mean the financial statements were correct. Wisdom came as a by-product of the continued application of the knowledge and profitable understanding that I gained over time.
We learn to be wise when we conclude that wisdom is not static. Once gained it is bound to wilt, if we do not feed its source. It exists only when we attempt to make it grow. And how do we make wisdom grow? From wisdom we know the answer – to seek more knowledge. Yes, the wise accountant will realize that a true professional will circle back and have a career of constant learning, consistent understanding and deepening the wisdom that got one to this point.
Our state licensing boards require us to experience at least 40 hours a year of continuing education. Those serving on the Board of Accountancy are wise! They have pointed each CPA on the path of wisdom.
Blogger: Charles ‘Eddie’ Brown, CPA