You aren’t a dumbass like your cousin. Who the hell majors in Romance Literature?
There’s no excuse for it. Did your cousin really think it was a good life choice to become an expert in the heroic narrative prose and verse popular in high medieval and early modern Europe? Or did he chose his major because he confused romance literature with romance novels, and didn’t change his major even after reading the complete works of Chretien de Troyes and not a single masterpiece by Danielle Steel?
But we’re accountants. We did it right. We chose a major that’s also a department in every major corporation. No one at GE ever said, “Give these reports to Bob in philosophy.” No one has ever called her parents because she got a job at a Big 4 anthropology firm. There is no licensure for a certified public musician. Apparently a B.A. in communications prepares you to be a shift manager at Target.
We got a degree that led to a job because we understood the rules. We’re very good at rules. We’re professional rule followers/enforcers. We accountants are not so much captains of industry. More like hall monitors of industry. We find comfort in rules. It’s a strength, but it also gives us a huge blind spot. Our comfort/fascination/aptitude for rules has gotten our profession in a rut. I’d rather be a captain.
The most useless college majors according to thedailybeast.com include the following:
• Fine Arts
• Graphic Design
(How is Women’s Studies not on that list? That’s not sexist. Men’s Studies isn’t on the list either. Men’s Studies isn’t even a major.)
But here’s the twist: these fields may not be so useless after all.
Einstein said, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” Robert Heinlein said, “Progress isn’t made by early risers; it’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” Four years of studying philosophy is the definition of wasted time, and there are few people considered lazier than guitar majors, yet these are keys to creativity and progress.
In his recent HBR article, Walter Isaacson quoted Steve Jobs as saying, “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics. Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” Steve Jobs didn’t just stand at that intersection; he directed traffic at that intersection, and he made sure that art and computers had a head-on collision.
If it was surprising for computer nerds to embrace and inject their craft with the humanities, how much more for accounting nerds? The accounting profession is the only profession where the adjective “creative” has a pejorative connotation. As in, “Hey, Kevin, you’re a very creative accountant.” “Screw you, Bob! I’m not creative, I’m very conservative! Although I do respect your professional skepticism regarding my deliverables.”
How can you bring more artistry to your work? Here are some ideas:
• Write your audit opinion in verse or iambic pentameter
• Along with depreciation schedules, give your customers surrealist paintings of their PP&E to make the concept of depreciation more visceral
• Create a play or film to depict how your customers will be treated by the IRS if they are audited (probably won’t be appropriate for children)
Feel free to plagiarize these well-thought-through examples. But in reality, you have to find your own way here. Waste some time. Find an easier way to do something so you can waste more time. As you waste time, find ways to connect the disparate concepts of accounting and the humanities. When you stumble upon the brilliance and genius of making accounting accessible in new ways to new people, you win.
Regardless, your cousin’s still a dumbass.
Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife and two kids. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.