Yesterday was convocation at my son’s university. Sitting watching all the Commerce grads, I remembered my own graduation, and the guy sitting next to me saying, “We’re done. If I learn anything more in the rest of my life, it will be by accident!”
Now, over 30 years later, I’m still learning. Accounting is still an evolving profession, part art, part science. We have not yet discovered how to capture a snapshot of a business on a piece of paper, in an understandable way, that allows different organizations to be compared by a reasonably informed individual.
If I have one message for the class of 2014 in any discipline, it’s that the work is far from done. We really don’t know how the universe works, how the planet works, how people work or even how business works. After all my study and experience I am acutely aware of how little I know for sure.
But you know what? The words of my professors still ring in my ears. “Accounting allocations are arbitrary and incorrigible.” “When you don’t know how to account for something, go back to T-accounts.” “If it looks like a liability and smells like a liability, it IS a liability, no matter what the lawyers call it.”
University is a place of theoretical models and first principles, where we learn to reason. When I’m working with clients, I can tell which ones have had theoretical training, because they are the ones who can be flexible. They’re not stuck in that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it land. They can follow you when you propose new procedures or a different data structure.
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2014, it’s tough out there and I know there will be times when you will question the value of your degree, but let me leave you with this challenge. There is a question with your name on it, a question worth researching, pondering and reasoning. Answering it will help us all move forward, but it will take everything you have: your skills, your experience and yes, even your academic education, to answer it. But it’s worth it.
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