The Less Traveled Road to Success

Let me tell you about my friend and former student Kelly McCoy. He was abandoned as a young boy and reared by his destitute grandmother.

Although he was not a good high school student, unlike anyone else in his family, he graduated from high school. After an injury truncated his Army enlistment, he meandered aimlessly for 5 years – nearly losing an arm after someone used him for target practice.

But somewhere along the way Kelly got the bug to become an accountant. There were two problems though – poor grades and little money.

But Kelly had enough money for community college – at which high school grades were no impediment.

He did quite well and then went on to earn a bachelors degree. In the mean time Kelly was able to land a good entry level accounting job.

But then he ran into a brick wall called the CPA exam. Five times he earnestly studied for but miserably failed. He was exhausted and depressed. But he had already accomplished so much. He was not about to let the exam beat him.

But he needed a break. So instead of studying for the exam he was accepted into a highly regarded MBA program. During his MBA, Kelly’s abilities to digest and analyze information improved.

After graduation Kelly decided to attack the CPA exam one more time and passed all four parts.

Shortly thereafter Kelly got a new job as a CFO with another closely held company and within 12 months was earning six figures!

What’s more Kelly is one of the most ethical CPA’s I know. He simply refuses to do anything that could reflect poorly on him and the profession or in any way put at risk the professional license he worked so hard to attain.

Does this sound like a fairy tale? Maybe a little. But it is all true (although I did change the name and some of the facts to mask Kelly’s true identity).

Kelly’s story stands for the proposition that not everyone follows the conventional model for success. Sometimes people succeed quite unconventionally. It matters not from where one starts. What matters is where one finishes.

Written by Steven A. Martin JD, MBA, (CPA inactive), a shareholder in the law firm Blaugrund, Herbert & Martin (, Associate Professor at Capital University, Adjunct Professor at The Ohio State University, and co-founder of the MDS CPA Review Course (

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