Accountants: Are They Born or Made?

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On the website, "Best Colleges Online.Net", an anonymous author named "admin" posted an article on August 8, 2010 entitled, "10 Ways to Know You Were Born to Be an Accountant", as if accountants are born and not made.  That article brings to mind that age-old argument of whether you were doomed to be a gloomy bean counter or whether you were made, crafted, chosen, or forced by someone (your mother?) to be a bean counter.  That is the question, as always:  which came first...the egghead (i.e., accountant) or the egg.  I hate these stupid arguments:  I never seem to get them right.

Apparently an accountant did not write that article.  Probably some liberal arts major—or, even more likely, some marketing major—wrote that piece, since it reads like a blurb, if anything.  Or perhaps some comedy writer on the David Letterman show wrote this originially for the "Top 10" feature of the show, before being axed.  In any event, whoever wrote the article knows little about accounting and less about accountants.  

To prove my point, I will list here the 10 big clues provided by the phantom author, indicating whether one is destined to be an accountant.  Since the blurb appears on a college review website, its obvious intention is to assist those about to enter college and choose a major of study.  The 10 indicators appear in the article as if they were scientifically derived from empirical research and appropriate for an authentic aptitude test.  Of course, being an accountant, I will include my own reactions to the indicators offered, with the intention of illustrating whether or not the 10 big clues do indeed hit the mark or miss the target entirely. 

  1. "Nothing really bores you."  Ridiculous!  I'm an accountant, not a vegetable.  Nothing bores me?  I couldn't count the number of times that I have been lulled into a narcoleptic snooze during endless drivel of politicians, CEOs, marketers, talk-show hosts, ministers, spouses, partners and superiors at public accounting firms, clients, et al.  On the other hand, I bore everyone on earth, including my wife and kiddies.  I don’t bore any friends because I'm too boring to have any friends.  Scratch this one off the list.
  2. "You’ve always embraced technology."  Bullseye!  As a teen/adult/senior I loved Pong, Nintendo, PacMac, and every violent computer game that came on the market.  I was too geeky to have embraced physical sports and members of the opposite sex.  I wished I had embraced the latter before middle age.  I might have had more luck.
  3. "You’ve always loved dealing with numbers."  No, I just sucked at everything else!  I bought Cliff Notes and Monarch Reviews instead of reading all of those books assigned by my teachers.  I still hate writing book reports and that Miss Reilly in 8th grade English.  (My brothers and father had her for English, and they all hated her, too.  But they're not accountants.  Go figure.)
  4. "You have an abnormal passion for tax law."  Although I still have an obscene passion for Susan Dey of L.A. Law, I really struggle with that Swiftian language, "legalese".  Without sophisticated tax software, I wouldn’t know where to begin in preparing a tax return.  I wished my attorney looked like Susan Dey.
  5. "You’ve always sweated the details."  True, because I couldn't see the forest from the trees.  I'm anal and all accountants.  And the details are always easier to deal with.  It's the application of all of our sweaty details to making effective conclusions and decisions that's difficult to do.
  6. "You’ve always welcomed the challenge of solving a problem."  Welcoming the challenge of solving a problem and solving the problem are two different things.  Ask PWC about its inability to catch all of those accounting improprieties going on at AIG, some of which may have extended as far back as twenty years.  I don't welcome the challenge of solving any problem.  I just welcome getting paid, preferably up front, and without doing anything at all, quite frankly.
  7. "You’ve always been conservative with your time."  This is a positive trait?!  Being stingy with one's time, and rushing through one's work without giving it much thought at all?!  Perhaps if certain auditors (who shall remain nameless) had spent a wee little more time on certain audit engagements, they wouldn't be in such big trouble right now.  And although debits and credits is not rocket science, and is not too taxing on our synapses, I'm Italian and I believe that everything—especially work—need not be rushed, but savored, enjoyed, and appreciated to the fullest extent possible.  Slow down and get paid by the hour, I always say.
  8. "You’ve always been a people person."  Right!  And I’m Mother Theresa of Calcutta.  Show me an accountant and I'll show you a Boris Karloff double.  People persons!  LOL!  Is Barbra Streisand the ghost writer of this article?
  9. "You’ve always had a conservative appearance."  Penguins wear a tux everyday.  So what's the point here?!  Virtually all corporate and business people have conservative appearances.  This is not a distinguishing trait of us accountants from other business workers and professionals.  It's just that all of these other business and professional people look much more attractive in their conservative attire than we do.  Let's admit the truth:  we ain't attractive;  i.e., look at my picture.  Enough said.
  10. "Your integrity has always been of the utmost importance to you."  And that explains the bunch of accounting scandals widely reported in the media over the past thirty years involving misleading “creative” accounting, financial analysis, bribery, fraud, and including giants like Nugan Hand Bank, Phar-Mor, WorldCom, AIG, Enron…and let us not forget, Arthur Andersen?!  Sure, a large publicly held client pays us on average a $5 million audit fee every year (plus millions in other services), and we are going to issue this company an adverse opinion on its financial statements and jeopardize losing millions every year because of our integrity?!  Who wrote this article?  Mary Poppins?

Now you know why the article was anonymously credited to "admin".  Admin should do stand up for a living.

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