Great Mentors over My CPA License

The other day I was asked if I would rather give up my CPA license OR all the knowledge I’ve gained from great mentors. At first I thought the question would be difficult to answer since my CPA License has helped me see meaningful employment gains. Without pausing for more than a few seconds, I said I would rather give up my CPA license than give up my knowledge from top notch mentors.

The Value of a CPA License

In an effort to better understand the 20% of my actions that have produced 80% of my results, I feel I naturally narrow down my activities to a few large events in my life.

Probably the single largest event, professionally for me, was when I became a licensed CPA. Nothing physically changed in my day to day. In fact, my responsibilities at my job remained the same.

What did happen was my route to promotions was cleared. In Chicago, many public accounting firms require some type of professional designation to reach manager level. This often comes in the form of being a JD (lawyer) or CPA.

Having already assembled my fair share of student loans, I was left with only one choice. So, after many grueling months (18 to be specific) of studying while working, I passed my exams and became licensed.

Despite all that work, I would gladly give it all up if faced with losing all the knowledge I’ve gained from mentors.

The Value of Great Mentors

I’ve been lucky enough to land some incredible mentors throughout my life.

Needless to say, mentors offer guidance and support, but they also provide confidence. By mentoring us, we’re inherently being told that we not only have a lot of value today, but that we also show potential worth investing time into in the future..

For someone straight out of college, mentors are life changing.

The one item I’ve noticed that truly helps when seeking out mentors is to find someone who’s further ahead on the particular path you are tracking, BUT not TOO far. If we asked Richard Branson how to build a business, his answer will likely have changed significantly between the 1960s and today.

I find it easiest to learn from someone who is 5-10 years further along in the process. Of course there is something to learn from everyone, but I find this time range to be the sweet spot.

Bonus: Mentee Tips!

Having gone through a few informal and formal mentorships myself, the best piece of advice I can offer is this: Work hard to implement everything suggested and be happy they are helping at all. If you suspect their advice will not work, then let the results demonstrate that. Do not stop short and question the advice, as that will be time away from putting the advice into practice.

Part of the process of finding great mentors is trusting their advice.

If, after you’ve put in the work and you’re not happy with the results, then reassess.

If the mentor was overall ineffective, then the first question to ask yourself is, “Why did I seek them out in the first place?” If their process/tips/techniques/hacks/advice/wisdom didn’t resonate with you, then seek out a new mentor.

I’ve seen far too many great people who were simply not great mentors. It happens; Sometimes the best student isn’t a great teacher.

Another key tip that has helped me has been to remain very positive.

If a mentor is helping, then we should remain extremely grateful and respectful of the entire process. There should be limited complaining or mention of anything negative. I’ve found that staying positive and energetic to be the best way to keep the conversation flowing.

What to Do If We Don’t Have Access to Great Mentors

I’ve found myself in this situation way more often than I thought I would. I find the best solution is two fold.

First, we should continue to seek out people who could become potential mentors. It might be people higher up within our organizations or friends of friends. We shouldn’t stop simply because we don’t know who could be a mentor.

The second piece is to fill the gap by reading books. Reading gives us access to the way people think (in the case of an autobiography) and the way they behave (biographies or business books).  

A close friend of mine summed it up nicely the other day. He said he’s learned more from reading the biographies of John Rockefeller and Sam Walton than he has from reading a dozen other business books.

To conclude, mentors are awesome! That pretty much sums it up! 🙂

How have great mentors influenced your life?


5 comments… add one
  • Ryan @ Just Another Dollar Feb 20, 2017, 7:10 am

    This is a great hypothetical to inspire thought! Becoming a CPA has improved my life immensely, opening new doors and allowing Alyssa and I to move to a new state. I’ve also had great mentors in the years leading up to and after college graduation. They’ve taught me life lessons like ‘do what makes you happy’, ‘life’s too short’, and ‘always put at least 10% into retirement’. They’ve also taught me how not to be the guy in the office everybody hates (re-heating fish in the break room microwave, non-stop stories about your cats, etc.) At the end of the day, I’ll gladly keep the personal growth over professional success as I plan to be retired for longer than I work.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Brad - Feb 20, 2017, 7:46 am

    I’m not a CPA but I can say for sure that the value of mentors – across many business and personal areas of life – are beyond measure. You usually can gain a lot more from someone with real life experience than a professor or book – for sure.

    Side thought… CPA. Interesting. Not something I ever considered. Is that something worth pursuing as a side-hustle? Do you mainly just do taxes each Spring? I’m not sure you even need to be a CPA to do taxes. Totally new, and interesting, topic for me to ponder for a bit.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Feb 20, 2017, 9:56 am

    Very prudent choice. 🙂 That’s kind of like giving up your college degree or giving up everything you ACTUALLY learned in college. I’d give up the degree personally. I know so many people rely on little pieces of paper or certifications, but in reality they mean very little. Usually it means you know how to take a test.

    I wish there were better ways to prove knowledge and competency outside of just certifications/degrees, but I guess that’s what we’re stuck with for the time being.

  • Ms. Montana Feb 20, 2017, 10:23 am

    I’ve had great mentors and been a mentor to people for 10+ years. Your advice to mentee’s is spot on. I hate chasing people down, wading through negativity, and having my time undervalued. Little things like showing up on time, and following up go a long way to building a great mentoring relationship. I pour out a lot more energy and leverage my reach much farther for people who are really working and grateful. My energy often will mirror theirs after a while.

  • Lars-Christian Feb 20, 2017, 1:49 pm

    I think you are absolutely spot on with your priorities here, Distilled Dollar. I’ve learned most of what I know professionally through great relationships with people I have considered to be my mentors. Some of them have been my closest bosses as well, but even after moving on I still maintain a great relationship with several of them, and I truly value their input.

    I’ve found that typical, clearly defined mentor-mentee relations don’t really work as well for me as a more loosely defined relationship that relies on two-way sharing of knowledge and experiences. It could be because I’ve had a bad experience with a more formal mentor relationship, but intuitively it seems logical to me that more organic relations will create more value for both parties.

Leave a Comment

View the Best Finance Blogs