The Secret to Becoming “The World’s Greatest Accountant”

I’ve been asked many times, “what is the best learning tool that an accounting student has in their arsenal”. When I’ve proposed this question to other modern accountants, they generally list out the programs they utilize most, Quicken, Excel, or the Intuit program du jour; all are cited as the best learning tools for the future accountant. My own response to this question may surprise anyone that has become an accountant post-1995, but would not shock the pre-computer group. While I am a member of the older crowd (by age), I am a new accountant in that I was not accounting professionally prior to 2000. So what tool is most important to me? What one piece of equipment is in my arsenal and is the most dangerous weapon in the accounting world? An abacus? Though I can use one and suggest everyone learn, not the most important tool. A Burroughs Sensitronic with magnetic tape to store ledger cards? Close, but again no. What, what, what apparatus is so important?
     The pencil.

     Do you realize there are actual accountants that have never written out a Statement of Cash flows with a pencil on a legal pad? Dude...really!?! If you haven’t erased so many mistakes that the eraser went through the page to the next and then you scratched at the page feverishly with the metal band as you pounded out a balance sheet by hand as a student, you ain’t learned nuthin’, Cupcake. Now get out your #2...PENCIL, and take some notes. I studied Accounting 1 & 2 online and yet still burned through 15-20 legal pads and three packages of pencils. I performed every exercise with pencils and then converted the data to computer format. The big question is, why did I torture myself with pencil and pad? I performed this way because I believed from day one and still do, that if you only learn a computer program and do not truly understand how the numbers move, you are not an accountant, you are merely a software user.

     If one is desirous of being a real accountant they had better learn to use a pencil, T-accounts should be imprinted on the underside of their eyelids and the ledger format must appear unconsciously in the fibers of every piece of paper looked at. And why? Because part of being an accountant is being knowledgeable and competent in order to service the public appropriately. Thus only understanding a computer program will never make you Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli, it will only turn you into a data entry clerk.


Bravo Ernest T. I hope many accounting students read this.


Ernest T.

Taxation/Accounting/Excel/QuickBooks/Fraud Investigation

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