I Shall Astonish You All

My wife and I went to the movies on Saturday night to see Far From the Madding Crowd. The movie was set about 150 years ago. A young woman is poor but inherits a large but failing farm. It is obvious that no one expects her to save the place—failure seems inevitable. As one of her first actions, she calls all the workers together and tells them the following.

“Don't anyone suppose that because I'm a woman, I don’t understand the difference between bad goings-on and good. I shall be up before you’re awake, I shall be a field before you're up, and I shall have breakfasted before you're afield. In short, I shall astonish you all.”

I just loved that quote. As soon as I got home that evening, I looked it up on Google just to get the words correct. Why did I love her words so much? Gosh, there are many reasons.

--I loved her attitude. I have so many people who tell me why they cannot succeed on the CPA Exam. “I didn’t get good grades in college.” “I’ve been out of school for years.” “I don’t test very well.” “My family (or boss) is not supportive.” “I can’t keep my job and study at the same time.” People seem totally set on explaining why their circumstances will keep them from succeeding. “It’s not really my fault—I have a weakness that I cannot get past.” In the movie, the star readily admits that (at that time in history) women did not typically lead farms into prosperity. She could have used that as a perfect excuse for all possible failures: “I’m sorry but I’m a woman so I won’t be able to save the farm.” Instead, she wanted everyone there to know that she was not going to fall back on that excuse. She did not believe it and she was not going to let it stop her. What are the negatives beliefs in your life that are holding you back? Why do you cling to them so strongly? Any sentence that starts with “I cannot succeed at this because …” should be washed from your vocabulary. Believe in yourself. Don’t believe in negative myths that are just standing in the way of your success.

--I loved the fact that she knew the difference between good and bad work. I’m often amazed by my students who do bad work and then cannot seem to comprehend why the outcome on their tests is poor. There is a difference between doing the job well and doing the job poorly. If you are going to pass the CPA Exam, you are going to do it because you work hard—you put in the time and you put in the energy. Don’t let your study be lazy and inefficient and then get upset when you do not pass. Ask yourself this question frequently: Over the past week, have my studies for the CPA Exam been an A or a B or a C or a D or an F? Be honest. You know the difference between A work and B work and soon. If your answer is anything other than an A, then you have improving to do. Not later but right now. If you are not doing A work, you need to think about what it will take to get there.

--I loved that she is willing to outwork everyone else. She does not look to luck to her out. She plans to get up and get the work done. She clearly is challenging herself and everyone who works for her to do their very best. I tell my students frequently: If the person beside of you outworks you, then they deserve a better grade than you do. Simple as that. So, are you going to let the person beside of you outwork you? If so, that person deserves to pass more than you do. You cannot control everything in life but you certainly have some control over the number of hours that you spend studying. If you plan to pass, make sure you deserve to pass—outwork the other people.

--And, finally, I just loved that last line: “I shall astonish you all.” If you are going to be great, you have to want to be great. If all you want is be good, then it is guaranteed that you will never be great. She did not just want to survive. She wanted to succeed and prosper. She wanted to be so good at managing that farm that everyone around her would be astonished. In life, if you truly are going to be a winner, that is a great attitude to have.

I shall astonish you all.

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