What My Tax Accountant Taught Me

Last week I received in the mail a tax prep packet from my accountant, Pam. I’ve been going to her for just five years, yet I feel like we went to high school together. She’s gracious, funny, competent, and I trust her completely. That’s a wonderful feeling to have for someone, especially when you see them once a year under “somewhat” unpleasant circumstances!

Last year, while putting my tax stuff together, it occurred to me just how patient Pam is. While I didn’t intend to be difficult, the previous two years I showed up at her office not having all the info she needed. Yet, she remained funny and kind.

So last year I made it a point to thank her for her patience. She was flattered — and then told me something that both surprised and impressed me.

She said that there’d been a time in her life when she had little interest in accounting. She thought banging away at numbers would be boring. She became an accountant, though, and quickly discovered that there’s more to it than crunching numbers.

There are people.

People don’t just give her figures to plug into tax forms. People tell her stories about those numbers. She listens to the successes and fears and confusions swirling through those numbers. There are times when she feels like she’s part therapist, part priest.

She loves her job because she loves people’s stories.

However, not everyone has a story she wants to hear. When she started out on her own she was desperate for business. She’d take anyone on as a client. Now, though, she’s reached a place in her career where she doesn’t have to work with everyone who comes knocking.

She recently “fired” a client. He was chronically late in getting info to her, had an attitude, and complained that she wasn’t delivering. Then, one day, he yelled at her. She stopped him — he didn’t have permission to yell at her. It was then she realized that she didn’t have to work with this man. She didn’t need or want him in her life. And so she terminated their relationship.

Pam is fortunate. She works for herself and is in a place where she consciously can decide with whom she wants to work. While not all of us might be in that financial position, each of us can consciously answer the question: “Who am I willing to tolerate and why?”

Everyone who is in your life is there because you invited him or her. Yes, even your family. Why are the people who are in your life, in your life? Is anyone there who is zapping your emotional (and physical) energy? Why do you tolerate them?

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