I just had to resign to the fact I wasn’t good enough.

There was a reason for my failure.

I didn’t measure up.

I had not done what was necessary to be successful.

In 2003, right after I graduated from NC State University, I took the CPA exam twice.

I took the CPA exam a second time because it was the most enjoyable experience I’d ever had in my life.

Taking the CPA exam is a work in learning a lot of details.

The instructor for my CPA exam prep course said you don’t need to know everything.  What you need to know a little bit about a lot of topics.

He then went on to say.

“The knowledge you need to pass the CPA exam is a mile long and an inch deep.”

I was being sarcastic earlier when I said taking the CPA exam was the most enjoyable experience of my life.

I took the CPA exam a second time because I failed it the first time.

In 2003, there were four sections of the exam.  Each section of the exam was a timed session.  I remember I had about four hours to complete each section.

For two straight days, I sat in a convention center downtown Raleigh and tested my brains until they started to ooze out of my ears.

A few weeks later, I got the test results back.

Heartbreak.  I began to cry.

In order to get any credit for taking the exam, I had to score at least 75% on two of the four sections.

I passed one section with 76%, and that was it.  The next best score was 73%.

Two lousy percentage point.  If I had just gotten one or two more questions correct I would have passed that section.

It was so much work.  I had studied so hard for that exam.  Four months of studying went down the drain.

After a day of sulking, I decided to pick myself up and begin the self-denial and drudgery that comes with CPA exam study.

I talked with a few other people that were CPAs and asked them what CPA exam prep courses they used.

I then plunked down $1,000 to get the exam prep course.

I studied for another four months and sat in the same convention center for another two days.

Two days of hellacious test-taking.  I looked down at my feet after I finished the fourth section of the exam and saw my liquified brain in a puddle.

I’d finally lost my mind.

A few weeks later, I opened up the mailbox and got the letter with my CPA exam results.


I had done such a good job studying this time that I failed all four sections of the exam.

I got worse test scores by studying more.

There is a phrase for this situation.  The law of diminishing rewards.

I remember a few years later, the City of Raleigh decided to demolish the convention center, where I took those two CPA exams.

They were going to live feed the demolition on the TV.

I couldn’t miss seeing them obliterate the scene of the crime.

Finally, I would get justice. That building was ugly for so many reasons.

Seeing that building be blown up was beautiful.

The way the clouds of dust and pulverized cement floated to the air was breathtaking.

However, my joy was short-lived.  After all, the convention center was not the reason for my failure.

I gave up.  Becoming a CPA at this point in my life was not in the cards.  I’ll get an accounting job and get some experience.

Then at some point in the future, I might retake the CPA exam.

I worked a few years as an accountant for a civil engineering company.

I worked at a few public accounting firms. I did tax returns and audited nonprofit organizations, churches, and construction contractors.

Even though my year of working as an auditor deepened my accounting skills, I found the work tedious.  My job performance wasn’t what my employer expected.  On one fateful Monday afternoon in September, I was informed my services were no longer needed.

Even though I didn’t cut the mustard with my previous employer, I knew I was good enough to be hired by someone else.

However, I wasn’t good enough to be hired in the midst of the Great Recession.

I knew the only choice I had to put bread on the table was to become a freelancing accountant.  Little by little, customer by customer, I would build up enough of a customer roster to pay the bills.

I assessed my situation and determined that the best thing I could do for my career was to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

The time to take the CPA exam had finally arrived.  I had to throw everything I had towards improving my life.

I was living on unemployment, which barely covered my mortgage, utilities, and groceries.

My wife and I had two daughters that were barely walking around in nothing but their diapers.

Oh, how they looked at me.  There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing your young child run up to you and yell with glee, “DADDY!!!”

No matter what.  Unconditional love.

Nothing more beautiful, except of course seeing the demolition of an ugly convention center.

I recognized that being a CPA was the best thing I could do to increase my ability to earn money.

At that point in my life, becoming a CPA was the one thing that would have the most dramatic impact on my life.

My back was against the wall.  I had to do it.

I knew I had to invest in a CPA exam prep course that was going to guarantee I passed the exam.

I was not going to face the heartbreak of failing the CPA exam for the third time.

Failing the CPA exam twice was enough.  I already had enough experience with failing that damn exam.

Time was of the essence.  I simply could not afford to dilly dally.

The cost of the CPA exam was around $1,000.

The cost of the CPA exam prep course was $2,598.

I didn’t have the cash so I did the only thing I could do.  I charged it on my credit card.

I scheduled out my CPA study plan and determined it would take me four months of study for all four sections of the CPA exam.

I was three weeks into my CPA study plan when I got a dreadful letter.

It was in August 2008 when I received the letter from the NC State Board of CPA Examiners would not allow me to take the CPA exam because I didn’t have enough accounting college credit.

I was utterly frustrated.

How could this be?

I had taken the CPA exam twice before.

How was I now suddenly disqualified from the ability to take the CPA exam now?

I wrote a letter to build my case of why I should be allowed to take the CPA exam.  I included exhibits with supporting documents to prove my case.

I mailed my appeal letter. A few days later, I received a phone call from the NC State Board of CPA Examiners office.

“Damon, I received your letter.  Unfortunately based on your most recent application to take the CPA exam, you do not meet the requirements to sit for the CPA exam.”

The person on the other end of the phone line said, “I can certainly submit your appeal letter to the Board of directors.  What you should know is they will not review your case until next May.”

“I can submit the appeal letter or you can take the accounting course now and be qualified to take the exam in a month.”

“Rediculous, utterly ridiculous.” I thought to myself.

I knew I only had one option.  It would be an utter disaster if I waited eight months to have my case heard.

If I waited for ten months, I would probably be amid a foreclosure on my home and smack dab in the middle of bankruptcy.



I needed to spend $1,620 to enroll in an accounting course at the University of Pheonix.  I didn’t have the cash so I did the only thing I could do.  I piled more debt onto my credit card.

There I was with more than Five Thousand Dollars on my credit card so I could put myself through hell again.

Five Thousand Dollars that would probably sit on my credit card for at least six months because I had no way to pay anything more than the minimum payment.

An exam that I had already spent a year of my life toiling away so I could have a letter with failing exam scores laugh in my face.

I was determined.  I had to pass the exam.

There was no other option.

Four to six hours of study a day from August 2008 to January 2009 was what I determined was necessary to pass the exam.

Three weeks into my study, I realized I was getting behind on my study lessons plans.

I was involved in many networking activities so that I could get some freelancing jobs.

I was doing all this networking and consequently I fell behind on my CPA exam study plan.

I realized I had to stop networking.  Networking was detracting from my CPA exam studies.  I stopped networking.

I would just have to go into debt a little deeper because I was not going to fail the CPA exam again.

On October 1, 2008, I took the first section of the CPA exam.  I was allowed to spend four hours taking that section of the exam.

I showed up at the testing center and got in front of the computer.  A few hours later, I was done.

That was easy.  I knew all the answers. How could that be?

The monster that had been hiding under the bed was not that ugly.

I knew as soon as I turned the key on the ignition of my car that I had passed that section of the exam.

A few weeks later, my assumptions were confirmed.  Section one out of four passed.

Back to my studies for section two.

Halloween was the day for section two of the exam.  I drove back to the testing center and began the four-hour endeavor to exam my brains out.

Again, I knew all the answers.  This CPA exam thing is super easy. I knew I had passed the second section.

A few weeks later, my assumptions were confirmed.  Section two out of four passed.

Back to my studies for section three.

On November 25, 2008, I drove back to the same testing center.

I knew all the answers.  I knew I had passed the exam

Half my brain was gone.  I got in my car to drive to my inlaws house for Thanksgiving dinner.

My wife comes from a family of ten children. We were all gathered around the turkey and all the fixings.  Lots of children doing what children do.  Play and shout and have all manner of fun.

I did my best to stay composed.

However, I was already on sensory overload from emptying my gray matter on the CPA exam.

After I finished dinner, I whispered in my wife’s ear. “I’ve got to go.  I’m just too depleted.”

A few weeks later, my assumptions were confirmed.  Section three out of four passed.

One more section to go.

Back to my studies for section four.

The day after the New Year, January 2, 2009, I drove my car to the testing center.

The final section of the exam was scheduled for 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm.

The last hurrah.

I couldn’t believe it. Like taking candy from a child.

This was the easiest test I’d ever taken in my life.

When did the CPA get to be so easy?

Relief.  It’s done.  I’ll never have to take that exam again.

On February 17, 2009, I got the results from the fourth section. I had passed.

Three days letter I got the letter I had been working for the past few months.

On the front of the envelope stamped in red capital letters were the words


I opened the letter with tears in my eyes. I passed the final section.

A few days later, I received another letter that started with the words.

February 20, 2009

Dear Successful Candidate:

Congratulations on passing the Uniform CPA Examination!

I only had one thought in my mind.

I passed that exam!

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