A co-worker of mine once warned me “beware of the person you may become.” I wasn’t by any means doing anything wrong, so don’t let that counsel change your impression of me. However, the idea that my actions today will escalate and snowball, forging either a respectable creature or a leviathan, haunts me. Aristotle said that “excellence is a habit.” Conversely, I could say that to achieve excellence, I need to practice good habits and that poor habits impede the quest for excellence. When I was given this recommendation though, I merely resolved that I needed to be the man today the man I want to be when I was fifty.

And what constitutes greatness anyways? Little things or big things? In my agenda to continually improve my being, how much can I change in a given year? If I cannot sustain my actions then I have not really accomplished much. I’m still excited that I can remember to floss every other morning (one of the great accomplishments of 2009).

I continue to struggle with what I perceive to be the ideal Paul, I attempt to keep three things in mind every day.

First, as Coach Wooden put it, “What [one] learns after [he’s] learned it all counts most of all.” I see this as a way of saying never stop learning. As an accountant I’ll testify that once I’m done learning, I must be a “finished good.” Hopefully, that means I wouldn’t be a finished good until I’m finished as in buried.

Second, be open-minded. It would be foolish to expect to improve one’s self without considering feedback from others. This advice must be taken with a grain of skepticism; discernment is needed to distinguish between those who look to exalt you and those who are trying to hold you back. Overall, if I enter every conversation knowing that I’m absolutely correct about everything I’ll be missing out on an opportunity to gain insights and perspectives I may not otherwise have.

Last, and this may be the most important of the three because the first two are impossible without this one, is for me to check my ego at my apartment door. My confidence stems from a bit of cockiness and vanity. (I’ll admit that I’ll wake up 20 minutes earlier to ensure that I have tied my tie in a knot that I feel is close to perfect before leaving home.) However, my confidence is wasted if, when doing my work, I feel that it is all about me. This is definitely an internal conflict—after all, I’m supposed to be doing work that I myself am proud of. Right? Yes! Yet at the same time, I have to remember who I’m working for and what the overall mission of my work is in order for it to be performed with the right attitude. As a reminder, and forgive me for alluding to a religious reference, I recall that Christ washed the disciples’ feet—not the other way around. (The meaning in the scripture has significant meaning in it different contexts, but my point is that my mindset should be to serve rather than to be served.) Once I forget about Paul-Paul-Paul, my outlook is less opaque, and I can much more clearly see what and who I should strive to be.

Knowing that I am dynamic and a process are comforting thoughts. While trying to balance the attributes that have carried me this far with correcting those that are preventing me from reaching my potential, I pray that I am a much better man one year from today and even better fifty years from now too. Until then, one step at a time. Like learning concepts from a textbook, I hope to evolve into that better version of Paul over time and with experience.

Onto some Conversationalia:

El Paso received snow this Christmas!

White Christmas in the Sun City!
I usually reserve this section to discuss topics one could use to keep a conversation from fading, but not much compares to the sight of snow all on the Franklin Mountains. This photo was taken from Album Street, with Album Park on the right and the snowy mountains in the fog directly ahead. This is a big deal because, frankly, it doesn’t snow very much in the desert. The weather is expected to be “mostly sunny,” as usual, for the Sun Bowl this Saturday.

Forbes names UT Football Most Valuable Team
Forbes named Texas Football the most valuable team in the nation. This ranking came despite the Longhorns not playing in a bowl game last season. The valuation was four-pronged, including revenue and contributions to academic programs. This did not include contributions from the Longhorn Network, which Forbes expects to help Texas sustain its ranking for quite a while.

Congress Extends Payroll Tax Cut
Although for only two months, Congress and the President extended the payroll tax cut days before Christmas. A failure to pass this would have increased taxes on wages from 4.2% to 6.2%, about $1000 from a year’s worth of paychecks. Congress must extend the cut past two months when it reconvenes, of course. Regardless, this is something that accountants should keep tabs on—not for dinner talk, but as informed citizens.

Final Thoughts
Hot chocolate is delicious. Happy New Year!