Skip to Content

Last and Best

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Apr 21, 2020

Life continues to exist in a combination pause/play mode. For everyone, there was a point when things changed and, for many of us, it meant coming to a halt, even if for just a few days.

Some had to jump right back in. Others of us stopped, then began moving hesitantly forward. And some have had to come to a complete and permanent stop. But no matter what your current situation, there was a moment — somewhere between a brief and long moment — when anything you produced was the last thing you produced in your career.

You probably didn’t think of it that way — and probably hadn’t thought of it that way until now — but you came to a halt and the work that was done before that stoppage might be considered the last thing you did in the old world.

I started thinking about this when I read that the last words recorded by The Beatles were “And in the end, the love you give is equal to the love you make.”

That’s a pretty good final line for a legendary group.

Before I went on my abbreviated hiatus a few weeks ago, I wrote a couple of pieces that were about internal audit and its place in the world. And, you know, if those had been the last pieces I ever wrote, I wouldn’t be that unpleased. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t The Beatles. (At my best I don’t even reach the levels of "Revolution 9," which, in my mind, was about as bad as The Beatles ever got and, if you have never heard it, contrary to the many times I suggest you look something up, in this case, don’t bother.) But, even if I didn’t reach the lofty heights of Beatles-dom, I would still have been perfectly fine with those being my last blog post utterances.

On the other hand, I’ve had endings that did not come out so well. I could tell you about my final project at Farmers Insurance. I could, but I won’t. I’m usually not too shy about sharing my failures (we learn from our failures at least as much as we do from our successes), but this one was so odious that I think it better we save the story for those maudlin, closing-time discussions where our souls are bared and, by the morning, everyone has forgotten what was said. Suffice to say that, while I stand by everything I wrote in the final report, the execution was a major … mess up.

Go back and look at that last project you completed before the world was put on pause and ask yourself, “If that was the last project I completed as a professional internal auditor, would I be proud of it?” Did you give it everything you had? Does it live up to your standards of professionalism, quality, and value? Would you be satisfied if that was your final legacy?

When we are knee-deep in our projects, it is very easy to get on a roll. We assume there is always another project coming down the road. And, with that in mind, it is similarly easy to assume that, if this project doesn’t come out so well, the next one will be better.

Of course, we cannot spend our time trying to be perfect. But that should not stop us from striving to make each project top quality or, at the very least, better than the previous project. The minute we take the attitude, “Let this one go, the next will be better,” is the minute we begin succumbing to mediocrity. And, you have to remember, you never know what that last project will be.

Did The Beatles know that “The End” would be their final recording together? Did they know the rooftop performance of “Get Back” would be their last live performance? Has any artist, performer, professional, craftsman, or individual been able to say to themselves, “This is the last thing I will do in my oeuvre”?

If this blog post, the one you are holding in your virtual hands, turned out to be my last, what would I think? Should I have tried for something better? Well, the quick answer is yes, of course. We should always try for better. And, on the twenty-eleventh rereading — because that’s about how often I rewrite these things — I feel like it’s probably not my best. But it’s also not my worst. And, if it turned out that this was the last post I ever produced, well, I could live with that.

In every audit, every project, everything we do, we have to work as if it might be our final legacy — the thing everyone remembers us by. And then we have to move on to the next work that will be our legacy, always trying for our best and not allowing complacency to take over.

How will you be remembered? And does your most recent project reflect the memory you want to leave?

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Co-founder and Chief Creative Pilot, Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.