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Outlast This

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Jan 22, 2021

Heads up. Anniversaries (of a sort) are coming up and you wouldn't want to miss them.

For me, I am about one month away from the anniversaries of my last in-person presentation (Las Vegas), my last trip out of the state (Los Angeles), and the last event I attended that included a large group of people (The Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market). We are all experiencing milestones that, when the associated circumstance occurred, few of us thought of as noteworthy, if we thought of them at all. And beyond the virus, we are all experiencing personal, political, and professional challenges that are much more than any of us could have expected.

But there are various lights appearing at the end of various tunnels. For example, I've scheduled my first COVID-19 vaccine shot in mid-February. (Age has some advantages.) So, as the English World War II poster encouraged, we keep calm and carry on.

In a recent piece titled "Spend Time on Something That Will Outlast Them," author Austin Kleon talked about not only carrying on, but also focusing beyond the current situations.

He tells a story about Leonard Woolf, a political theorist, author, and publisher who was married to Virginia Woolf. (And, if you're like me, that's the name you know.) In the build up to World War II, he was in the orchard. His wife called out to him that Hitler was speaking on the radio. "I shan't come," he shouted back to her. "I'm planting iris, and they will be flowering long after he is dead." Kleon goes on to note "I don't know what my equivalent to planting iris is, but I intend to find out, and so should you." He concludes, "Spend time on something that will outlast this."

We have all been planting iris for at least the last year, we just didn't necessarily know it. At the start of all our various nightmares, many of us took on activities we had been putting off — learning a new language, exercising, cooking, finishing that novel, learning to play the digeridoo, emptying our closets of any and all formal pants. And that was the way many of us began planting iris, by doing things that not only served to pass the time, but were intended to have us come out the other side better than we were when we went in.

In my case, I did a couple of the things listed above. (And, no, I'm not going to provide any confessions here.) But I also put more focus on research and writing about the profession. Maybe not as profound as digeridooing (hint: no, that wasn't one of the things I did), but it was my way of climbing above the miasma, depression, and hatred. And, without knowing that was what I was doing, it was how I was going to outlast this.

Hang on to that whole writing thing for a minute, and let's talk about internal audit.

Trying to find lights at the end of tunnels may be one of the biggest challenges for internal auditors. At some point in every auditor's career, he or she begins to question what it is all about. "Nothing ever changes. I'm not making a difference. Why am I doing this?" I said it, auditors working with me said it, auditors working for me said it, and I'd guess it has been spouted ever since Bog, the first Neanderthal internal auditor, took a look at the axes Mog was making and advised there might be a more efficient way to build the axe, shortly before said axe figuratively and literally ended Bog's career.

It is easy for internal auditors to believe the tunnel has no end, that there is no light. But we have to realize that every audit is one more iris planted — one more act that will outlive the Visigoths and naysayers who would have us believe that nothing improves, nothing gets better, and nothing ever changes. It isn't a single audit, a single test, a single interview, a single written word that makes the difference. It is the body of work that is the light at the end of the tunnel.

And that body of work is how we outlast this.

Leonard Woolf planted one iris that was part of a group of irises that was part of an orchard — an orchard that outlasted the ravings of a madman.

Austin Kleon took the thoughts, writings, and discussions that occurred over the last few years and put them together for his book Keep Going that is meant to outlast the horrors we are currently experiencing.

And I have taken all my thoughts, discussions, and research and put together these blog posts. I can't tell you if they are any good or not, but I do know they will outlast this.

And all of your thoughts, discussions, interviews, tests, meetings, and writing leads to reports, improvements, and, ultimately, organizational success. And that success will be how you outlast this.

And, speaking of writing …

(And with that simple turn of a phrase, the author uses literary sleight of hand to distract his audience as he turns the subject from the primary theses to ancillary matters; deft prestidigitation, sleight of hand, and the ol' switcheroo leading to the prestige, leaving the audience gaping helplessly as it is led where it knew not it would go.)

As mentioned above, a good hunk of my efforts to outlast this have been expended in producing content for this humble little gathering — a gathering where you have all been kind enough to read the blatherings that I feel should be blathered. (And hazard pay to those of you who have read this far.)

But there are a lot of people in the internal audit profession who have used these times to write. And there are a lot of people who have much to say on the subject of our profession. Accordingly, InternalAuditor.org has provided opportunities for them all to share.

There are now three new offerings out in the internal audit blogosphere under the heading "Your Voices" on InternalAuditor.org. "On the Frontlines" is content that looks at issues faced by internal auditors providing day-to-day assurance and advice. "Building a Better Auditor" focuses on content about advancing internal auditors' careers from staff auditor to chief audit executive. And "IAm" (think IAm Mike Jacka, and then try not to think about that example anymore) focuses on the lives of internal auditors beyond their professional disguises, putting a face on the "mysterious" internal auditor. And the magazine is inviting other auditors to share their voices, as well.

Come to watch what some of us are doing to outlast this; stay for interesting and intriguing content.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

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