Do You Know What You Want To Do? When I went to college I wanted to study art and design. But after a lot of thought I decided I’d be better off getting a business degree. It wasn’t until Introduction to Accounting with professor Doug Snowball that I discovered just how wrong I was.
A few weeks of accounting passed without incident. I was mostly lost and mostly bored but I kept attending Accounting 101 because of both professor Snowball’s funny top ten lists and because a big part of his class grade was based on mandatory attendance. I might not have had any idea what amortization meant, but I was certainly capable of showing up on time.
But this day was different. After attendance, professor Snowball posed this question to the class: “Tell me,” he asked with his Australian accent, “is a client deposit an asset or a liability?”
My hand shot up. For once I knew the answer to one of Snowball’s questions!
Professor Snowball looked confused as he examined my raised hand. Because I had never opened my mouth he had no idea who I was.
“Yes, Mr…” Snowball paused while he scanned his seating chart looking for my name. “…Mr. Turkle?” (people who don’t know me pronounce my name “Turkle” instead of “Tur-Kell.) “YOU know the answer?”
“Yes sir” I responded excitedly.
“Okay Mr. Turkle. Please tell us. Is a client deposit an asset or a liability?”
“It’s an asset!” I said, proud as punch.
Professor Snowball looked crestfallen. “I’m sorry Mr. Turkle, a client deposit is a liability.”
“No it’s not sir. It’s an asset.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Turkle, but a client deposit is a liability. It belongs on the right side of the balance sheet. When you receive a deposit, you owe either products or services against it. I assure you a deposit is a liability.”
“With all due respect sir,” I answered, “if I have YOUR money then it is an asset. I believe most small businesses would pronounce that working capital. And my name’s pronounced Tur-Kéll – not Turkle – by the way.”
With that professor Snowball burst out laughing.
“I see your point Mr. Turkel. What it tells me is that you probably will not be a very good accountant.” He paused before continuing, “But you’ll make a hell of an entrepreneur. You need to think about what you want to do.”
A couple of weeks later my dad came to Gainesville on a business trip and took me out to dinner. We were chatting about this and that when my dad asked how I liked the University of Florida.
I liked it fine, I told him. I was in a band, rooming with friends. There was lots to do and lots of cute girls and I was glad I was there.
My dad shook his head. That wasn’t what he meant. He wanted to know about my studies. Did I enjoy studying business?
“Actually,” I told him “I hate it. I don’t understand accounting at all, I can barely stay awake in my finance class, and I’m sure business ethics is an oxymoron.”
Then I told him the Snowball story.
“What do you want to study?” my dad asked.
“Art and design.”
“Then why are you studying business?”
“Because I don’t want to be a starving artist. I figured that business was the responsible thing to study. I figured if I get a business degree I can always get a job.”
“Look,” my dad answered, “Even if you study what you’re passionate about, when you graduate and go and get a job there will be days when you hate going to work. But imagine if you study something that you don’t like. What will your work days be like then? You should study what you want to do.”
Thanks to my dad’s good advice, I applied to the UF Design School. There was a bit of a sacrifice involved because the design school required different mandatory classes that I hadn’t taken and those mandatory classes added a few more semesters to my college career. But once I started taking classes in type design, printmaking, drawing, and graphic design I loved what I was doing and the people I was doing it with.
Why am I telling you this? Because my fondest hope for you in the new year is that you are either doing what you love or will make a new year’s resolution to figure out how to do so. I’m sure Professor Snowball — and my father — would both agree with that course of action.