The CPA Exam’s Biggest Surprise

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cpa exam motivation

There’s nothing like sunny beaches, summertime concerts, and girls in bikinis strolling past your window all day long. That is of course, unless you’re trying to study for the CPA exam.

My apartment was only steps away from the sand and off in the other direction was a string of endless bars that occupied the party filled city of Pacific Beach, California.  Not exactly the optimal location for calculating bond amortization.

Already half way through it, I felt like I had passed the point of no return. 2 exams down, 2 to go.  But sometime in between the sacred local holidays of Taco Tuesday and Wine Wednesday, I completely lost my motivation to finish the CPA exam.

I became more distracted than a 5 year old at Chuck E Cheese’s with all the activities going on around me. From volleyball games to birthday parties to BBQ’s, the result was always the same, I felt guilty whenever I would go and even more left out when I stayed at home to study.

All these distractions and mental noise took me to my breaking point and forced me to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask myself, “Why the hell do I even want to be a CPA? I mean, do I really want it?  WHY!?”

My CPA Exam Motivation

Asking myself “why” made it very clear what I was actually after.  I wanted the $5,000 bonus my work offers for passing the CPA exam, and I also wanted to prove my peers wrong who told me it’s “impossible” to pass all 4 sections the first time while working a full-time job.

So what were my underlying motivations? Money & pride. That sounds pretty shallow on paper, but at least I was honest with myself.

As soon as I figured out what was motivating me, my drive kicked into high gear and I launched back into study mode filled with a sense of purpose and meaning. I remember printing out a sign with big bold letters and placing it at the foot of my bed that read “$5K – Let’s Do this B!”  Cheesy? Yes, but I was forced to look at it everyday and it helped to keep me focused and motivated.  (I dare you to try it out for 1 month; you’ll be surprised at how something so simple can be so effective!)

After that I found some new coffee shops outside of the city to study at.  I would go there straight from work just to make sure I didn’t get seduced into a night of debauchery with my roommates. It became the summer of “I can’t make it tonight” and “No, I’m busy” except now when I told this to people the disappointment in my voice was replaced by a subtle excitement.

What I Actually Learned From the CPA Exam

Looking back on it, I realize how much I changed during that summer.  I cut myself off from old friends that were bringing me down. I met new ones that had similar goals and interests. I learned how to buckle down and study after a grueling 10-hour day of work.  I learned how to forgo short-term pleasures in order to reach long-term goals. I discovered that working with a meaningful sense of purpose makes life much more enjoyable than going through the motions and following the crowd. The CPA exam is more than a test of mental capacity and knowledge.  It’s a test to see how well you are able to balance your life after your priorities are turned upside down and you no longer have a single hour in the day left to go to the gym.  This type of stress forces you to become more efficient in all areas of your life, from your relationships to your study habits. The valuable life lessons learned along your CPA journey may very well be the most important things you learn while studying for the CPA exam. This type of transformation and self-discovery goes far beyond accounting principles and has the power to transform your personality and your character for the rest of your life. Thanks for reading this post. You guys rock and I’m so grateful for your support and kind words. I continue to write on this blog purely because of you so let me know what I can do to help. Now go CRUSH IT! Bryce
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  • Mark
    Posted at 22 March, 2016 17:00 PM Reply

    Thanks for the mid-exams motivation! i went on a trip to Thailand after passing the first two and am now struggling to motivate myself for the last two but this helped! Time to conquer REG! Fortunately (well unfortunately), I don't live in PB (awesome place) so there aren't quite as many distractions... Cheers!

    • BWelk
      Posted at 31 March, 2016 19:40 PM Reply

      Glad to hear you are ready to tackle it again!Bryce

    • Sabrina
      Posted at 7 January, 2016 23:51 PM Reply

      Hello, I work for a financial institution in public accounting. I have a degree in accounting but I have graduated a few years back. What part should I start with? What software should I use in preparing myself? I am a big fan of understanding the material and practicing through lots of examples/ questions. I am not too much into memorizing but if needed I will make the effort. I will greatly appreciate your opinion. Thank you.

      • BWelk
        Posted at 15 January, 2016 04:02 AM Reply

        Hi Sabrina,This article I wrote will help you choose the best order to take the exams in: If you are a visual learner and plan to learn by watching the video lectures then Roger CPA Review is your best option. If you prefer to self-study and learn from reading the textbook and drilling lots of practice questions then Wiley CPAexcel would be the best fit.Cheers,Bryce

      • Edward c
        Posted at 1 December, 2015 18:18 PM Reply

        Hi Bryce, I have been used becker for years, however , my score already around $70-$85. I feel the becker review doesn't cover all range of exams.This made me can't pass all sections within the limited time. If I would like to buy the other review for practicing questions only( specially for simulations). Which one would you suggest? Thanks.Edward

        • BWelk
          Posted at 30 December, 2015 20:18 PM Reply

          Hi Edward,Wiley CPA test bank is going to be your best option for additional practice questions.Cheers,Bryce

        • Lilly
          Posted at 13 November, 2015 03:05 AM Reply

          Hi Bryce,How and where did you start studying for the exam? Did you only use the cpa review book or something else. I honestly have no idea where or how to start studying for the exam . I want to start all over again since I did not learn anything in college. What do you suggest I should do?

          • abe yi
            Posted at 30 September, 2015 02:49 AM Reply

            Bryce,Thanks for the tips. And to fellow readers, he couldn't be more legit! Very timely on his responses in email and a genuine guy who just wants to help fellow CPA preparers. His book definitely puts a new perspective into taking the exam. Information you can't really put a price on. Once again, thanks a lot of everything Bryce!!

            • BWelk
              Posted at 1 October, 2015 23:44 PM Reply

              Thanks Abe, good luck in your studies!

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