Fly Fishing and the Art of Proactive Patience 

By Dan Griffiths.

I love to fly fish. My wife would tell you that “love” is perhaps too soft a word to describe my affinity for the sport. If you were to ask any group of avid anglers about the key to their fishing success, one of the most common responses would be “patience.” While I tend to agree, I think that the kind of patience they are talking about is often misunderstood.

The patience required for success in fishing is rarely about sitting around waiting for the fish to bite. If you have ever observed a patient fly fisher work a section of stream, you will notice a few things. First, she will spend time attempting to identify what the fish are likely to be eating, then roll over a few rocks or shake the bushes along the edge of the river. She will then identify the piece of water where she believes the fish are holding. Perhaps she has noticed a fish rising or the telltale flash of a fish feeding below the surface. She will then stealthily move into position to get the perfect casting angle and, finally, make a single cast. More often than not, she will be rewarded with a fish at the other end of the line.

Proactive Patience in the CPA Profession
This is what patience is really about; taking the time to prepare, to read the water, and then take deliberate action. As a profession, this is the kind of patience we want to cultivate. It’s what I like to call “proactive patience.” It’s not sitting around waiting for the fish to bite—waiting for things to change. It’s being proactively engaged in shaping the future by taking purposeful action informed by careful observation.

Young CPAs at firms across the country can fall into the trap of waiting around for the fish to bite. How many professionals do you know who are just waiting until a particular partner retires or until the economy recovers? There are certainly some things that may be outside of our direct control. However, when we simply sit on the bank and wait for the fish to come to us, we miss the monster trout that may be rising under the willow along the opposite bank.

What Does Proactive Patience Look Like for Young CPAs?
What if the deck is stacked against us? What if that fish is holding in the middle of the river and I have to cast a mile to reach him? What if the weather is less than ideal or the river is running high? Collectively, our young age and relative inexperience sounds like a big disadvantage. This is especially true when we think about our ability to influence the profession. We’re not as well connected, respected, or experienced as our older peers. We could easily use this as an excuse to say, “I’ll wait until I’m older and more influential to engage in professional issues.”

This is a cop out. Did today’s senior members of the CPA profession get to where they are now by sitting on the bank? I have a number of thoughts about what we can do as young CPAs to get off the bank and engage in the profession, but would like to hear yours.

What we lack in age and experience, we make up for in energy and enthusiasm. What will our contribution look like? What do you see as the biggest opportunities for young CPAs that want to get off the bank and wade into the river? What can we do to contribute to shaping the future of our profession?

What have you been patiently preparing for in your career? Email your comments to

Dan Griffiths, CPA, CGMA is the Director of Strategic Planning at Tanner, LLC.  He specializes in working with organizations that find themselves at a strategic inflection point which often include start-ups, turn around and restructuring projects. He is certified through the Business Learning Institute in strategic planning and leadership development.

Dan is a graduate of the 2010 AICPA Leadership Academy and in 2011-2012 served as the chair of the Young CPA Network Committee for the AICPA. He was recently selected to serve as his state’s elected member of the AICPA Governing Council. He is active in government and has worked closely with the Utah Association of CPAs to launch, Financial Ready Utah; a non-profit organized to promote fiscal responsibility.  He earned B.S. and Masters of Accountancy degrees from Brigham Young University, summa cum laude and with high distinction, respectively.

Dan is an avid fly fisher, backpacker, and gardener. He and his wife Bibiana just welcomed their fourth child to the family.


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