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The ladder of success is a myth. It's a lattice.

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"Plans get you into things," Will Rogers once said, "but you must work your way out."

As Exhibit A, I give you Jody Padar.

We've talked about Jody here before ... and before ... and before ... and with good reason: She's taken over her father's firm and turned it into New Vision CPA Group, one of the most innovative, forward-thinking firms in the country. Along the way, she has been named one of Accounting Today's 100 Most Influential People in Accounting for 2011 and one of the Illinois CPA Society's 2011 "Women to Watch."

She also had to take the CPA exam five times before she passed.

What's her point?

"You don't have to pass the exam on your first try to be successful in life," she says. "Everyone will tell you that you need to go to college, pass the CPA exam on the first try, go to work at a big firm, and all of these great things are going to happen, and happen, and happen. Guess what? It doesn't always work that way."

Jody didn't find her passion until she started teaching a tax course at a Chicago-area community college. At that point, she realized she had a gift: She could take an abstract concept and make it easy to understand. She could teach. Once she tapped into that passion, the accolades quickly followed.

"What's really hard for young CPA candidates to understand is that there is no master plan," Jody said. "You have to realize that it's not a ladder. It's a lattice. There are a lot of different ways to get to the top. If that's where you want to be, go for it."

A lattice, not a ladder. Has there been a more brilliant metaphor for today's career development?

We're living in an era when a sizeable chunk of college students will end up taking jobs after graduation that don't exist today. When things are changing that fast, you have to be flexible enough to alter your plan over, and over, and over. Learn continuously, master some important new skills, and find your passion. Do those things, and you might just start a movement that changes your profession ... and your life.

Listen to Jody's thoughts in their entirety in this BLI Live presentation:

Want to learn from Jody in person?
Don't miss our 2012 Beach Retreat, set for July 3, 5 and 6 in Ocean City. Jody will be presenting a pair of personal development sessions -- "Have the Idea and Have the Guts" on July 3 and "You Thought it was the Future. It's Now!" (with Jason Blumer) on July 5. Get details and register here.

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