Because it’s there…

Between commercials for the next reality game show and daydreaming about being an űber-successful hedge fund manager, I realized how easy it is to lose our drive. A headline commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s famous moon speech had caught my eye and I started to think about how even the hardest workers among us sometimes fall victim to the microwave culture of fast and easy.

In his speech, Kennedy quoted George Mallory’s famous answer to why he wanted to attempt a summit of Mt. Everest, something that had yet never been done. Facing the probability of death on a third attempt, Mallory made a bold statement for surmounting the impossible simply for the challenge by replying, “because it’s there.”

Not for the notoriety, not for the endorsements, but to stand on top of the world and say, “I did it!”

With many candidates still reeling from a grueling 6-hour test-athon Saturday and others gearing up to start studying for the June exams, I think the quote is especially relevant. The LinkedIn group regularly sees posts asking whether the hard work is worth it and I have written a few times on the rewards of the designation, but we rarely hear of taking the exams simply for the challenge.

And why not? Realistically, there are many other ways to improve your career prospects or to make more money. Spending those 1200+ hours studying your particular industry or taking on additional projects at work would surely put you on the fast track. Even for those not yet in the industry, working those hours instead of studying would present a fairly sizeable paycheck over the three years.

Surely the rewards of earning the CFA designation are worth it. Beyond the monetary gain and possibility of promotion, being a member puts you with some of the best minds in the industry and furthers your development as a true professional.

But with almost 1.7 million candidates having attempted the CFA exams since 1963 and only 152,035 reaching the final summit, the challenge is one of the toughest you will face academically. Reaching the top will not automatically make you the best money manager or the most adept analyst, but it will mean that you have done something that only a fraction of our industry could accomplish.

And as the climber cannot stop with Everest, you will be driven to higher and more difficult challenges. Not because you have to, but because it’s there.

Eyes on the summit. Keep studying,
Joseph Hogue, CFA