In his excellent book Zen in the Art of Writing, science-fiction author Ray Bradbury features an essay titled “Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle.” Bradbury uses the essay to discuss his approach to writing, including this choice snippet:
“That is the kind of life I’ve had. Drunk, and in charge of a bicycle, as an Irish police report once put it. Drunk with life, that is, and not knowing where off to next. But you’re on your way before dawn. And the trip? Exactly one half terror, exactly one half exhilaration.”
What if we were to perform our audits that way? What if we started without knowing everything? What if we had an idea of how to approach a risk, but found ourselves on our way before dawn without knowing where we were headed? What if we simply trusted our intuition, our skills, and our professionalism to lead us to the correct destination? Imagine auditing with no hours spent preplanning on preplanning, no interminable meetings about the meeting about the meetings, no second-guessing before the first guess has been made, and no excruciating detail of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t.” Instead, engagements would involve exploring the mostly unknown and learning what we do not know, what we need to know, and what will provide the most value to the organization.
And here’s another quote from Bradbury’s essay: “By the time many people are fourteen or fifteen, they have been divested of their loves, their ancient and intuitive tastes, one by one, until when they reach maturity there is no fun left, no zest, no gusto, no flavor.”
In spite of what some people say about the internal audit profession, it can be a lot of fun. I’ve been in it for more than 30 years — no one without masochistic tendencies of a type I cannot fathom stays in a profession that long unless they are having fun. And I’m still having fun because there is still so much to learn, so much to explore, and so much potential and opportunity.
Practitioners would do well to quit trying to make sure everything is perfect and instead just enjoy the job. Most of the fun I have had in internal auditing came when I was exploring. And I’m willing to wager the bicycle mentioned above that, upon close examination, that’s when the majority of internal auditors have the most fun too. An important part of that fun is diving into the work, without fear or worry. As nature essayist John Burroughs advised, “Leap and a net will appear.”
Some of my best work as an auditor, and some of the most fun I had, came when I was not enmeshed in the details — when I was allowed to experiment, explore, and leap, letting the work lead where I least expected. In other words, it occurred when I was, metaphorically, drunk and in charge of a bicycle.