The Rosetta Stone is a historical artefact that revolutionized our understanding of ancient languages like never before. Dating back to as long as the 2nd century BCE it’s discovery shade light into the deep mysteries of an ancient civilization.
During the 19th century, linguists used the Rosetta Stone to do what had previously been impossible - read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Hieroglyphic is a sacred ancient Egyptian language made up of symbols - called hieroglyphs. This language was discovered inside the pyramids, and tombstones of the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt. The knowledge of how to read or write these symbols, however, was lost since the 4th century BCE when the language was fully replaced by a simpler, more convenient writing style, called the Demotic language.
Upon discovery of the stone in the early 19th Century, Napoleon, a French explorer, gave orders to have the inscription engraved into copies which were sent back home to French scholars who had the task of cracking its mysterious code. It was later discovered that there were three distinct languages written on the stone’s surface:
1. Ancient Greek
2. Ancient Demotic (an Egyptian language mainly used in trade) and
3. The Egyptian hieroglyphs
Scholars cracked the ancient Greek script pretty easily and as a result, compared that to the Demotic section. The third language, however, remained a mystery.
This all changed when Napoleon’s conquest campaigns in Egypt and Syria failed. Due to repeated defeats by the British, Napoleon was forced to sign the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801 which meant the French had to give up their most valuable archaeological treasures - including the Rosetta Stone - to the British.
The Rosetta Stone was sent to England via ship, where it arrived at Portsmouth in February 1802. It was then transported to London and held at the British Museum.
In 1814, an English scholar (Thomas Young) who conducted an extensive study on the stone scripts yielded exciting results. He identified several letters of the Demotic alphabet that correspond to the hieroglyphic characters. As a result, Young translated 86 symbols of the ancient hieroglyphic language into both Greek and Demotic language.
Around the same time, Jean Francois Champollion, a French scholar, made comparable advances in understanding the third script. Young and Champollion wrote letters to one another and shared their findings. This collaboration led to the construction of an entire phonetic alphabet of hieroglyphs! Crazy right?
When asked how they were able to achieve this, the scholars revealed that they assessed other ancient Egyptian texts and more or less deciphered the ancient Egyptian grammar. Later that year, these two scholars published their first work on hieroglyphs which meant that it was now possible to venture into the unknown, unreadable ancient Egyptian texts gaining an insightful understanding of their ways of life.
To this day, Archaeologists are using the translation and studies of the Rosetta stone to further understand dynasties that existed eons before the modern world came into existence.
Flashback to 2018, when I started my career as an auditor associate at KPMG. The Audit profession required me to constantly look into numbers, trying to pick up trends that lead to the story behind the numbers.
For me, numbers have always been like hieroglyphics. They are basically symbols that have been used for generations to carry different stories which can only be uncovered by a meticulous understanding of the context they carry.
As an auditor, it is standard practice to dive deep into understanding the business or function of your client so you can provide a valid opinion on whether the numbers in their financial statements are factually corrected and free from errors. Audit essentially brings the numbers’ story to life.
The Audit practice to me is very much like the Rosetta Stone, its principles hold the key to uncovering hidden stories which at the end of the day help organizations improve their operations, unlocking hidden potential and enabling them to pivot for future success. The audit profession, when used correctly, helps leaders pick a winning strategy every time.
I know what you are thinking: “Why should I care? I am not an auditor”.
Well, my friend, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In this article, I intend to share with you 5 lessons that I picked up in my 4 years of audit work which I believe can help you make better, well-informed decisions, that propel you to the next level.
I believe that whoever takes these lessons to heart will develop formidable discipline and a diverse understanding of the world around them. This will inevitability allow them to constantly pick the right strategy in their personal and professional careers.
Now, let’s Dive…
What it is: Simply put, Independence means being free from any external influence that may impair your opinion or your ability to carry out your task.
For Example: Say you are intimidated by your client not to report a certain significant audit finding because doing so will lead you to lose your contract with them. Or your coworker has made a great error but since you have close family ties with him or her you opt not to report the issue to your line manager. These scenarios are typical examples of where independence could be lacking.
Why is it relevant: I was taught early on in my career about the importance of being independent both in mind and in appearance.
It is important for you to set boundaries in your personal and professional life. For you to make objective decisions, you must be able to free yourself from external influences that could potentially hold you back from achieving something that is well within your reach.
What it is: If something warrants your attention or influences your decision then we consider that to be material. The audit practice requires you to focus your resources (time, effort etc.) on things that really matter and dedicate fewer resources to those that aren’t as important. An auditor will only audit sections which have high materiality and do less work in those sections with low materiality.
“Auditors never audit everything!”
It is also important to understand that the level of materiality differs from one person/client to the next. What might be very important to you, doesn’t necessarily have to be an important priority to me.
For example: cooking utensils are quite material to Mama Ntilie, if she loses one or two Sufurias, that’s a big problem for her. The same can’t be said for a large multinational cooperation, which would consider such items “too small to matter”
Why is it relevant: To be able to constantly pick a winning strategy, it is paramount that you separate what does vs. what doesn’t matter.
“What would you say is material to you?”
Once you have figured that part, it would be worthwhile spending the majority of your time concentrating on the things that are “material”, because those are the ones that truly matter to you. You can then look at the other less pressing items after you have worked on the ones with a higher priority.
3. KYCs (CEACs, World Checks and Other Due Diligence)
What it is: KYC simply stands for Know Your Client, which are standard background checks that auditors do to basically know the clients before they work with them.
Before engaging any client, I and my audit manager would spend a considerable amount of time reviewing the client’s information. What do they do? Is their practice legal? Are there any statutory rules to abide by? Are we independent? etc.
Only by answering these questions and performing appropriate procedures, can we reasonably proceed with working with the client. I have had instances where we declined to work with a specific top-tier client on the grounds of their unlawful practice that came out of performing KYC procedures.
Why is it relevant: My real question to you here is “Do you perform KYC well?” We work with people, we collaborate with family members even in business dealings. Even in your personal life, you do date and eventually expect to marry at some point.
“How well do you know them?”
Are they the right people to work/collaborate with? Have you considered the terms of your collaboration? These questions and many more are crucial when dealing with people. KYC are very important as the right people drive the right strategy.
4. Planning Analytics
What it is: Before diving into the numbers head firsts, Auditors spend a considerable amount of time planning. All the planning is put together in a document called Planning Analytics.
This document details such as the Materiality of the client, Significant and non-significant accounts, the audit timeline and % movements from prior periods. These details are key in informing the audit approach which is to be taken to successfully complete the audit.
Why is it relevant: “Do you have a planning analytic document for your life?” Are you aware of what you want and what means you can use to get there? What plans do you have against stringent resources that are available?
It is key to develop a type of Planning Analytics for your life. You can make it as simple as you can just for you to constantly think things through before you dive nose-first into a specific project/task.
5. WCGWs and Relevant Controls
What it is: WCGWs stand for “What Could Go Wrong” which are essentially those things that might go wrong within a specific area of the business. Paying the supplier twice due to duplicated invoices or Issuing an unapproved cash disbursement are typical examples of WCGW in the finance department.
Relevant Controls are the processes or procedures that are in place to prevent, detect and possibly correct the WCGWs. A good example is the approval process for all invoices could identify duplication of invoices. Relevant controls help organizations reduce the number of errors that happen in daily operations.
Why is it relevant: What are the WCGWs in your personal/professional life? And more importantly, what relevant controls exist to help you counter those WCGWs? Don’t take me wrong, we are not expected to be angels but rather thinking with this mindset will help you predict challenges and solve them guaranteeing your strategic success.
Take some time to properly think about your life, identify what your goals are and what controls you need to keep in place so as to guarantee your success.
It is my sincere hope that some of these lessons will help you in your personal and professional life. I also hope that now at least, you will know what the Rosetta Stone is all about 😉!
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