Tag Archives: motivate

Over My Shoulder

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I was in high school before I realized how much I love history. Even though I read many historical adventures and would get so caught up in stories that I would find myself being moved in ways movies and television could, I never attached that excitement to any history I ever learnt in school. There was a separation of story and history until I ended up with a history teacher who was so gifted at bringing history to life that I didn’t even really feel as though I was in class.

What has taken a while to sink in is that history is not just about other people’s stories and what they might mean, but it is also about my own stories (along with people around me) and how what I have done, thought and felt in the past is something that I should not only want to record, remember and recognize but also find importance in. In 2013, I started a new approach to beginning my year. Since then, I have given my year a theme, encapsulated in three words. In order to better think on what I would like to make as my theme for next year, looking back at where I have been is invaluable. So, I am taking a moment to take a look at how 2016 went – to learn, to appreciate and to give myself a pat on the back where needed.

Throughout my year, I continued to be amazed by and grateful for the people I crossed paths with – friends, strangers and those in between. It may have been someone telling me not to give up at moments when the thought was threatening to become action. It may have been someone sharing words of wisdom that kept me and my fear, anger or ego acting out irrationally.

In 2016:

  • I moved to a new neighborhood. This was a big deal as I had lived in the same neighborhood for 16 years (my husband had been there for 20), we had many friends that lived conveniently close and more amenities than we knew what to do with. I miss it all AND I am excited about our new path forward.
  • A college friend invited me to take cello lessons with her and another friends and I said yes. We love it – we dream big and take small steps every week toward living those dreams. I know those around us, who get to hear us practicing, hope that we live those dreams sooner rather than later.
  • I was accepted into New York Community Trust Leadership Fellows, a program in nonprofit leadership that has both expanded my mind and exposed me to some truly inspiring, passionate and motivating people and organizations.
  • I had great conversations with high school students, college students and fellow professionals about forensic accounting, careers in accounting and working to do what we love, even when we have doubts about it.
  • I was part of a very exciting launch of the New York State Society of  CPAs Women’s Initiative and, at the end of the year, I became the Chair of the NYSSCPA Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Through the efforts and enthusiasm of my colleagues and the NYSSCPA, I am fortunate to be involved with such important initiatives and committees.
  • I have seen friends stand up for what they believe is right; I have experienced my communities come together in ways that renew my belief in humanity; I have applauded the sheer awesomeness of my people!

The night of 31 December 2016 turned out to be an incredibly windy one. My husband and I had planned on walking around the neighborhood, discovering the various New Year’s Eve celebrations in our new space. However, gale force winds led to a change of plan (isn’t that how life works?) We made dinner and spent the evening talking, laughing and watching various celebrations on television. I made sure to dance before and after midnight

Growing up, my father gave me a diary for Christmas, every year. I was always excited to get mine and, even as I moved away for college and started living away from home, I still got my diary. In yet another chapter of – Parents are Sneaky and Wise – I have discovered the power and importance of being able to look back and how much that helps in looking forward. So, farewell 2016! I am now turning my head to look ahead to 2017. Hello!

 

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2015! Three Years, Three Words…

James Petrozzello

James Petrozzello

Three years ago, I was inspired by Tom Hood, by way of Chris Brogan. As someone who gave up on New Year’s resolutions years ago, partly because I was not very good at keeping them, partly because I would change my mind about them and partly because I would often lose track of where I had written them down, I found power in the concept of Three Words. I embraced the magic and power of three during my lessons in Latin and in rhetoric. I have found my three words a great theme song that plays in my head throughout the year. They pop up in conversations, in my planning and often at unexpected, random moments. And this year, the magical and powerful three are Receptive, Synergy, and Service.

Receptive: This year, for Christmas, I gave my husband a Bluetooth headset. Ever since I came across my first Bluetooth headset, I have hated those things. People walk around with those things constantly plugged in an ear and it always seems to me that they are only giving you a small piece of their attention and are, essentially, waiting for something more interesting and important to beep in their ear. I have often felt as though people wear the headsets to make themselves feel important and busy. Around Christmas, when my husband mentioned that he wanted one, I started thinking about the Bluetooth headset in a different way. He spends a lot of time travelling and alone in an office. It makes sense that, should he wish to answer the phone, it would make sense to be able to do this and still be able to use both his hands. He has promised to put it in his ear only when he needs it and to not wear it when we are together. Beyond me and my relationship with the Bluetooth headset, I am realizing more and more, how essential it is to success and happiness to be receptive to new (and old) concepts and ideas. At work and as a part of the various boards and committees that I serve on, I have discovered how essential it is to listen to the opinions of others and process them before concluding how I feel about a situation or idea. At times, the ideas of others are better than anything that I had considered; other times, after taking their opinions into consideration, we can come up with a great plan or compromise. In order to continue the spirit of my words from last year, Transform, Pursue and Collaborate, being receptive is key.

Synergy: Last year, one of my words was collaborate. There is the saying, no man is an island, and I have found it to be true. I have lived and learnt in many places and my world and experiences have been touched by an incredible spectrum of people. All this has contributed to who and what I am today. Collaboration is so very much of getting things done but, this year, I want to hone in on synergy. I want to really think about the wonderful notion of how one plus one can equal more than two (sometimes significantly so). So collaboration will not be solely for the purpose of doing things together; to do this without thinking about how to best leverage the power of collaboration can be wasteful, frustrating and diminish the contributions of each party. I want to be mindful of the concept of synergy and ask myself, often, how can we do this so that what we achieve together is greater than what we could achieve acting alone.

Service: I have talked before about the CPA’s obligation to “serve the public trust, honor the public interest, and demonstrate a commitment to professionalism.” As a forensic CPA, this is a very important aspect of our profession. Often there are pressures upon us and, it is at times like this, that it is necessary to act with integrity, in order to honor our obligation to the public and to our profession. As a member of various committees of my State Society of CPAs and the American Institute of CPAs, and as I prepare to take over the presidency of our chapter, I, along with my fellow members must always keep in mind that our goal is to serve the public, our members and our profession with the work that we do.

A couple of years ago, my husband, James, and I traveled to Berlin for a wedding. I had often told him how much I love karaoke and so, when we heard about Bearpit Karaoke, we had to find it. The place was packed and the singers were excellent. My husband encouraged me to put my name down to sing. After hearing the caliber of singers, and after seeing how many people were in attendance (a dauntingly large crowd), I hesitated and tried to make excuses. He finally convinced me and I put my name on a long list. I was told that I probably would not get a chance to sing as many people were ahead of me and they were shutting down soon. I was pretty okay with that – it was enough for me to have been part of the crowd and to almost get a chance to sing. At six o’clock, the time the karaoke was to end, we were just walking away when I heard my name being called. I was nervous and James whipped out his camera. As I got onto the stage and introduced myself and the song I had chosen, Fame, an old man in the crowd caught my eye and gave me a thumbs up. As I sang, the crowd joined in for the chorus and a little kid ambled onto the stage. When I had moments of panic, I looked at him and took courage from his cute face, gazing up at me. Because I chose to be receptive to the idea of singing in front of this crowd, I found that I added a joy to our day that was magnified by our coming together in happiness. And, of course, what a gift and public service this Bearpit Karaoke is. If you are in Berlin, go and get yourself some joy.

The spirit of my words
From 2013: Change, Discover and Motivate
From 2014: Transform, Pursue and Collaborate
carry on and to that spirit I add my three for 2015
Receptive, Synergy and Service.

What are your three words will bring you magic and power this year?

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In My Time…

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I have known my mother all my life so, at this point, I should not be surprised by anything she does. Yet, just about every time we spend time together, which is nowhere near as much as I would like, she tends to both surprise and impress me. This time it was as we were driving her to our home from the airport. She had been visiting my brother and was now chatting on the phone with a college friend of hers who lives in Connecticut. We overheard her congratulate him on his new job. “I saw the news on LinkedIn,” she explained to him. LinkedIn! I knew my mother had a LinkedIn profile but I had no idea that my mother actually used LinkedIn. After she got off the phone we quizzed her about her LinkedIn use and discovered that she is quite active in social media. It got me thinking about a piece I wrote on social media: Use Social Media, Don’t Let It Use You.

My mother is an amazing example of this maxim and she did not even need an AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services conference to understand the power and usefulness of social media. My mother is active on LinkedIn and on Facebook, making checking on these sites part of her daily routine. She has perfected her routine so that social media does not become a time suck. She is in and out before we realize it and yet, she comes away with knowledge about what her connections are up to and she has also interacted with several people in her network. Often, she uses YouTube to learn more about taking care of her orchids, a big passion of hers. I have heard my mother recommend that others seek information from various social media sources, telling them how helpful those resources have been for her. Taking her own advice, while she was visiting with us, she created a profile on Pinterest to help easily expand her access to knitting and crochet projects, she explored Instagram and became curious about Twitter.

What makes her embrace of social media  all the more surprising, for me, is that, for the last ten years, my mother is a farmer who lives just outside Gweru, the fifth largest city in Zimbabwe. Because she is out of the city, her access to fast and reliable internet can be challenging. In addition to this. my mother tended to use her computer as a fancy calculator and word processor. Now she uses Dropbox to store her large files in an easily accessible space and shares files quickly and efficiently, like a pro. When she sees someone using social media in a way she has not yet discovered, she asks questions, takes instructions and uses what she has learned. She has told me that she used to be afraid that something would go wrong and that she might break something by pressing the incorrect button. However, she has now found that it is sometimes fun to mess up and it is simpler than she imagined to rectify an error. An added bonus is that, at times, messing up can help her find a new and improved way to use social media.

During her visit, my mother would start many stories with the words, “in my time”. She would exclaim about how things have changed and, though she had happy memories about those days, she was also always willing to have new experiences. “I used to think, what can the internet and all this technology really do for me at this point,” she told me, “but now I see that there are so many things I can do better and faster and more easily. I can find so many things and I can learn about anything!” My mother has inspired me to continue my explorations in social media, while keeping in mind the first rule of social media, “don’ t say anything you wouldn’t say to your mother” because, in my case, my mother may very well be taking note. We are both seeing that this too is our time and we are making the most of it.

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2014…. New Year, Three Words

ImageLast year was the first year that I officially gave my year a theme song, so to speak. Via Tom Hood, social media, learning and sticky note aficionado, I learned about Chris Brogan and the concept of Three Words. When I studied Latin, in high school, we were taught about the magic of the number three – fewer than three can seem too little and more than three can feel like too much. Three is a number that just works. Veni, Vidi, Vici. Signed, Sealed, Delivered. And my words – Transform, Pursue, Collaborate.

Transform: On the Saturday before Superbowl in 2011, I went to the emergency room with a stomach ache. Who lives that life? The life where your stomach packs in before the party even begins. My then boyfriend and I were about to have our first Superbowl Party – the themed cake had been ordered, we were due to pick up our 6-foot long sandwich and the guests were coming. Instead I ended up spending that Sunday and a few more days in a hospital room. While I was there, my aunt came to visit and brought me a beautiful flowering plant. I brought it home, the flowers died and all that remained were the leaves.

As 2013 neared its end, my now husband and I talked about making big changes to our lives, to our work, to our play. Sometimes we find our lives take unexpected turns, sometimes we get busy and never get around to recalibrating and sometimes we lose track of our wants and desires. We decided that we were going to dedicate ourselves to rediscovering our loves and transforming our lives accordingly. This morning, on New Year’s Day, I awoke to find a flower blooming on the hospital plant. Three years of nothing but leaves, but it seems my plant has decided to transform as well.

Pursue: Sometimes there is nothing scarier than a goal. What happens if you don’t attain it? No one wants to be a failure; failure sucks. This fear of failure is incredibly good at keeping us in a state of atrophy, a comfort zone of sameness. This fear of failure can keep us from evolving and it can keep us from fulfilling our goals. In November 2013, I ran the New York Marathon. Watching runners pass my block as they ran the New York Marathon is the reason that I started running distances further than three miles. Back then and since, there have been many moments when I have wondered whether or not I could run 26.2 miles. Several years in a row, I would start training for the marathon and experience a setback that kept me from running the marathon. During the heatwave of 2013, I found myself unable to make it through 12 miles and I was convinced that there was no way I would make it through 26.2. And with all of that going on, I still aspired to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3 hours and 45 minutes. I set this goal, even though the only other marathon I had run, in 2008, I had run in 4 hours and 50 minutes. In 2013, I did get to run the New York Marathon and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I ran the New York Marathon in 3 hours and 51 minutes, short of my 3:45 goal and it was still amazing. Though I did not attain my 3:45 goal, I found that I achieved many things I did not even know I was aiming for. More than anything, I discovered how wonderful it is to have goals and to pursue them. Even if things don’t turn out the way you hope, you tend to end up with things turning out in fantastic new ways that you may not have imagined. In 2014, I plan to pursue goals and dreams – I may not pursue them fearlessly but I plan to persevere, even through fear.

Collaborate: Nothing that I do of any substance can I say I have done alone. There is invariably a support team of one kind or another. I have people that believe that I can and I have people that will help do what I cannot. I have people who will speak sense to me when I am being irrational and I have people who will urge me to be crazy when I am being too rational. I have strangers who smile and give me support and I have friends and family who do the same. It is easy to take this for granted and to perhaps believe that I can be a one-woman superhero. I plan to remain mindful of the power of synergy, the strength of the network and the force of the team.

Last year my words were Change, Discover and Motivate. This year, the theme song is different – Transform, Pursue, Collaborate – but the music is still thumping. 2014 will be blooming awesome!

What are your 3 words?

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Run This Town

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I ran the NYC Marathon on November 3rd. I could go into all kinds of details about how I trained, how I tapered and how else I prepared for that day. Seriously, I could. It appears I have an endless capacity to talk marathon. I could tell you about the many obstacles I had to overcome to get to run the marathon and how, instead of taking those obstacles as divine signs that I was not meant to run the marathon, my determination was only strengthened. There are stories to tell about how, in addition to this being my first New York Marathon, it was also the first time I rode the Staten Island Ferry, even though I have lived in New York City since 2000. It was the first time I set food on Staten Island, though I have driven through it, on my way to New Jersey, countless times. It was also the first time I have run a race that are started by a cannon blast, followed by Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York”. I struck up conversations with a man who has run the NYC marathon 27 times and several other people for whom, like me, this was their first time. While waiting for the race to begin or while being herded out of Central Park when the race was over, each time standing among more people than I imagined, I chatted with a man from Ireland whom, after running a marathon at 25 and giving it up, had come back, 30 years later, to run a faster marathon at 55 than he had at 25. I struck up a conversation with a man from Guatemala who seemed to be running the world – Tokyo was next, after Buenos Aires, Berlin and New York, to name a few. I happened upon two of my running classmates and we hung out at the start line and set out together, very excitedly. I could write a book about Sunday that I would find absolutely gripping and that most people would yawn and think – why would you do that?

That’s a question that I am asked often. I was asked this when I showed up at work with skin missing from my collarbone because an errant zipper rubbed it off during a three hour run. It’s a question that I was asked after people found out that I was running a marathon and I would win only if my husband tripped up the thousands of people ahead of me. Yes. Thousands. And yet, even as I was asked, I continued to train hard and then run a marathon. When I walked down to the end of my block, in 2001, and watched the marathoners running by, I was blown away. As a regular runner of three miles at a time, standing between miles six and seven, I wondered what kind of fitness and genetic gift it took for a human being to run 26.2 miles. I was already impressed that they had completed six miles already. Over time, though, I found that running long distance begins with the belief that it is possible, and the will to work toward achieving that goal. Others may not understand what what I am doing or why I am doing it – I may not fully understand it myself – but there I am, doing it.

In the similar, though much less noble manner, all a fraudster needs is the will and drive to commit fraud, or whatever he or she wishes to call the pressure to defraud. With the opportunity to steal, they will view the entity they are dealing with and if they have the belief that they can do it and get away with it, they will go for it. And, in the same way that crazy runners rationalize running obscene distance after obscene distance, losing toenails, running great races and absolutely miserable ones, so too do fraudsters find ways to rationalize their crime. These reasons will run the gamut from, “I work hard and they don’t pay me enough for it,” to “I’ll pay it back; it’s just a loan,” and “I can, so why not?”

Humans will do unbelievable things be they incredibly inspiring things like running for 26.2 miles, sometimes at a 5 minute mile pace, sometimes at a 10 minute mile, and sometimes on prosthetic limbs. Human beings will also do unbelievably heinous things like running massive Ponzi schemes, embezzling from a nonprofit or just selling inside information. People will surprise you with their audacity, their determination and their will to succeed. Good or bad, people are really good at being unbelievable.

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You Better Think

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I just spent the last two weeks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. I was over there to have a wedding and then go on honeymoon. Before I left the United States, I decided that I would get a prepaid line in Zimbabwe, with roaming capabilities in Mozambique. In this way. I would have a way to communicate while traveling. We went in to the phone store to purchase a line and air time and that, in and of itself, was a tale to tell. We came out of the store with almost no idea what we had. After telling the cashier in the phone store what we wanted to use our line for, she suggested that we buy $20 in air time and sent us on our way. We had no idea how much time we could spend on the phone, what the roaming rates would be while we were in Mozambique and we had no clue what was going on with our data. As a long time cellphone user, I was pretty sure that I could figure it all out.

Well, it turns out that sometimes a new system can be more complicated than one can imagine. I realized, pretty quickly, that I would have done well to have received an instruction manual or some basic training. I would have tried to search for information online, except I had no idea how to activate my data. After figuring out how to convert some of my air time minutes into data, I made a call to customer service to receive instructions on how to actually activate data on my phone. After a second call, I actually got data to work but I had no idea how to track my data use, how much data I was using or how much data I had left to use. The data availability was very erratic; sometimes I had it and then, randomly, it would be gone. When I asked a friend, who has recently moved to Zimbabwe, how it all worked he said that he couldn’t understand any of it. So I decided to enjoy my vacation, appreciate any data I did get and not sweat the stretches of time when I had no data at all.

Because we were moving around a lot, we also had very limited access to wi-fi. As a result, we spent a very lo-tech fortnight. Because I could not always get the internet to work, I was never able to Google anything. I was forced to remember what I had learnt about something or to perhaps wonder whether I had learnt it at all. It turns out that the people we spent time with also had a very different relationship with the internet than I have been accustomed to. Not once during the two weeks we were in Southern Africa did a person consult Google during a discussion. Conversations were very interesting – a group of five people could end up with five very different recollections of an event – what happened, who was involved, what the outcome was and what was behind the action. These conversations would be fascinating because as a listener, I would have to decide, all by myself, what to believe. Without access to the convenience of an internet search, I had to think things through and choose whether to be analytical or emotional when coming to some conclusions (or at least how to balance my approach). It was fun and refreshing to give my brain this workout and it also led to some very exciting and, sometimes, very funny conversations.

Though I return to my easy (and, at times, lazy) access to internet information, I hope that I do not forget the lessons of my brain exercise. I really do appreciate the reminder that it is important to unplug at times and take time to listen, think and work things out. Having technology is incredibly useful and beneficial but one must not depend on technology at the expense of processing information and reaching conclusions using our brains. This is a vital thing to remember, especially is this age of big data. Having a lot of data and not knowing how to use it, what questions to ask of it or what it all really means is as useful as not having any information at all – at times it may even be more dangerous.

I am very happy to be able to get data at the touch of a button but I am also glad to be reminded to use my head more, ask questions and consider my possible answers.

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Three Words…

Image… and they aren’t “Happy New Year”

By way of Tom Hood over at the MACPA, I learnt about Chris Brogan and his concept of Three Words. I live a life of an endless to do list and this can lead to a very scattered way of thinking or feelings of failure as,no matter how much I do, there is always so much more to get done. I read both pieces and was struck by what a great idea this was. Having three words gives a theme to the year, so to speak, the essence of what is going to be important in the year to come. Almost like a theme song to the year – a lot will happen during the year but throughout these three words will give the mood.

Change: We live in a fast-paced, ever changing world. It can be very easy to feel overwhelmed and intimidated by it all and, as a result, resist change by clinging to the familiar. I aim to embrace change and not be swept up by it. This will demand a bravery or fearlessness (or, perhaps a combination of the two). Instead of being changed, I plan on being the change. This will mean doing new things and not being afraid to fail. I hope this means learning new things like coding, advanced techniques in excel and skiing.

Discover: As I step outside my comfort zone, I look forward to a year of discovery. Through discovery will come growth and creativity. As a kid, I remember an aunt telling me that she had never met anyone who asked as many questions as I did. I am not going to be afraid to ask a lot of questions – this is how you learn a lot of things. I am going to discover how to use things like Hootsuite and Evernote (in an effective way). I am going to try out new restaurants, new cities and, hopefully, new countries. I will delve deeper into this financial forensics thing – I shall be the Quincy of Forensic Accounting.

Motivate: Last year, encouraged by a friend, I joined a running class. The drill, during our second class, was to run out for 20 minutes, turn around and run back in a little less than 20 minutes. I ended up running next to a woman who I felt had a good pace. I decided that I would be good if I just stuck with her. At moments when I felt I was flagging, seeing her keep up her pace pushed me to do the same. At the end of the run, I turned to her to thank her for keeping me going. At the same time, she did the same. Toward the end of the class, she asked me to be a rabbit for her, to help her attain her goal time for a half marathon that I was not running. I was honoured that she felt that I could help her reach her goal. During the race I was both nervous and excited. I had to maintain a pace that she could handle and, at the same time make sure she was running quickly enough to make her time. I also had to motivate her to keep going and keep her from wanting to strangle me. As she crossed the finish line with time to spare, I think I was happier than I have been after a race that I have run. Later in the year, I had to go in to hospital for a few days and she came to visit me with a gift in hand – a soft toy rabbit. Yesterday I signed up for another running class (my new friend is in the class too) and we ended up running with a group of new inspiring running buddies. This year I intend to maximise the power of motivation; it is far more powerful than I can imagine. It is to be a year to motivate, and be motivated.

I am sure that, yet again, it will also be a year full of running stories.

I should put my three words – change, discover, motivate – to music so it can be a theme song I can play as I do this 2013 thing.

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