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Inspiration My Two Cents

Living the Dream

“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.” As we celebrate Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday and legacy, I pulled up some of his quotes. His Dream Speech is one we know and hear but, as is the case with people, he was a lot more than one moment. Dr. King’s commitment to service and justice are examples to live by.

When Dr. King was alive, he was not always popular but he kept on because, as he said, “When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. ” Doing what he felt was right was often very hard for Dr. King. When I say hard, I don’t mean hard like when someone, like me, who is not a morning person, wakes up before the chickens in order to get my morning run in before my workday. I mean hard like if you decide to stand up for what is just, it may lead to the imprisonment, harm, or death of you and maybe even some of your loved ones. Dr. King, and those who he worked with, made unimaginable sacrifices in the service of others.

Sometimes, the thought of action can be so overwhelming that it keeps you in the thinking (and maybe watching videos about it) phase. When I first started running long distances, the furthest I had run was around four miles and I was spent at the end of those miles. Even though I watched New York Marathoners run past my block and they looked like regular folk, I believed they must be exceptional beings because, as far as I was concerned, regular folk couldn’t possibly run further than five miles without collapsing. I met a woman who urged me to start with trying to complete a 10k race and see how that went. Then she suggested a half marathon. You should have seen me at the end of that half marathon! You’d think I had found the answer to all life’s problems, that’s how elated I was. I then decided to tackle the marathon. As I had conquered each mile, I believed more and more that regular old me could be one of those running down Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, on my way to completing the New York Marathon. It took the little things to get to the greatness of the marathon. To get to that though, I had to inch from under the massive shadow of intimidation and inch slowly to 26.2 miles. It wasn’t always steps forward; I have lost count of how many times injury and illness have taken me back to mile one. However, I do know now that not even trying is so much worse.

Dr. King knew that service is not an easy thing to dive into and often we are so overwhelmed by all that needs to be done that we end up doing nothing. We don’t have to save the world all on our own. If we all do what we can, together we can do amazing things. In the words of Dr. King, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Even during this pandemic, there are opportunities every day to serve and you don’t even have to figure it all out on your own. Organizations such as Americorps can help link you up with opportunities and there is an incredible range of ways in which you can serve, from sending card and letters to those who feel alone, to donating to food and clothing drives. You can also welcome and encourage service in others. When someone does something good for you, even if you don’t need it, show your appreciation and resolve to pay it forward. When someone holds a door open for you, it’s not because they think you don’t know how to open a door, it is a way of showing, in a small way, that they see you and want to do a nice thing for you. That a great thing. Don’t limit yourself to just the one day. May the National Day of Service be a reminder of the value of serving every day. Each of our small acts will bring positive change.

There are books, films, a podcasts about Martin Luther King Jr. I wouldn’t know where to start in recommendations. What I can say is that each time read, watch, or listen to something on Dr. King, I learn something new. I learn more about him, about the Civil Rights movement, and about those around him. Part of the Civil Rights movement is path to a place where more voices are heard and valued, and one marvelous gift that comes with hearing more voices is that we get to see and learn history through different sets of eyes. There is the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Each blind man felt a different part of the elephant and came away believing that they knew what an elephant was. They argued with each other, each believing that they knew the elephant. Yet, the full picture of the elephant could only come through their collective knowledge. So take the time to find a new facet of the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr. and understand not only the impact of the good he did but also the remarkable challenges he faced throughout his life to his early passing. Celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right”.

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In The News Inspiration My Two Cents Running

Cheating Mysteries

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When I first started running long distance, my goal was to run the New York Marathon. After I completed the Chicago Marathon, things changed a little. Of course I still held my breath every year, hoping to make it into the New York Marathon. But I also had another distant dream – qualifying for the Boston Marathon. It was a distant dream because I would need to run a qualifying time in order to get into Boston and my pace at that time was nowhere near one that would get me into Boston. Over the last few years, my pace has improved and qualifying for Boston has become a more attainable dream. Over the years, I have also come to know more runners and have found that many of us aspire to qualify. I know I am always in awe of a person who has qualified for Boston – it is no mean feat.

With the line of work that I am in, I should not have been surprised, but I was, when I read a recent Runner’s World piece about people who cheat to get into the Boston Marathon. I wanted to run the New York Marathon because I was inspired by the runners who ran past my block, the runners who would touch all five boroughs that make up the city that I call home. I enjoy running races in cities and towns that I have never been to, as I find it a great way to visit and discover new places. When I think about Boston, I don’t necessarily think about running the race itself. The power of Boston, for me and for many that I speak with is in what it takes to qualify. That is the challenge. So, when I read about people who cheated by getting someone else to run a qualifying time in their place, or by cutting a course, I was baffled. Where is the joy in telling someone that you achieved something that you didn’t or that you had someone achieve on your behalf? When I speak with fellow runners, I tend to speak with like-minded people who are just as baffled as I am.

This article reminded me that just because one cannot understand the motivations of a cheater, it does not mean that the cheating will not happen. The fact that many of us cannot understand this motivation is exactly what those that cheat bank on. If no one can imagine how or why someone would fake qualifying for the Boston Marathon, the chances are high that a person will get away with faking in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This is something that we all should be mindful of, beyond the realms of the Boston Marathon. Way too often, a business owner or manager will forgo instituting checks and balances in their company, because that business owner can’t imagine that anyone that works for them could be the kind of person that would defraud them.

It is important to take steps to keep from being blindsided by your world view. Precisely because you can’t imagine how a person could behave in a fraudulent manner is why you should seek out the services of a forensic accountant, whose job it is to both imagine how a person could defraud you and how to prevent and detect such actions. We all hope that people will be honest, but it is a sad truth that for various reasons, people will cheat. In the context of the Boston Marathon, perhaps some people feel that they are so close to a qualifying time that a little cheat is not such a bad thing. Maybe some people hunger for praise, even if they have not earned it. Maybe some people just don’t think it is a big deal to cheat in order to get into Boston and see it as a victimless crime. In the context of a business, some people may face personal pressures that they feel push them to fraud. Some people may feel that they are not sufficiently appreciated by their employer and may, therefore, feel justified in taking from that employer. No one is immune from the pressures or motivations that lead to fraud, but what we can do is take steps to make it as difficult as possible to be defrauded.

 

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Inspiration My Two Cents

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.