Go Getter of the Week : Stefaan Engels

If you haven’t heard of Stefaan Engels, you are missing out on one of the most remarkable stories I have come across in a long long time. Here is a guy who defied odds, disobeyed doctors, and achieved seemingly impossible feats, repeatedly. Who is he?

He just set the record for most marathons run in a year. Akinori Kusuda, holder of the previous record, ran 52 consecutive marathons at age 65 in 2009. (That is equally remarkable by the way.) Our man Stefaan ran a marathon a day for a year. That is 365 marathons, or one a day, or running 26.2 miles every 24 hours. Damn.

He set the record for most marathons run in a year. What makes this story better is that doctors told him not to compete in taxing aerobic activity due to an asthma condition when he was younger.

Did I mention he was 49? 49 years old and plugging away. Day after day, marathon after marathon. Amazing. His mental fortitude is more impressive than his physical feat. I’m sure there were moments (on say the 165th day and 165th marathon) where he got out of bed, his legs aching, body killing, head pounding, and he just had to grin and bear it and get it done. The mental side of this accomplishment is much more admirable than what his legs accomplished.

If an asthmatic 49 year old can run a marathon a day, then surely, you, reading this can do it. It just takes an unbreakable mindset and determination that could cut a diamond.

Go Getter of the week – Stefaan Engels

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Empire State Building Run-up Recap

This past Tuesday was the Empire State Building Stair Run. A mere 1,576 steps totaling 86 steps was what lied ahead.

I took part in the corporate challenge wave where 100 runners ran for the benefit of the Mulitple Myeloma Foundation (MMRF). Each of us were due to fundraise at least $2,500 and the MMRF’s goal was to raise over $250,000.

There were 100 runners in this wave versus 300 runners in the second wave. Long story short, I ended up winning the Corporate Challenge with a time of 13minutes 37 seconds. The winner of the other wave (Thomas Dold) won with a time of 10minutes and 10 seconds (which puts my time to shame). I wanted to challenge him to a 1v1 duel but he did not accept (or respond for that matter).

The run-up was a lot of fun. Sure it was tough (but as opposed to the Ironman, it was short). At times your lungs hurt more than your legs. Other times, your legs feel like they are numb and you are not sure if you will make the next step or if you will fall backward.

There is surely technique involved (which Tom surely has and I most likely did not – thanks for sharing Tom) as well as knowing how to pace yourself and when to use up your reserves. Tommy does this well as normally each race he collapses as he crosses over the finish line (assuming its not a move seeking sympathy)

Alright, back on topic, the race was a huge success for the foundation. They hit their goal of $250,000 (I think $274,000 was the final count) which is fantastic. For me, sure it was fun but the cause is more important. Anyone anywhere fighting cancer or being a go-getter for the benefit of another is something I applaud.

New York is the greatest city in the world with the greatest people in the world but there are a lot of people who need help. Komen NYC does that, the MMRF does that, Livestrong does that. Lets all stop wasting time and start making a difference.

Find 1 hour a week to give back to your local community. Anyone who says they do not have an hour out of 168 is lying, lazy, or sleeps too much.

BK

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Ping Pong for the Cure Recap

The inaugural Ping Pong for the Cure was a resounding success with close to 200 people attending. It was a great event for a great cause and I’m very grateful for those of you who attended and supported the event. I think we’ll hit my goal of $10,000 but I have to do one final count.

CBS filmed the event and the piece ran this morning: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/category/video-on-demand-news/?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=5518066&flvUri&partnerclipid

If you would still like to donate, please visit http://www.komennyc.org/pingpong

Also, I will be putting the signed USA Men’s National Team Jersey, New York Red Bulls Jersey, and signed hockey jersey up online for online auction. More details will follow.

I want to especially thank Aly, Jay, Diane, Kristina, Nick, Karen, and Dustin for all their help and support.

Thank you very much again for all those who attended and helped put this together.
BK

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College

I’ve spoken before about the striking differences in pay and employment opportunities one receives upon finishing a 4year college. I’m a big proponent of higher education degrees – the more the merrier (just like hot girls at a party, keep ’em coming).

However, there is a huge problem at hand. College is becoming increasingly more important as the world becomes increasingly more globalized but the discrepancy between the cost of college and a family’s income is widening.

The NY Times states that, “Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.”

The speed at which college costs are increasing is triple that of familial income. Families can’t keep up and therefore have to lever up. Students have no choice to take out loans and willingly succumb to a huge debt burden to get the degree.

This is a huge problem. Not only because more and more students “lever up” but because more and more students are having trouble finding jobs after graduating from these highly expensive highly competitive universities. It is one thing to go $150,000 underwater and be relatively assured that a job is waiting for you, it’s a completely different thing to go $150,000 in the red and search the classified section week in and week out. And this all assumes one qualifies for loans (many lower income families may not even have access to this source of funding).

Something has got to give. At some point, people will either decide to not go to college as the costs outweigh the benefits (the worst case scenario), the government will step in to provide more subsidized loans (that charge the student no interest throughout college and perhaps until one secures employment) or employers will look to create more jobs at lower wages due to the excess supply of labor.

College is our current competitive advantage. It once was manufacturing, then services, then high grade goods and services – now it is our universities. Foreign students flock to the US to attend college. Foreign governments sponsor students to go to the US of A, learn all the expert, technical knowledge needed, only to return home and implement that learning. If this trend continues, either more American jobs will be exported overseas, or more foreign labor will be imported to fill American jobs domestically. Both cases are not very good.

So what needs to happen? First and foremost, we have to get a hold of the soaring costs of college. Why are costs sky-rocketing so much? What do the tuition increases lead to? Does it translate to higher faculty wages? Newer buildings? New laboratories and research? More people need to concern themselves with this issue.

Education is the key. Our future generations need to embrace this and not be excluded from college, graduate school, and PhD programs. A diverse student body is great and gives students a broader perspective while at school, but I’d rather have a homogenous American population (we have enough diversity among Americans anyway) if that meant more highly educated Yanks and more high-skilled jobs being filled by our future generations.

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Go-getter of the week: Director, Documentarian, Do-er

Each week, I am going to highlight a person I know or have come across who exemplifies many of the qualities that I strive to embody: integrity, work ethic, passion, ambition. Go-getter’s do not wait for opportunities to come to them tomorrow, they take risks to make it happen for them today. The purpose of these posts is to prove to those who have goals that they are achievable, given the sacrifice and drive you give to reach them.

The inaugural “Go-Getter of the Week” goes to a good friend of mine who early on knew his passion lied in film. His drive and talent led him to NYU where he dropped out to pursue his passion full-time. He went on to direct his first documentary at the young age of 19 which jump-started a very promising careeer.

His name is Andrew Jenks. Visit his wikipedia page if you want to know about him (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Jenks)

This post is about his story.

Jenks went on to produce “Andrew Jenks, Room 335” and HBO came in to buy the rights to the film. This was Jenks’ launchpad as his next project saw him move to Tokyo to film an biography on Bobby Valentine. Jenks’ latest project is a TV show series where he immerses himself in a new world each week, a show MTV ran last Fall and likely running again.

Jenks currently operates a blog for the Huffington Post (view his latest: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-jenks/its-on-us_b_810102.html)

For every “Jenks” success story there are many more unsuccessful ones. Not many 19 year olds drop out of school, pack up a van, and drive 1,500 miles to pursue an idea. Was it risky? Of course. Am I recommending all aspiring film-makers do the same? Of course not.

What I am saying is that if you have a dream and if you have the drive, anything is possible.

So go out and make it happen!

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A nation of excess

The world has changed. Gone are the days where a high school diploma translates to a middle class lifestyle. Gone are the days where children should expect as given that their quality of life would be better than their parents. Gone are the days of American’s past excused American complacency.

Welcome to a new decade. A new world, a new normal, whatever you want to call it. The world has changed from when our parents generation was our age (see my prior post “What is it about 20 somethings”). America needs to embrace this change, not reject it.

We are used to being a nation of excess. Bigger is better, more is for sure. Not anymore. We need to go back to the hungry, fighting, scratch and claw mentality that our grandparents generations had.

According to the Bergen County Record, piano or prop movers at Carnegie Hall make $422,599 A YEAR – which does not include the benefits such as health care, holidays, deferred compensation. That only adds another $107,445. Only.

Carpenters receive the short end of the stick and make only ~$403,000 including benefits. Those on broadway and Lincoln Centre make under $290,000 – clearly Carnegie Hall is the desired place to be. That is not to insult any profession, but it is to highlight the fact that this is just one example of our society that was used to the good ole days. Those days are gone (just ask the automakers).

Nothing changes until it does. But this must and will change. When the day of reckoning comes and America needs to take its fiscal medicine (like the UK is doing now), then we will see a lot of unhappy piano movers and carpenters.

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American Education: Revisited

I wrote about the flaws in our education system before and here I am writing about them again. There was an article I came across in the NYT talking about the iPad as the new “learning tool.” The iPad this, the iPad that, the iPad is this generation’s overhead projector. Make no mistake, the iPad is the greatest thing that has hit education since sliced bread.

Right?

Hell No!

Before I start bashing the idiot administrators at the NYC, Chicago, and Virginia Public schools, I would like to say this:

If there is objective, empirical evidence that the impact on learning more than justifies the substantial cost of these iPads, then that is one thing. It is completely different when penny-pinching, budget-strapped schools are laying off teachers (or excessing them) and yet they find millions of dollars to spend on an iPad. According to the article, NYC public schools have allocated $1.3mm for iPads. That is shameful.

I completely understand and agree that this generation of students is different than generations past. This current generation demands instant gratification. Text messaging, Twitter, Facebook status updates, all satisfy students’ demands because they happen instantly, or quickly than that. Lectures, textbooks, and archaic teachers fail miserably.

So am I saying that iPads will always be a dumb investment ? Of course not, but given the hard economic times especially of states and schools, how could they ever justify spending the equivalent of several teacher’s salaries on a gadget that has not yet been proven to work?

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