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*Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of the 2006 book, The Joy of SOX, published with permission of John Wiley and Sons. It is available here.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

President John F. Kennedy, 1962

These are the words that inspired a generation of Americans to undertake one of the greatest achievements in human history. In today’s culture of “what’s in it for me?” Kennedy’s exhortation to do the hard work and reap the benefits seems quaint, corny even. Yet, even in our present, frenetic MTV reality of overloaded Blackberries, virtual meetings round the clock and fast approaching earnings reports, perhaps we too can find inspiration in the idea that the hard challenges are the ones worth doing.

I have found that the most worthwhile tasks are often the hardest. However, when I tell my friends that I am writing a book about how businesses can prosper by complying with the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), they give me an incredulous look. How can adherence to such a set of rules—in their opinion dreamt up by Congress to enforce honesty in American business—have anything to do with actually running a business? My response, channeling Kennedy: How do we turn adversity into advantage? It’s about making choices. I’d rather find the opportunity to benefit from a challenge than complain about it.

I recognize that there is a certain perversity to the position I take in this book. While most executives—sensibly, perhaps—view SOX as a set of regulatory hoops that they must pay experts to help them jump through, I am advocating that we look at SOX as a pretext for increasing our effective control over business operations. I own the perversity of this book. Essentially, I am an oddball, forever looking at different ways of doing things, much to people’s intrigue or derision, depending on the circumstances. This does not make sense to everyone, but not everyone has my eccentric but auspicious background for the task of looking at the upside of SOX through the lens of information technology. I am not an auditor, or a compliance consultant. I have worked in several different industries, and have had experiences ranging from great to horrific. My background and experiences, however, continually motivate me to look at the opportunity that is present in every challenge.


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