August 21, 2014

Most of the people who reach out to me are are facing a federal prison sentence. Most are afraid, unsure of their future, and curious about what their life in federal prison will look like. The reality is too many shows on television have sensationalized life in prison–they portray a world of fear designed only to draw ratings. Viewers of those shows would be wise to understand their motives.

Certainly, other consultants in my industry purposely play up those fears to drum up business. Their approach lacks transparency. As part of my prison advice services I always reinforce the reality that prison can be an opportunity of a lifetime. I am not stupid and am not implying that I am happy I went to prison. I am not. I am, however, proud of how I responded to an adversity that I alone created. With the thought of becoming more than someone would expect of a person who plead guilty to fraud, I worked extremely hard on the inside to better prepare for the challenges that awaited me. Rather than obsess over what I was missing, I focused on what I had. To that end, I share a list I call, 10 benefits to serving time in federal prison.

1- Victims – I never forget that my conduct helped create victims. Rather than make promises about how I would change, I took action in prison to demonstrate my remorse. I recognize some will view my actions as unforgivable. Some, however, recognized my efforts. To them, I am eternally grateful.

2- Take a punch! – In Lessons From Prison, I wrote that I had a privileged and coddled childhood. As a result I never faced adversity. My adjustment and accomplishments in prison proved to my network, and most notably my parents, that their son could take a punch ( a lot of them) and keep coming back for more.

3- Perspective- While fighting my case I was obsessed over all I lost–my licenses, money, reputation, my good name. I am not saying those are not big hits, but in prison I saw real struggle from men who had only known misery. With that perspective in mind, I became grateful for what I had left–my mind, a loving family, and a will to succeed–as opposed to obsessing over all I lost.

4- Fat Farm – For many years before my surrender to prison I reasoned that my growing waistline and pudginess was an inevitable by product of aging. Within 3 seconds of seeing that dusty track at Taft Camp on the day of my surrender, however, I knew I would become a runner and get fit. I did!

5- Grow that network! – Before my surrender I tended to live like the proverbial ostrich. Keeping my head buried in the sand brought some benefits, but it also kept me disconnected from my network. In prison, I took the time to nurture my support network.

6- Get smart again! – In my 20s I read two books, I think. Both were Tiger Woods golf books. Coming home strong meant I had to become intellectually prepared. Reading hundreds of books helped me re-engage my mind.

7- From stockbroker, to real estate agent to author – Michelangelo said the problems with goals is not that we set them to big, but too small. Before my surrender I never imagined I would write a blog, then book. Reading great books and developing content helped me organize my thoughts and deliver them in a way that helped me find meaning and strength through prison.

8- I am in individual again! – In my 20s, I was malleable (a word I learned in prison). Because I was easily influenced I tended to run with the pack. In prison, however, with nothing left really to lose, I embraced the reality that success meant I would have to go at it alone, despite negative feedback from both staff and prisoners. In fact, the more criticism and enmity (another word I learned in prison) I felt the more I knew I was onto something.

9- Tolerance – I have received some negative emails from people telling me I am too hard on some of the white-collar offenders. In fact one said, “aren’t you afraid if you scrutinize them they will not hire you?” No. If someone is not prepared to implement the strategies I teach they should hire Larry Levine and his ilk to tell them how to sleep through prison, how to hustle a hard-boiled egg out of the chow hall, and how to put a “prison staff on edge”. The reality is many of the white-collar offenders with whom I served time lack tolerance. All of them? No, of course not. I want to make sure I do not indict them all. I am, however, saying that making fun of, criticizing and beating down other men for their choices in life happens more than it should. To thrive one must be tolerant, look within, and recognize that not everyone had the opportunities we so easily took for granted. If my approach is not for you do not hire me.

10- Friends – Who knew that I would benefit from such close friends while thriving through the system. To this day, I remain close with Walt Pavlo and Michael Santos. Both invested thousands of hours to help me become better.

Again, I want to reiterate that I am not stupid nor delusional. No person should want to serve time in prison. If it is in the cards, however, let the experience be a positive one. These 10 benefits to serving time in federal prison helped me find meaning through the adventure. Form your own list and pursue your goals aggressively. Avoid the procrastination and indecisiveness that corrupts so many prisons. Take action and come home differently than anyone would have ever expected. If I can help feel free to reach out.

JP

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