As a federal prison consultant I have committed my working life to helping white collar defendants emerge from prison stronger and better than when they entered. The reality is everyone who is in a federal prison camp has endured some heartache. Some more than others, of course. I understand it, can relate to it, and want to help others get through it with their dignity and a plan that will enable them to return a career they both love and that can support their family. After all if I did it, why can’t you?
While all federal prisoners have endured struggle, not everyone responds to it the same way. Some are successful, some are close to successful, and some have no idea what they are doing. In that respect, people in federal prison are not much different than people in society.
Rather than issue cliches like the Bureau of Prisons, or scare people about life in federal prison, I want to excite defendants and show them what is possible. You want scare tactics go to Larry Levine–while you are there please ask Mr. Levine where he got the following data that he publishes on his website.
“Prison Statistics: Courtesy of Wall Street Prison Consultants
25-30% chance of getting killed during your prison sentence.
10-15% chance of getting raped during your prison sentence.
30-40% chance of getting stabbed during your prison sentence.”
In a word: horrifying. Here are two more words: not true. Eight more: Larry remove this garbage from your site at once.
Okay, let’s continue. As we know, some federal prisoners are incredibly successful. People like Michael Santos, Seth Ferranti and Charlie Jones created indisputable records. They might pursue different interests, but they are all preparing. While their pursuits may differ, they are all alike in identifying what is of value to them and they created a measurable plan to achieve it. This approach enables them to overcome many of the challenges that accompany or in Michael’s and Seth’s case, accompanied confinement.
Last week, someone texted me, “Dude, did you love federal prison or something. You talk about it like it was awesome or something.
It is not that I loved prison, or that anyone else loves prison. We are not fools. We do, however, see value in pursuing our values, which in my case included, family, character, integrity, exercise, and discipline. Whenever I am faithfully following my values I am happy. So if my criteria for happiness is following my values it is safe to say I, and others like me, are or were happy in prison.
This morning over a Skype call with a client I shared 6 quick tips that would help him succeed during his stay at Fort Dix Federal Prison Camp. He found such value in them, he suggested I share them in this blog. So here I go…
1: Their plan is their own:
I learned a great deal from Michael Santos, but that does not mean that I followed each step of his plan. Indeed, I have clients who appreciated my prison routine, but feel no obligation to follow suit. Nor should they. Whatever you pursuing must have a relation to the obstacles you will face upon release, and that plan has to be best for you—not me, not your friends or even your family. If your plans relate to the live you wish to lead upon release, your family will be in good shape. Create your plan and own it!
2: Document the journey:
No, I am not suggesting you write a blog as I and others do. It is a good idea, but not always necessary. I received a note from a client who is serving time at Lompoc Federal Prison Camp. He told me that over the last 12 months he has written every day, but two. Writing, he told me, provides a reminder of how much he has accomplished and how much he still has to do. Rather than looking back on his experience as being, “so so”, or “I do not really remember; the days are all sort of a blur,” he is able to easily identify his accomplishments, measure them, and share them. Inspiring! When he reads a quote he likes in a book, he writes it down in his journal. That journal has helped him create invaluable information that will follow him for a lifetime.
3: Slow and steady wins the race:
Look, I know how daunting the challenge is. You want to build a new career, rebuild your reputation, make your family proud, get in shape, demonstrate your remorse, and more. It is possible in any federal prison camp, but not overnight. In Lessons From Prison I discuss the importance of slow and steady. Set aside time each day to do something that gets you closer to your values. The activity should be specific and measurable, such as, “I will run 5 miles today,” or “I will learn 10 new vocabulary words today.” Specific and measurable, right!! 10 words a day is 300 a month.
If you read my blogs from prison you will see how I purposely, and sometimes too deliberately, worked in new words, like tenebrous, mercurial, insouciance, fervent and so many more. That is how I learned them, by writing them in blogs, then on the phone.
When I would call home my friends would say, “Dude, are you trying to impress me with your new vocabulary?” “Yes, I am. Now, I would like you to work on being more sanguine and sangfroid.” Had I not been in federal prison, they would have hung up on me.
If you schedule a call with me, and I throw in a big word, it is just something I do that makes me feel smart. My friends have accepted this reality a long time ago. Try to overlook it please.
4: Analyze their days:
Some famous philosopher said, “the unexamined life isn’t worth living.” My clients are always accessing their daily actions. They ask questions like, “Am I proving worthy of the love my family gives me?”, or “Am I really holding myself accountable and following through on my commitments?” Accessing whether your daily actions and choices synchronize with the person you would like to become, is a good use of your time. Do it each day in prison please! If you do you will be part of that 1% that crushes it. This is a good 1%, not the one the politicians bash. This 1% is made up of those who embody discipline, commitment, integrity and discipline.
5: They act as they world is, not as they want it to be:
Some very smart people spend their days in prison as if they have no felony record. The truth is no matter how hard you work in prison there will be barriers. In other words, no matter how much more I might have learned about trading stocks, no brokerage firm would hire me. Too many good men spend their days paper trading currencies. Some I am sure had a pile of money waiting for them to trade with. Most, however, did not.
He woke at 2:00am each day to watch CNBC and follow the world markets. He expected that his paper profits in prison would led to investors giving him millions to manage. When I saw him he told me had not raised a penny and that his probation officer was on him every week to find a job. I suspect he was not alone. This only works if you create a realistic plan. Use your daily assessments to ensure your goals relate to reality.
#6: Just do it!
A plan without action means nothing. Successful prisoners actually do it, rather than talk about it. When I surrendered I did not plan to write a blog or book. I started writing a journal, which led to a blog. Then after receiving hundreds of letters in prison from people who were following my work, I decided to write a book. It started with that first journal entry on April 28, 2008. The hardest thing to do is follow your plan on days you do not want to. For example, that was the case with me when my dog died in prison. But as hard as it was, I kept preparing regardless. I truly believe that if your plan is realistic and measurable, and you act on it, you will be amazed at how much can be accomplished in prison.
Did you think I missed anything? Please feel free to call 818-424-2220 or schedule a call here with any questions.
P.S. Grab our new book, Prepare, for free here!