December 31, 2016

I have never had New Year’s Resolutions, but I did hear a lot of New Year’s Resolutions From Federal Prison Camp.

Towards the end of the year, I would hear fellow prisoners say:

  • I am going write my book this year
  • I am going to lose that extra 20 pounds
  • And on and on


New Year's Resolutions From Federal Prison Camp

New Year’s Resolutions From Federal Prison Camp

The New Year’s resolutions that people have in a federal prison camp are no different than people in society. As I write this note at 5:28AM on December 31st, I am sure someone in my community is establishing their New Year’s goals.

I will not bother sharing data that shows most new year’s goals are not followed. We all know that.  It takes time to change a habit. Simply saying “I will begin or do something” on a certain date is hardly effective. It might last for a few days–look around the gym the first week of the year. Then look again in February, March and so on. Unless someone truly sees the value in exercise, a book, or whatever goals they have, it will not happen.

I urge my clients are White Collar Advice to set goals that align with their values. The day of the year should not matter. Let’s just say your values include:

  • family
  • religion
  • character
  • community
  • money/business

If you have yet to be sentenced those values could include:

1: getting the shortest possible federal prison sentence

2: serving the sentence in the prison of your choosing

3: ensuring you qualify for the residential drug abuse program, which can shorten your sentence by 24-months

4: rebuilding your reputation

5: holding your lawyer accountable

6: and on and on…

If those are your values, why wait until January 1 to pursue them? Living faithfully to those values takes time: I would be nurturing them daily. Slow and steady wins the race, the Tortoise and The Hare fable teaches us. It is no different with values. The date we begin pursuing them, in this case January 1, does not matter as much as taking taking daily, incremental action over the course of a long year.

I would argue a habit is ingrained when you no longer need discipline to do it. I will explain. I love to run. Now, I do not run as much as I did when I was at Taft Federal Prison Camp. I have different values now that include family, my career. Golf has taken over some of my commitment to sports. But I still run. I know longer need discipline to run, just like I do not need discipline to brush my teeth.

I could go and on about how I identify my values, then pursue them. Yes, I fail, a lot–I am human after all. At times, I get too consumed in my work, and avoid some of the personal responsibilities that come with having a young family. In fact, I should have probably changed a lot more diapers this year. If helping my wife, who does a lot, is truly a value to me, I will do a better job today–I do not need to wait until tomorrow, on January 1.

While many goals are easy to measure: lose weight, write a book, read a book, etc some are harder to measure. For example, I encourage white collar defendants to value “feeling overwhelmed and confused.” Is that weird?

Many defendants are so overwhelmed they cannot get out of bed. If they do get out of bed, they hardly make measureable progress that gets them close to their goals. They drift through their days and beg for finality. They do not see the “overwhelm” as an asset. Instead they succumb to it, accept it, then in time they grow used to the pain and end up in a state of nothingness, where they come to hardly feel anything. They never viewed the overwhelm as temporary.

If you value rebuilding your life before federal prison, in federal prison and after federal prison, you will realize that that cannot happen without heavy levels of confusion, stress and being overwhelmed. Why? Well all of this is new for you. You’re going down a new road with many unknowns. You cannot run from this reality. You cannot wish it away. No elixir exists to make it all better. If you embrace reality and have a longer term vision, you might still feel overwhelmed, but you will realize it is only temporary.

The first time I swung a golf club I was unrealistic. I tried to master it in one day. After a week, I wanted to quit. It was too hard. Preparing for prison can feel the same way. If you succumb to the overwhelm, and try to do too much at once, failure is a certainty.

With hard work and a plan, in time, the feelings of overwhelm will weaken, and so will your stress. It might be hard to measure how much, but you will know if you are progressing. The key is working on these goals each day, in dosages that can be maintained over time.

Succeeding as a white collar defendant includes identifying our enemy. That enemy is not necessarily the U.S. Attorney, or your co-conspirator who cooperated against you. The enemies I am referring to are distraction, complacency and and laziness.

Those aforementioned enemies are the reason people fail to follow through on their new year’s resolution goals. It is the reason most federal prisoners accomplish very little on the inside. I wanted more for my life. I wanted to prove worthy of the love my family so generously bestowed upon me. I no longer wanted them to worry about me. I had encumbered them enough through my shortsighted, criminal actions. For those reasons, I came to value feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and confused. The more “overwhelmed, stressed and confused” I was the more I knew I was on track.

I knew if I wanted a family, career and my reputation back I would have to learn to focus and shy away from distraction or haters. A clich holds that misery love company–that is no more prevalent than in federal prison. Not once did I allow myself to be influence by those who told me that my plans were unrealistic and naive.

Once I identified exactly why I wanted my life began to change.

What do you want? Can you identify it? Can you get into the details of how you plan to get there? Most federal prisoners cannot. 

Someone called me yesterday and said they wanted to know how to get the best job in prison. I said, “bud, is that really what you want? The best job? You just told me you lost your career, your wife is threatening to leave you, and you will lose your law license. All of these issues and you’re worried about the right job. You’re asking the wrong questions. I would spend some time identifying what you truly want, which I presume includes rebuilding your family, your career and restoring your good name.”

I shared a message recently from someone who reviewed me work. He said my books, videos and blogs suck. Okay, he is not a fan!

But just as quickly as he criticized my work I got a message from someone telling me how much they valued my book and how Lessons From Prison is helping them prepare and take action.

It is not my book that changes people. It is not my blogs or videos. The book is the same for you as it is for anyone else. The difference is simply what people choose to do with it. The info is the same. The person who benefits from the work has simply done a better job of identifying their values & identifying what they truly want.

Living in federal prison can isolate us from the pressures at home. It is sort of like college where our needs are met. If, however, we have identified what we truly want we will not be seduced by how easy it can be to serve time. We will not kick the can down the road and say, “You know, I will get started on January 1.”

Life is hard as a felon: Start Preparing Now, regardless of the day. To succeed you must be 100% proactive, and never be re active or in a state of emergency. There will be days where you feel no one gets you. There are days some might laugh at you.

More than money, I want to be a protector and provider for my family. That is what I want. I am willing to deal with overwhelm, sometimes ruthless criticism and long, long work days. But is not a sacrifice: it is all a choice. I choose to work early, while my competitors sleep. It is no different than prison. Like prison, I wake with only my thoughts and mind to guide me.

On this New Years I beg all of you to embrace the overwhelm–that means you are in the game. If we work together there are days, I will overwhelm you, test you. But if you hired me it was to help you–not mislead or sugarcoat the reality.

Rather than feel as if you need to accomplish everything in one day, or one week, start by doing one thing at a time. Then a couple of things. Never forget millions of people have access to the same tools you have: great books, mentors, supporters. The difference is some waste the resources and others use it to their advantage. Use your time through the system wisely. And start NOW. Why wait until New Years to make progress??

Happy New Year,


P.S. I would be happy to chat with you, to learn what is going on and give you a complete game plan. This will cost you nothing. This is not a sales pitch in disguise. Click here if you would like to schedule a call.