“Can you help me? I am totally consumed with how I will support my family once I am released from prison. Making money in the past has conditioned me to expect that it will continue to come,” a lawyer told me Saturday morning.

It can be easy to fixate on all of the consequences of a felony conviction. Readers of my blog who are embroiled in a struggle with the criminal justice system know them well.

Sustainable employment or making good money is a goal for most defendants who have been to prison. Hardly a week passes without a defendant reaching out to me to ask what it is they need to do to get back to a level of income they have grown used to.

I asked the same questions before my surrender to Taft Federal Prison Camp. As a stockbroker and real estate agent I earned a high annual income. Still, in time, I realized that losing my licenses would impact my ability to earn an income. I would have to start anew. Many of the people who call me are in the same position.

On my calls, I ask scores of questions about a defendant’s background, their current situation and plans for their future. Then I am able to offer some suggestions and direction. It is up to them whether they wish to implement. My advice is rooted in data, and the thousands of people I have come across on this journey.

Sometimes defendants seem frustrated when we cannot immediately identify exactly what the path will look like. There is no magic pill that will make this all go away. Any plan will require adjustments and pivoting. But there must be a plan to begin with.

I am stunned at how many people simply presume “things will just work out.” It might if you have a trust fund waiting for you and you have no responsibility to work. I, along with most of the people who call me, do not have a trust fund. Further even if we did, many of us still find value in work and attribute some of our self worth by the contributions we make to others. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would still consult. It brings me meaning and I feel as I am making a positive contribution to society and to a group of people I have a connection with.

Through these calls I offer many suggestions. One of them includes, “Letting go of the outcome.”

In prison you have time to try things. Losing access to our iPhones, the internet and to a degree, responsibility, has benefits. You can test new things, but only if you are not obsessed with the outcome. Look sometimes things do not work out. In prison, you have to be aware enough to pivot, rather than continue to go down a fruitless road, as so many do.

If you are interested in building a new business or skill set from federal prison, you can. But you must detach yourself from any financial expectations. Further, you must embrace failure, and a lot of negative feedback—tons of it.

By detaching yourself from financial expectations you allow yourself to be open-minded, vulnerable, and you’ll try new things that you might have never done in the past. It also makes your motives more authentic when you aren’t fixated on some desired end, like money.

For example, when I began writing my blog I had no idea what would happen. Rather than having in end game in mind (how much will I make from this), I just wrote. I wasn’t thinking, “maybe this will help my prison consulting or corporate speaking career.” I had no such career! I was just open to trying and testing new things.

If wasn’t until I detached myself from any expectations that things began to take off for me. Further, because I was vulnerable and open-minded, I wasn’t swayed by the opinions of others who told me that writing was foolish and a waste of time. Not fixating on an end, allowed me to find meaning in the progress I was making each day. I was learning new words, growing my network, becoming a better writer, and documenting an experience that for many can be dramatic and overwhelming.

For the first time in my life I became obsessed with the process—the process of learning. I encourage defendants who are concerned about a better financial future, to pay more attention to the process. The process may take you in many directions. I went from blogging, to writing more about ethics, to transitioning into consulting, and back-and-forth many times. I also launched a non profit foundation. It all started from embracing a process and enjoying it, despite big setbacks and failures.

I believe that if you were working on something productive each day, the answers in time will unfold. Yes, some defendants want assurances that it is possible. It is. Of course it is. But it would be unreasonable for me to give assurances of what someone can do upon release, when I’m unsure of the commitment they’re willing to make along the way. That is part of the reason I would never offer a guarantee. I guarantee I will do my job, but I cannot guarantee the strategies will be implemented. If they are not, I will not accept responsibility. To thrive we must own our decisions. I did. That is why I thrived.

My clients are succeeding in prison because they do not see “their process” as work. Yes, many do not yet know how they will sustain themselves upon release, but they know the actions they put in place each day get them closer. They understand that by nurturing a relationship with their probation officer, growing their network, and finding meaning in the journey they will dramatically increase their odds of being successful upon their release.

Fixating on in end and can be hazardous. I was fixated on how much I could earn as a stockbroker, and I made bad decisions along the way. It wasn’t until I went to prison that I truly embraced the process. Then by working at it each day, and having someone hold me accountable, I developed a track record, but more importantly a new skill set, that would help me succeed upon my release. More than anything, I think, the process returned some dignity the prison system is exquisitely designed to rip away.

Forget about the outcome for now, create a process, have someone you admire hold you to account and just work. Those that love the work or process crush it in prison and after they are released.

If you would like my help in creating that process call me at 818-424-2220 or schedule a call here.

Justin

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Justin Paperny is the cofounder of White Collar Advice (@whitecollaradviceofficial), a Calabasas company that well-heeled convicts facing prison hire to help them deal with the experience. His past clients reportedly include Martha Stewart and Bernie Madoff. “Let Us Take The Confusion and Headache Out Of Preparing For Sentencing, Prison and Probation,” the company’s website cheerily states. Paperny, whose fees can run into the six figures, says he’s already been hired by one person caught up in the college admissions scandal and been contacted by a half dozen others. Visit the link in bio for more information and advice (or maybe this only applies to Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman). ⠀⠀

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Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

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