Release Plan Book Report #1

Throughout my engagements with business schools and universities since returning from federal prison, I've encountered only rare interruptions from professors during my talks. Interestingly, it wasn't discussions about my conviction or the ensuing consequences that prompted an interruption, but rather a mention of an author who deeply influenced me during my time in federal prison.

This incident occurred during a Q&A at a private school on the East Coast when I referenced Ayn Rand, known for works like "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Virtue of Selfishness." My business partner, Michael Santos, advised me to not only read but to critically analyze books by writing reports—detailing why I read them, what I learned, and how they could aid me moving forward. This habit has stayed with me even after my release.

During the Q&A, as soon as I mentioned how Rand's work, particularly "The Virtue of Selfishness," influenced me, the professor interjected, which I found rather discourteous. My intention has always been to provide candid, unfiltered insights, and every academic host had previously concurred with this open approach.

The mention of Rand tends to evoke strong reactions, ranging from disdain to reverence. Her philosophy certainly shaped my perspective during and after prison, and I advocate for others in federal prison to undertake the same critical reading exercise. Presently, my book reports are crafted with our clients at White Collar Advice in mind, focusing on how each book might aid in preparing for federal prison.

In these reports, I emphasize the importance of understanding who your stakeholders are, whether it be your family, your case manager, or legal representatives. The aim is to gain more freedom and to demonstrate your productive use of time while incarcerated.

Rand's concept of rational self-interest—often misunderstood as negative—emphasizes the importance of advocating for one's own life and well-being. This approach is particularly valuable in the overwhelming environment of federal prison, where distractions and negative influences abound. Embracing rational self-interest encourages focusing on personal goals and using time productively.

A key lesson from Rand is the importance of personal responsibility. This was a challenging but essential realization for me, as I initially entered federal prison shifting blame for my circumstances. Recognizing my own role in my situation was a pivotal step in my rehabilitation.

Rand's principles extend to forming relationships in prison that are mutually beneficial and avoiding detrimental ones. I formed one such positive relationship with Michael Santos, which has been enduring and valuable.

Independence and integrity are also central to Rand's philosophy, empowering individuals to make decisions based on their values rather than succumbing to the prevailing prison culture.

To encapsulate, "The Virtue of Selfishness" offers a compelling perspective that can be instrumental in preparing for and thriving during a federal prison term. Embracing personal responsibility, integrity, and rational self-interest can lead to a more successful incarceration and a better life post-release.

This review is the first in a series of 14, where I will dive into various books that provide insights into personal development and preparation for federal prison. Upcoming reviews will cover titles ranging from "The Power of Positive Thinking" to "Atomic Habits," each chosen for their potential to impact our clients' journeys positively.

Questions? Call or text at 818-424-2220 or schedule a call.

Justin Paperny