I Was Sentenced to Prison 10 Years Ago Today

June 10th, 2014

I’m alone; I’m terrified; I want this to be over.

I can’t understand what she’s saying, I get that it’s all English, but the words are a blur and I can’t keep up with them.

The gavel comes down, echoing through the room. I don’t know what happened. I turn to my attorney and ask,

“Was I just sentenced to prison?”

He tilts his head to the side like a confused dog.

“You were sentenced to pay $834,037 in restitution and serve twenty-four months in federal prison.”

I nod. It’s all I can do.

The judge adds one last statement as the gallery begins to stand and the attorneys gather their papers,

“I guess we’ll find out who you really are when you get out.”

Ten years ago today, I was sentenced to federal prison for willingly defrauding a tech giant.

I thought my life was over.

What I couldn’t see then, that I see with 20/20 clarity today, is that, yes, my life was over.

But only that version, that chapter of my life, was over; really, my life was only just beginning.

It’s been 10 years of reinventing my life, and these are 33 of my favorite lessons (so far).

  1. Choose joy.
  2. Nature is my reset.
  3. Acceptance is freedom.
  4. Everything is temporary.
  5. Self-trust is a superpower.
  6. I made a choice, not a mistake.
  7. Simple is effective and elegant.
  8. Vulnerability is a gateway to freedom.
  9. Net-worth and self-worth aren’t related.
  10. Over-complication is a foot-soldier of fear.
  11. Fear is an obstacle or a beacon. My choice.
  12. My past cannot define me without my consent.
  13. My to-do list isn’t a self-worth measuring stick.
  14. Asking for help isn’t weak; it’s an act of courage.
  15. Having a mission makes life a whole lot more fun.
  16. Self-forgiveness is a journey of self-love and compassion.
  17. Accepting full responsibility is liberating and empowering.
  18. My soul doesn’t give a shit about my job title or bank account.
  19. Adversity contains a gift; it was incumbent upon me to discover it.
  20. Intellectual understanding doesn’t hold a candle to emotional embodiment.
  21. My personal reinvention is rooted in six words: I stopped chasing. I started creating.
  22. Self-love isn’t a woo-woo concept; it’s a core element of an extraordinary life.
  23. Regret and rumination aren’t productive; they’re quicksand disguised as progress.
  24. My deepest fears and imprisoning beliefs hold the keys to crafting my extraordinary life.
  25. The same energy that destroyed my life has been the same energy that has crafted a life I love. The energy? Fear
  26. Shame is an insidious disease that lives in the dark and finds power in isolation. Vulnerability and community are the antidote.
  27. I used to think freedom was on the other side of money and materialism. The moment I put a price tag on freedom, I’ve already lost it.
  28. Chasing happiness, approval, and acceptance through money and materialism is like running on a treadmill, expecting to catch the horizon.
  29. I treat my integrity like a house. I wouldn’t want to live in a home that lacked integrity; I’d be afraid it would collapse on me. The same holds true for my life.
  30. I genuinely understand what cultivates a rich, deep, meaningful life when I experience (firsthand) its exact opposite. Freedom and peace are great examples.
  31. I had an alcohol problem for decades; it was my escape from the skin I loathed. Quitting was easy because I became someone who I no longer needed an escape from.
  32. Life is made of many chapters. What’s been written cannot be changed; it’s in the book of time for all eternity. But the pages before me are blank, and I hold the pen.
  33. I’ve never regretted doing something that scares me when my actions are aligned with my values and principles, even if it’s a massive failure. Conversely, I do regret when I capitulate to fear, but I do my best to treat myself kindly and learn what’s going on.

I’m going to circle back to #17, accepting full responsibility.

I can’t point the finger at anyone else, only me.

I made that choice; I knocked the first domino down. Understanding this stung, but it was also one of the critical components of my reinvention.

Not only for the emotional freedom I earned but for the question that followed,

“Ok. This is my life now. What am I going to do with what’s left of it?”

PS – I stopped at 33 because it’s a special number.

There are plenty more (future blog posts), and many appear in my memoir, “Blank Canvas: How I Reinvented My Life After Prison.” 

Check it out, available on Amazon.