[Hey guys!! I have SUCH a great post for you today, and one that I am beyond honored to be able to feature as our friend “comes out” here to share his incredible journey with us. If you only read one article today, I hope this one is it. Please pass it on afterwards!]
My goal is to save one reader’s life out there with this story about drugs, death, and the ten-year prison sentence I survived. My name is Billy B. from Wealth Well Done, and this is how I survived prison and accidentally found my path to wealth.
My nightmare began on a summer-school morning in 2002. I was a normal 21-year-old college student who stumbled to class with a drug hangover.
As I walked home, I called a friend who had partied with me the night before. His roommate answered the phone.
“He’s dead! He’s dead!” He yelled, “You have to get out of there now!”
I dropped the phone. I heard his voice yelling at me. “The police are here and they’re looking for you!”
I ran out of my apartment not knowing what to do. The police were already in the hallway looking for me. They stopped me as I tried to walk past them.
I felt their handcuffs slide on my wrists. I said in shock, “But my friend was OK when he left?”
“You’re in a lot of trouble kid,” they said, as they walked me to their squad car. I remember staring out the window as they drove me to jail. This wasn’t supposed to happen to good kids like us, but it was happening to me. As I walked into my first jail cell, I broke down and cried into my pillow so the other inmates wouldn’t hear me crying.
Reckless Homicide By Delivery of a Controlled Substance
My friend walked home and died in his sleep that night. The following day I was arrested and charged with, “Reckless Homicide By Delivery of a Controlled Substance” for the death of my friend.
I sat in jail for a year going through the trial. The police only had to prove that I had provided some of the drugs we used that night, and I had done that. I never meant to harm anyone. We never thought we could die. It was a harsh awakening to what can happen when you choose to make risky, dangerous decisions with your life.
Eventually, for my first time in serious trouble, I was sentenced to ten years in prison for what I thought was just “innocent and fun” partying.
10 Years of Prison
The hardest part about being sentenced to prison was figuring out what I was supposed to do next. Was I supposed to wallow in shame and depression for the rest of my life? Or was it OK for me to forgive myself and fight for a second chance?
I struggled with these questions during my first year of incarceration. I eventually decided that it was OK to forgive myself for the mistakes I’d made. It was an accident; I wasn’t a bad person. I decided to take my future into my own hands, and even though I was going to be in prison for the next ten years, I chose to make fighting for my second chance my next mission and purpose in life.
I stayed sane in a prison by falling in love with writing. Writing daily journals allowed me to mentally escape the concrete-blocks and razor-wire-fences surrounding me. Writing set me free to explore the landscapes in my imagination, and the spiritual forces creating my reality. Rather than being defined by the prison I was in, I let my new self-exploration and self-education define who I was becoming.
I started to dream about becoming a great writer. That dream gave me a challenge to work at every day. I kept very detailed notes about the adventures I experienced in prison. My prison journals now total over 3,000 pages. I publish these journals at my other blog: PurposePages.com. The Purpose Pages tells the story of how I built my character to become the person I am today.
Recapturing My Freedom
On August 21st, 2012, I was finally released from the prison that had held me captive for 3,650 days. (There was no good-time or parole offered in the state of Wisconsin so I had to do every day of the ten years) My loving and supportive friends and family picked me up at the front gates and drove me home to Minnesota where I started my new life.
This is a picture of me the morning I was released:
My transition back into the free-world felt incredible. But it was scary and challenging at the same time. It felt amazing to do anything I wanted, at any time. Even the simple things like cooking my own meal, at a time I decided, were stunningly beautiful. But I also felt like an alien as I adjusted to a new society I hadn’t interacted with in ten years.
I went to prison when I was a 21 year old kid. I was now a 31-year-old man who had forgotten how to do normal things like drive a car, and create an email address.
The technological advances I encountered were stunning. I hadn’t seen the internet in a decade. I had never touched a smart phone. I had no concept of what social media was. I had only heard about these things from new inmates arriving to prison to begin their 5, 10, 30 year, or life, sentences. They’d try to explain what had happened in the free world since I’d left, but the concepts were so foreign that I could never fully understand them.
Getting Back On My Feet
As I re-entered the free world, I was faced with the challenge of starting my life over as an adult with no job skills, work-history, or network of people to ask for help.
But rather than being discouraged by the skills I didn’t have, I tried to focus on the skills I did have. While in prison, I had learned to communicate and be friends with every race, economic-class, and personality-type you will find in America.
I had grown up in the white, educated suburbs, so I felt comfortable in these privileged environments. But in prison, I had learned to make the street-smart decisions that determined life or death among minority groups. Another one of my strengths: I didn’t have any fear. After all, what’s left to be afraid of once you’ve survived 10 years in prison? Nothing! I was ready to live!
Six days after being released from prison, I returned to college to finish my senior year. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA. But I knew proving my “classroom intelligence” was the easy part. The hard part was going to prove that I was “street smart” enough to will my dreams into existence once I encountered the challenges in the real world.
I got my first job stacking magazines on shelves at big-box retail stores and I made $9.25 an hour. It wasn’t a lot of money, but I was proud that I had just gotten a job. I continued interviewing for better jobs. At one of these interviews, a business-owner offered me some advice that would change my life:
“I can give you a job.” he said. “But I can see you have natural people and sales skills. You also have the ambition and fearlessness to be an entrepreneur. If you’d like, I can teach you how to start your own business. You can work from home and sell my products, and anything else, you’d like.”
In prison, I spent my time training my mind to spot opportunities. I instantly saw a cool one. So in 2014, I started my first business. I went door-to-door introducing myself to businesses, and I asked them if they could use my company for their branded apparel needs (t-shirts, jackets, hats, etc). I heard a lot of “No’s,” but I started to get some, “Yes’s” too. By the end of my first year, I was amazed that I’d sold $180,000 worth of product. I was now profitable enough that I could start saving money.
Accidentally Building Wealth
I saved every dollar I made in my first two years. I had learned in prison that happiness is not dependent on needing a lot of money. Happiness is found when you have the time to explore the dreams of your soul, and then executing plans to turn those dreams into your reality.
Money didn’t exist in prison, and I loved not having to worry, or think, about it. But I found very quickly that money mattered in the free world. You needed money to live, or you’d quickly be heading back to prison.
That realization motivated me to save $40,000 in my first two years of freedom. In 2013, I met my wife and we had a wedding in my parent’s living room for under $1K. We bought our first house with the remaining $39K we had so we could start our own life together. We continued to save aggressively because I one day dreamed of returning to a life where money didn’t matter. I wanted to spend my life thinking, studying, writing, and developing my own philosophies on what the meaning and purpose of a great life is just like I had done in prison.
My journey to wealth really happened on accident. I was so focused on building my new life, that I didn’t realize that my saving and investing habits were making me rich along the way. I am still amazed that I have only been out of prison for 5 years and I am worth around a quarter-million dollars with holdings in cash, stocks, and real-estate.
The truth is: If I can still fight for my dreams with a smile on my face, after all the crap I’ve been through in life, then anyone can do it if they try hard enough!
This is the day we bought our first investment property:
The Drug Epidemic Is Real
I recently read a New York Times article stating that drug-overdose deaths are the highest they’ve ever been in America. 1-in-3 American’s have a criminal record. All families have felt the nightmare of drug-abuse and incarceration in some way. I realize I can do something about this. I can help fight against this problem.
The first step I am taking to achieve this goal is to publish my first novel, “Spark” at, Wealth Well Done, and give it away for free for a limited time. You can get it here.
I wrote “Spark” with the famous young-adult novelist, Gary Paulsen. (Author of 180+ books, including, “Hatchet” which sold millions of copies.) Gary heard about me when I was in prison, and once he read my writing he asked to be my friend and writing mentor. I wrote the novel “Spark” as a practice story for him to teach me how to write better. You can imagine how ecstatic I was the day I got a letter from a famous author in my prison cell, asking me to call him at his home to talk about writing! Even though I was in prison, it was one of the best days of my life.
“Spark” is the story of a kid in serious trouble. He meets a successful businessman who survived his own troubled life in prison. It is a mentoring story about what I would say to my troubled teenage-self if I could meet him today. My dream is to become a great novelist who can inspire people to live more awesome lives.
In conclusion, please share this story. Together we can save at least one person’s life out there. There is a drug and prison epidemic happening in America right now. We can do something about it.
I’ll be responding to all comments below. Contact me with questions and ways I can help. The more we talk about overcoming the prisons we all find ourselves in – whether financial, emotional, or physical prisons – the better we can make this world.
Billy B. is the blogger behind WealthWellDone.com, and is on a mission to help re-define wealth. The wealthiest person is NOT the person with the most money. The wealthiest person is the individual who best masters their mind, compounds their cash, and PURSUES THEIR PURPOSE IN LIFE. You can find him on Twitter @WealthWellDone as well as on Facebook.