How a 10-year prison sentence inspired me to retire early

31 thoughts on “How a 10-year prison sentence inspired me to retire early”

  1. I am astonished by your resilience and willpower to turn your life around, Bill. I have heard parts of your story several times now (and enjoyed meeting you at FinCon!), but each new article or interaction is powerful in a different way. Today’s article struck me as a true inspiration to anyone who feels like there is no purpose or point in life. You didn’t have a “near-term” goal to work towards… but you realized that you needed to create opportunities and a life/reality you were proud of that first day in the jail cell (not on day 9 years 364 days!). I can see this being applicable to people in all states of life.

    Thank you again for sharing your story. I look forward to hearing more from you 🙂

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    1. Thanks, friend! I think one of the biggest things I learned in prison, is that it doesn’t matter who you were last year, or where you came from, or what successes you achieved yesterday. The only thing that matters is what you accomplish today that will create a better future for yourself tomorrow. This mindset inspires me to always push, always change, always try to become better and more humble no matter what good or bad things may happen to me on my journey through life. And yes, I remember the first time I turned down using drugs in prison. That decision came from exactly the mindset you talked about: I decided my success story was going to start inside of prison. I wasn’t going to wait to get out of prison to start changing and chasing my dreams.

  2. Wow… very powerful! Your story shows how the mind can overcome the physical realities of almost any situation. Very inspirational story and the lessons can be applied to many parts of life.

    Thanks for sharing and congratulations!

    1. Thank you for commenting! Yes, I totally agree that your mind creates your reality no matter what reality you live in. If you want a better reality, start creating a better mind that will naturally lead you to a better life. That was the logic I chose to devote my life to, and luckily it worked for me better than I could have ever dreamed!

  3. Bill, your story is an amazing inspiration for us all. Whether our “jail” is that cubicle that we all love to hate, or an actual prison of concrete and razor, what matters is what we do with our mind, and the things within our control. Your incredible determination to improve your mind in spite of your circumstances is a lesson to us all. Congratulations on your success post-prison, and I’ve no doubt that your life will continue to be an inspiration. I look forward to watching your journey on Wealth Well Done.

    1. Thanks Fritz, and you’re totally correct about the message I want to bring to the world from the horrific experience I lived: We all have our personal prisons we get caught in. Whether that prison is depression, media, a cubicle, addiction, or bad relationships. Our dream life is found when we can escape these places and find who we are meant to be on the other side of those life-sucking prisons.

      1. A perfect Executive Summary of your ROCKSTAR Post today!! (glad I could have a little hand in that, that “Personal Prison” article was AMAZING and worthy of the award – CONGRATS!). You’re a real inspiration to me. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  4. Hey Bill,

    Thanks for sharing your story again. I never get tired of reading about it. Do you ever go back to prison to share your success with other inmates? It would them some good to know that a second chance is possible.

    1. Thanks Mrs 99 to 1! Yes, I love speaking in jails, churches, treatment centers, and high schools. I’ve done it all, and I am sure I’ll get more invites to do it as my reputation grows. In fact, I just wrote an article this week about my recent experience as a motivational speaker in a local high school. You can read it here:

      I am probably most passionate about speaking to people who want to overcome any challenge, learn how be successful in life because of it, and work their butt off for it. If these people happen to be in prison, or former inmates, then awesome.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Bill!

    I read your story on your blog before. Today I read it again and still found it inspiring. Life is full of surprises. Some of them are great, and some aren’t that desirable. I’m glad you got back on your feet and are well on your way to FIRE.

    Best of luck with your future endeavors!

    1. Hi! I remember talking to you Ms Frugal Asian Finance on this article I wrote:

      Your compliment that my story and writing still remains fresh to after reading it means the world to me. I have ten years of memories to pull from this period, so I hope I can make it fresh and insightful every time I write about it. When I was inside prison, I just felt compelled to work my butt off so I could one day help people with the pain and misfortune I experienced. I am so happy and grateful now that I survived that period, and I can finally live that dream helping people find happiness even if they’ve lived through struggles in their lives. Again, Thank you.

  6. What an amazing story and I couldn’t be happier for Bill. His philosophy reminds me a lot of the ancient Stoics and the thinking of other Greek and Roman philosophers on the power of our minds to shape the way we experience our realities. Very impressive to take such a dark and awful external situation and turn into the start of an incredible life. I look forward to reading more of his writing.

    1. Hey Thanks Andy! I have actually been told about the stoics in the past, and I need to read up on them a little more. Your comment really features why I studied what I call, “Human Truths” so much as “Human Truths” are profound insight that can help any human being find happiness and become successful in any era or period of time. I just find this type of knowledge fascinating, as the knowledge I used in 2012 to help me succeed in the modern world after prison, was the same knowledge that helped shape Greek/Roman Philosophy and built an entire empire 2000 years ago. That’s just so incredibly cool to think about to me, and I’d love to have you stop by the blog and check out my writing anytime.

  7. Great article, and refreshingly well written. I have a brother in prison fairly long term and it’s torn our family apart. I’ve longed for him to adopt this type of perspective but so far he hasn’t.

    I totally agree with this view of financial independence. While we didn’t end up retiring super early like we talked about years ago, we did achieve FI long ago because we didn’t live like people around us who kept buying bigger and better stuff. While it’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness, it does give you options and a great feeling of freedom. We knew that if something happened with our jobs, or if we just couldn’t stand them anymore, we had the means to do something else. And eventually, when you’ve built up enough, your investments take on a life of their own. Great payback for all those years of saving and being frugal.

    Steve, we’ve been watching your videos for awhile and I recently started reading your blog. I just want to comment that as I enjoy your content, I also appreciate your writing and careful editing. Too much online writing is so sloppy, as if it no longer matters if people misspell or have horrible grammar. Also, at least so far, your site has minimal ads so it doesn’t get so bogged down with the popups like many sites do. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Lynette. I wish the best for you and your brother. Whenever I talk in High Schools, I ALWAYS talk about how much their decisions will impact so many people in their lives. When I was partying, I only thought I could hurt myself. But in reality, I hurt so many people, and that’s what really hurt me when I went to prison. My parents and my brother also got hurt. My friends family got severely hurt. Life is not just about us. It’s also about the people we impact. And when we hurt the people we care about most, that’s what eventually will hurt the most. Also, thank you for complimenting my writing. For 15 years, I’ve worked very hard at it, so I am very humbled when someone comments that they appreciate all the hard work I put into it. Thank you.

    1. Thanks FTF. While in prison, I think I was profoundly inspired by a famous book by Victor Frankyl called, “Man’s search for meaning.” He was a holocaust prisoner, and survived the death camps by turning the suffering he experienced into motivation to help him inspire others. He dreamed of speaking and writing to crowds when there was death all around him in the camps. That vision inspired him to keep marching on until he was finally freed and he lived out every one those dreams he had while he was incarcerated. I remember having similar thoughts while in prison. Rather than being angry at all the suffering, I tried to embrace the pain as motivation to keep me going so I could one day help others. Now that I am out and successful, turning those dreams into reality, is what keeps me going. I just want to complete my mission and help all of the people I dreamed about when I was locked away in a prison cell. You are so correct: The power of positive thinking can change your life beyond your wildest dreams.

  8. Wow, you are everywhere Billy! First J$, then Millennial-Revolution, now ThinkSaveRetire!

    Can’t say that I blame you for sharing your story — it’s truly inspiring!

    1. Hey Mr. Tako! One of the biggest life lessons I ever learned, came from a Puerto Rican cellmate who used to tell me, “If you want to know who you are, look at your friends.” It’s pretty awesome and amazing to me that I’ve only been out of prison for five years and I now consider J$, Steve at Thinksaveretire, and Millennium Revolution as some of my best online and real-life friends. I could have chosen a lot worse friends to make than this crew of incredible human beings!!!!! And this is only the beginning for me!!!!

      I just want to help people learn all of the lessons I learned, without having to experience all the nightmares I had to experience, and create some awesome writing along the way. If I can do that for the rest of my life, I will get to live in perfect bliss. Living a life of bliss is the goal I am working aggressively to achieve. It might take me 5,10, or 20 years to get there, but I’m going to do my best to get there.

  9. Such a powerful story and message! You could have made very different choices when you were sent to prison. You chose to have a future that you could control. It was great meeting you and I share your website with others – and I’ve shared it with my son in college. There are a lot of students who could benefit from reading your story.

    1. Thanks Vicki! Life is all about decisions as you know. People often ask what prison was like, and I often respond: Prison is like a choose your own adventure story. If you want it to be a scary, evil, horrible place, just make the decisions to create that reality and make the decisions to get into gangs, drugs, and gambling. But if you want it to be a profound place of learning, just make the decisions to create that reality and read library books, and find ways to learn from the people you are around. That’s what I chose to do. I didn’t get lucky. The decisions I made, even while in prison, are what led to my success today. Make good decisions and you’ll create a good life. Make horrible decisions and you’ll create a horrible life. That’s how our realities are ultimately made.

  10. Bill, thank you for reliving your story for us. Those are some rough memories to look back on and I’m sure it is tough to think about even though you have turned your life around for the better. Sometimes we have to learn hard lessons before we get the kick in the pants that is needed. I have had a couple as well although nothing as severe as your story. The power of positive thinking is a great thing isn’t it?

  11. No problem. Even though the memories are difficult, they no longer hurt as much because i chose to forgive myself. That simple act of self-forgiveness has allowed me to heal from most of the pain and re-build my life into a reality I am proud of. When I tell my story, I just hope I can inspire people that it’s Ok to forgive themselves for their mistakes. We all make bad decisions. Mistakes happen to us all. It’s Ok to forgive yourself. Just learn from what you did wrong, change your attitude, and make better decisions to build a life you can be proud of. The power of positive thinking can change your life into a reality beyond your wildest dreams. Just look at the extreme changes in my life if you don’t believe that it can.

    1. Thanks Matt!!! Thanks for your inspiration and support. It is a scary feeling to be so open and vulnerable with my feelings, so to have supporters like you out there cheering me on, and encouraging me to fight the good fight, and not be afraid, it MEANS THE WORLD TO ME. Thank you for helping me overcome my own fears, and inspire me to go on the mission I feel like I was created to go on. If I can just help one person out there, it will all be worth it. Thanks!!!!

  12. Powerful! To many people give up even when they are free. Thank you for sharing and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

  13. Thanks @Damn Millennial! Life is all about “not giving up.” I hope I can be an inspiration to people who think their life is over, or they can’t overcome their challenges. I hope they can look at me, and be like, if he did it with all that hell he lived through, I can do it too. That is my dream. Thanks, and stop by my blog anytime.

  14. What a great story, thanks for sharing it to us Bill! Although you were incarcerated you had an positive outlook and created a mindset where you didn’t let yourself down and instead viewed it as an opportunity to rebuild yourself and become more knowledgeable when your were out of prison, you were ready to take on the world. Love reading stories like this. Good luck to you and keep inspiring others!

  15. Truly amazing story, Bill! It’s both inspiring and motivating. You’ve definitely found your calling in writing as well – I enjoyed every word of it.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    — Jim

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