Preparing for Success 

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Sequence 22

11—Preparing for Success

With hopes that course participants find me a worthy guide, I’ll share strategies that anyone can use time inside to prepare for success outside. Each lesson offers strategies that leaders taught me, and I used them while crossing through 9,500 days in prison. 

I’m convinced that anyone can use time in prison to prepare for success. If participants are willing to learn from the same masterminds who taught me, I believe they can open new opportunities.

Our country incarcerates millions of people. By learning how to think differently and applying what they know, participants in this self-directed course may create opportunities that allow them to return to society strong, with their dignity intact. They will learn how to seize opportunities and how to create opportunities. 

The decisions we make influence our prospects for success. 

Toward the end of my time in prison, I wrote Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term. In that book, I provide much more detail about my journey through prison. If a participant doesn’t have access to Earning Freedom in the prison’s library, consider requesting it from a friend. If you don’t have a friend to send the book, consider writing to the following address to request a copy:

Earning Freedom

32565 Golden Lantern Street, Suite B-1026

Dana Point, CA 92629

Email: [email protected]


If we have resources available, we will send the book without charge. It’s one way of showing a commitment to helping people in prison prepare for success.

Those who read Earning Freedom may follow along the entire journey, starting with the day of my arrest, on August 11, 1987. The story takes readers through jails and prisons. It shows the relationship between decisions in prison and opportunities after release. 

As a companion to Earning Freedom, I wrote Prison: My 8,344th Day. This self-directed workbook shows how to maintain discipline and the importance of daily decisions.

On August 13, 2012, after 25 years inside, I transferred from the federal prison camp in Atwater to a halfway house in San Francisco. Then I served the final six months of my sentence in home confinement—in a newly constructed house I purchased during my first weeks in the halfway house.

After getting some traction in the career I was building, I wrote another self-directed workbook, Success After Prison. I wrote that workbook with hopes of providing pathways people in prison could use to prepare for success. I wanted them to see the relationship between a person’s decisions in prison and prospects for success upon release. 

Masterminds taught me those lessons, and I intend to pass them along through the courses we create through Prison Professors. Make a commitment to lifelong learning.

Regardless of where we may be, we always have opportunities to change. When we change how we think, we may alter how we act. If we start sowing seeds for a better future, we simultaneously begin to restore our confidence and build self-esteem—even if we’re locked in prison. Remember, today’s decisions directly influence our prospects for success in the months, years, and decades ahead.

If we build a stronger mindset, we can adjust to prison in ways that put us on a pathway for more opportunities. A strong mindset helped me commit to positive programs while I served my sentence. It influenced the friends I chose, and my attitude influenced every step I took along my journey. 

In my 16th year of the sentence, I got married. I nurtured that marriage through the final decade that I served. When my wife would visit me, I’d tell her about the career I wanted to build when I got out. Besides becoming successful in business, I pledged to pay tribute to the masterminds that influenced my adjustment. I intended to:

  • Create resources that people could use to adjust well as they went into prison.
  • Build bridges that would connect people who served time with employers.
  • Help more Americans understand steps we could take to improve prison systems across America.

To build credibility, I knew that I would need to become successful in society. For that reason, I pledged to my wife that within five years of being released from prison, I would build assets worth $1,000,000. If I could achieve that goal, I believed others would be more inclined to believe in the lessons I offered. 

Experience convinces me that anyone can sow seeds for success, even if that person starts inside a solitary cell. The key would be to help people believe that it’s never too early (and never too late) to prepare for a triumphant return to society.

Below I offer a summary of what I experienced after leaving the Federal Prison in Atwater, California. 

  • August 13, 2012:
    • My wife picked me up from the Atwater prison and drove me to the halfway house in San Francisco.
  • August 14, 2012:
    • My case manager in the halfway house gave me a pass to the DMV to take the driver’s license exam.
  • August 15, 2012:
    • I had my first day of work at a job I coordinated before I left prison.
  • August 30, 2012
    • Despite having a 0-0-0 credit score, I persuaded a real estate developer to finance a new house that his company would build for me.
  • November 24, 2012
    • The San Francisco Chronicle published a front-page story about my journey through prison and returned to society.
  • February 12, 2013
    • I transitioned from the halfway house to home confinement.
  • June 14, 2013
    • While still in the halfway house, I traveled to San Diego to speak for a panel of federal judges about the prison experience.
  • August 12, 2013
    • I finished my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons after 9,500 days.
  • August 28, 2013
    • I began teaching as an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University.
  • October 17, 2013
    • NBC news profiled me as I taught in a San Francisco jail, at San Francisco State University, and UC Berkeley.February 11, 2014
    • I gave a TED talk for a Silicon Valley Joint Venture Conference in front of more than 1,500 business leaders.
  • April 2, 2014
    • The PBS NewsHour profiled me on a news segment about efforts to bring positive reforms to the prison system.
  • May 29, 2014
    • I moved from San Francisco Bay to Newport Beach to expand my career with real estate investments.
  • July 1, 2014
    • The Robina Institute invited me to serve as an advisory council member for a panel to assess probation and parole procedures in 50 states.
  • August 12, 2014
    • Federal Judge Susan Illston granted early termination of my Supervised Release with support from the AUSA and my Probation Officer.
  • January 15, 2015
    • I launched, which became when I partnered with Shon Hopwood in 2017.
  • February 13, 2015
    • I keynoted a symposium on Federal Sentence reform at UC Hastings Law School.
  • March 23, 2015
    • I launched the Earning Freedom podcast on iTunes and
  • April 30, 2015
    • I purchased my second rental property.
  • September 30, 2015
    • I purchased my third rental property.
  • October 20, 2015
    • I purchased my fourth rental property.
  • January 20, 2016
    • I purchased my fifth rental property.
  • June 20, 2016
    • I purchased my family residence, then later turned the house into a rental property.
  • June 24, 2016
    • I traveled to Guam and Saipan to deliver Earning Freedom products that I sold to the US Attorney and the Federal Court System.
  • January 25, 2017
    • I launched Earning Freedom, Inc.
  • May 2018
    • I launched and Alternative Investment Properties, LLC.
  • July 31, 2018
    • My wife and I invested $1.4 million to become a limited partner in a property development in Costa Rica.
  • December 30, 2018
    • I became entangled in civil litigation that exposed me to more than $100 million in civil liability, risking all the assets I accumulated after my release from prison.
  • January 13, 2019
    • I settled the civil litigation, agreeing to walk away from $5 million in assets I’d built since leaving prison in 2013.
  • January 15, 2019
    • I launched Compliance Mitigation, a new company to help small- and medium-sized businesses minimize their exposure to litigation, investigations, or charges for white-collar crime.
  • January 4, 2021
    • I signed a contract with the television network CNBC to film a new reality-based television show that profiles how to use time in prison to prepare for success.
  • February 1, 2021
    • I received confirmation from the California Department of Corrections for a new purchase order to bring the Preparing for Success After Prison Program to people serving sentences in California.
  • September 1, 2022
    • I visited the North Central Regional Office of the Bureau of Prisons to present ideas to the Regional Director and the Wardens presiding over 20 federal prisons in 12 states.
  • Fall, 2022
    • I began introducing our Preparing for Success after Prison course in federal prisons across the North Central Region of the federal Bureau of Prisons.
  • May, 2023
    • I hired a researcher from UCLA to begin collecting data that would allow us to show more people the value of incentivizing excellence. The research we collect will further our goals of bringing reforms such as:
  • Broader use of incentives for all,
  • Reinstatement of parole boards, 
  • Meaningful access to commutations and compassionate release
  • June, 2023
    • The Federal Bureau of Prisons approved Preparing for Success after Prison as a First Step Act program (Sentry code: PSAP).

If I could emerge successfully after 26 years as a federal prisoner, any other participant could do the same.


What methodical steps can you begin taking today that will influence the career you lead upon release?

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