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If you were sentenced to prison for 10 years for “Reckless Homicide By Delivery of a Controlled Substance”, what lesson would you learn from it?
1) Don’t do drugs. It’ll ruin your life.
2) Why did this happen to me? Life isn’t fair.
3) I can use my story to save someone else’s life.
For Billy B. from Wealth Well Done, it’s #3.
Back in 2002, Billy was a 21-year-old college dude who loved to party. One night he brought some drugs to a party, got high, and then went home to sleep it off. The next day, he called his friend whom he had partied with, only to hear a different voice he wasn’t expecting:
“He’s dead! He’s dead!” His roommate yelled, “You have to get out of there now!”
Dropping the phone, he ran out into the hall way, and straight into the arms of the police. That day he found his whole world turned upside as he was sentenced to 10 years for providing some of the drugs that had killed his friend in his sleep.
That was 15 years ago. Today, Billy has completely turned his life around. After getting out of jail in 2012 and starting over again from the bottom, Billy went back to school, worked his way up from a $9/hour job stacking boxes to amassing a quarter million dollars of net worth in just 5 short years.
I’m sharing Billy B’s story today to inspire you. If you’re in a ton of debt, in a bad situation you think you can get out of, or just too scared and don’t think you can ever accomplish your dreams, Billy is living proof that you CAN.
I met, Billy at FinCon this year. As soon as he introduced himself, I knew something was familiar. Even though I’d never met him before, as soon as the words “Jail” and “10 years” left his mouth, I immediately remembered where I had seen him.
As shocking as the story was, it wasn’t so much the story that really got me. It was Billy’s attitude. He is living proof that where you end up in life has more to do with your choices, rather than luck, other people, or some so-called predetermined destination. Because Billy COULD HAVE wallowed in misery, blamed the cops, blamed his luck, blamed society in general. But he didn’t. He made a horrible mistake as a dumb college kid, got taught an brutal lesson but he didn’t let that destroy him. Instead, he used it to better himself. And today, I’m beyond excited to share with you what he learned from such a harrowing experience.
So without further ado, here’s Billy!
You mention in your article that in jail you “hadn’t seen the internet in a decade” and “had no concept of what social media was.” What was that like? How have you adjusted to regular life?
It was overwhelming. Euphoric, but scary at times because I knew I could fail at any moment. Looking back on it, I probably took on more than I should have. I started college 6 days after I got out with 16-credit load. I knew school would be good for me because it would give me a good place to start, but I forgot about all the little stuff I’d have to relearn. Like how to drive a car, start an email address, buy clothes, get banking stuff set up. It was just so much all at once.
Luckily in prison, I saw my prison time as a training ground to get ready. So rather than studying how to do all these things that were unknown to me, I studied philosophical skills like:
- How to be good under pressure.
- How to be patient.
- How to focus on small achievements that would lead to bigger achievements.
- How to fake it until you make it.
- How to build quality relationships with people who could help me.
So when the proverbial shit hit the fan and I got out, I relied on all these “human skills” that really did help me and set me up for long term success.
That’s interesting that you say things like “luckily in prison” and refer to getting OUT of jail as “when the proverbial shit hit the fan”. It reminds me of that scene in “Shawshank Redemption” where Brooks gets out of jail after a 49-year sentence. He’s so afraid of going back out into the real world because “everyone got themselves in a hurry”, that he briefly considers killing his boss at the grocery where he works as a grocery bagger so he could go back to jail.
So it seems like as terrifying as it was to serve a 10-year sentence, getting out and having to adjust to the real world again was just as terrifying.
Which brings me to my next point. You said that you learned in prison that “happiness is not dependent on needing a lot of money” since “money didn’t exist in prison” and you loved not having to worry, or think about it. What was it like getting used to the concept of money after you got out and what’s your relationship with it like now?
Money was a very foreign concept to me because it really didn’t exist in prison.
In prison, I was making 0.42 cents an hour as a GED tutor and that was considered a high-paying educated man’s job.
When I went to prison, I was just a college kid who never really had any significant job or income. So really when I got out at 31 years old, I had the money knowledge of a teenager. But, it was sort of a disguised blessing. I had the philosophical understanding of “how to be happy” “how to create purpose and meaning” “how to be content with little” understandings of a person far beyond my age because I had to learn those skills in prison to survive.
So when I first got out, my goal was just to make $10 an hour because I could at least survive on that. Then, when I could make $10 an hour, and learned to live life on those terms, I could reset my goals, and shoot for the next goal.
I am totally 100% honest when I say my journey to wealth really happened on accident. I was just so busy learning about life and money, and setting goals, and then making the next goal, and achieving that goal, and setting my next goal higher, that before I knew it my goals and achievements were getting bigger and bigger. I accidentally got wealthy along the way. Once I hit $125,000 net worth, I really noticed and thought “holy crap, I did this on accident, and I am really good at it.” I wanted to share what I have learned with others and that’s where the idea for Wealth Well Done was inspired.
My relationship with Money today is fantastic. I see money as a tool that can help buy every dream I had when I was in prison. When I was in prison, I never dreamed of a brand new $100K sports car. Or a 8,000 square foot beach house. I dreamed of the simple things:
- Being able to see friends whenever I wanted.
- Being able to go on walks and hikes whenever I wanted.
- Being able to think, write, and execute ideas however I wanted.
Fortunately for me, it doesn’t take a lot of money to do these things. But the more money I have, the less I have to think or worry about money, which allows me to think more about the above things that make me happy. So for me, money really is a gateway into freeing up my mind to create a better mindset, which is really my happiest and most blissful place to be.
Wait, so JAIL made you less stressed about money because you realized you don’t need a lot of money to be happy? Have you always been a frugal person?
Yup. In fact, before I went to jail, I always thought getting into debt was a life sentence. The negative side effects from getting high were short lived but the side effects from getting into debt lasts for decades. So I stayed away from debt because I believed it was worse than drugs. Now I know that was because I was super cocky and thought you couldn’t die from the drugs we were taking.
Did you hear that peeps? Billy thought debt was scarier than drugs! This is why we keep saying you need to “murder that debt monster” before it destroys you.
Okay, so on to my next question. In Jail, you mentioned you were surrounded by murderers, people who’d committed robberies, people who’d done things way worse than you. Who’s the most interesting person you met in jail and what did they teach you?
Great question. I think the inner-city gang culture made the biggest impact on me.
But not active gangsters. The gangsters who had gotten older, and had spiritual awakenings, and were no longer the killers and brutal enforcers they once were.
They taught me how every decision you make in life when you’re living on the streets can be life or death for them.
Seriously, if you make the wrong decision, you could be killed for it.
So they taught me how important strategy is, and how important being very wise with every decision is.
I grew up in the white, educated upper/middle class suburbs so though I was taught a lot of academic knowledge in my education before prison, I was really kind of “soft” in my decision making skills, because I just had the attitude that since I’m smart, and come from a good family, my family or society will just bail me out if I make a bad decision.
But being immersed in a culture where your every decision mattered, really sharpened my decision-making skills, because every decision you make is either going to lead you to success, failure, or death. That period of my life, with those people, really made me hyper-aware of every decision I make.
I didn’t want to fail in prison, or when I got out of prison, so it really made me study and master my decision making process to a point I’d never done before.
In fact, I wrote a manuscript about my experience living between these two cultures I may publish one day.
Wow, that’s incredible! This is the point that stuck with me the most from your story. Your decisions/choices is what determines where you end up in life. Because without parents or the government to bail you out, you had to save yourself or you died on the streets. No one’s coming to save you.
This lesson actually matches exactly what I learned from my experience growing up in China. When you live in a country with no social safety net and you can’t rely on the government to save you, you develop this “do or die” mentality.
That’s why it’s so foreign to me when people ask “what’s the worse that could happen? Like you’d starve on the street? You’ll be fine.” The truth is, if you’re from a marginalized background or living in country with no safety net, you WON’T be fine unless you save yourself. You CAN literally die on the street. There are no thoughts of “my situation is bad but I can’t do anything to change it. I need someone to come help me. ” When you have no one coming to save you, you HAVE to claw your way out, because if you don’t, you die. It’s the Survival Mindset.
It seems like that’s the Survival Mindset that drove Billy to finish his degree, get a job, and hustle until he got his way to a quarter of a million and where he is today. And if that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.
Well, this post is turning into a monstrous 2000 word post already and I haven’t even scratched the surface, I’m going to split this into 2 parts. Stay turned next Monday to find out:
- How Billy managed to save $40K in 2 years on a $9/hour salary stacking boxes
- How he managed to build his quarter million net worth in just 5 short years, and
- What advice he has for people who are stuck in bad situations they don’t think they can get out of.
Click here for Part 2 of Billy’s interview!