“This place is fantastic. I think everyone should come here.” An incredible statement from a convicted executive about his new home at the Federal Prison in Taft California. When the 67 year old arrived at the institution, he hobbled in with the use of a cane. The stress of his arrest and subsequent trial had increased his persistent high blood pressure, ulcers and migraine headaches. Now with 6 months of his 18 month sentence behind him, his cane and discomfort were replaced with a regular exercise regime and time to meditate, read and relax. The Taft Correctional Institution is located in a bleak and foreboding topography on the outskirts of the oil-patch in Central California. The sterile cinderblock walls rise grey against the Valley-Fever laden dust. Room accommodations consist of multiple bunks arranged around a stainless steel toilet and sink that jet out from the wall with no accessible plumbing or windows. The infirm are sent to this prison because of its access to medical care and the quality of the food, though stray dogs have been known to turn up their noses at it. There are no walls nor razor-wire around this Martha Stewart-style camp for fallen CEOs, but the isolation from family, friends and firms is just as lonely. I was serving as a volunteer minister at the prison when I met “Max.”
Max was a multimillionaire, with several businesses in his portfolio. He was convicted of securities fraud for selling stock in a new business without having filed for corporate status. His peers at the prison were there for insurance fraud, tax evasion, and other sundry white-collar crimes. Unlike others in the “slammer” Max didn’t have to worry about finding a job when he’d done his time. Max was set, but at what cost? His ironic rise to the “top,” had left his body ravaged with pain and his soul void of refuge. For Max, prison was a welcome wake-up call to replace profits with people.
One of my purposes in writing Ten-Minute Retreats for Business Owners, was to propose a balance between life and a livelihood. It is unhealthy to relentlessly pursue profits. Money is a wonderful thing. It affords its owners with time to spend with family, the power to improve society, the exhilaration of charitable contributions, access to cultures, exposure to knowledge, and influence for good. These are not your typical insinuations of affluence, but they could be.
To balance your life with a livelihood, you must first make enough money. Interestingly, your investment of time to earn a living can be the same as the time necessary to make a fortune, if you plan appropriately. Instead of concentrating on your next sale, take a few minutes to consider what it would take to quintuple your sales. As your income grows, reinvest some of your proceeds into the business that will work for you without you working. Give sufficient interest to your loved ones as well as your investments. Do good things for other people as well as your pocketbook. Time in your track shoes can be good for the soul.
Max was forced to give up his executive chair for time on the dusty track of Taft prison. In the process his health improved. He made friends. He reconnected with his family through letters and visits. He relearned to pray. Do yourself a favor, choose the better track before you are forced to.