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  • Writer's pictureRichard Bistrong

"How do you come back from something like that?

This article initially appeared on The FCPA Blog, here and is reposted with the permission from the editor and publisher.

When I was in the Federal Prison Camp at Lewisburg, I had a lot of time to read. I finished sixty-five books in sixty-two weeks.

My reading covered history, politics, and books to support my teaching English as a second language. But there was also a group of books around the question I often asked myself, “What I am I going to do when I get out of here?”

One book in that category that caught my eye was Reinventing You by Dorie Clark. I knew nothing about Dorie or her background, but the title was intriguing and made my list of books to be sent once I started my fourteen months of incarceration.

Fortunately, the Bureau of Prisons allows hardback books to be delivered to federal inmates as long as it’s via the publishing house or a recognized portal such as Amazon. I can still remember the excitement when I heard over the prison loudspeaker system “Bistrong, package,” knowing it was my weekly book delivery.

But back to Dorie Clark and Reinventing You. The book said at the outset that “Reinvention, and overcoming past perceptions, can be a daunting process.” By the time I got to chapter two I realized I wasn’t reading a typical “self-help” book; rather, this was a road map of personal and professional recovery.

The book detailed how to start the new trajectory I wanted when I was discharged from prison. I began feeling the beginnings of optimism as I read Dorie’s challenge to draw “on every part of your personal experience to create your next professional identity,” which she calls “the story that only you can tell.”

Her work also braced me for a transition that might be “harsh, abrupt and shocking, and the only explanation you can offer is the truth,” and that “something powerful has changed in you.”

Her conclusion absolutely moved and inspired me. She wrote that “people make mistakes; it’s only human. But working hard, being consistent, and building up goodwill over time will enable your community, and the world, to better understand where you’re coming from, and where you hope to go with your life. They may even mobilize to help you get there.”

In between her introductory and concluding chapters was a step by step guide of how to make your vision come alive through hard work, discipline, and a number of practical exercises. Some of those tools, including social media, were ones I couldn’t access from Lewisburg. Instead I took detailed notes and shipped them back home, along with the book, with a request to my wife, “Please put these on my desk.”

Shortly after my release, I wrote to Dorie and thanked her for taking me from a mindset of fear and intimidation to inspiration. We started an email dialog, and when she released her second book, as a follow-on to Reinventing You, called Stand Out, she was the first person I ever interviewed in the studio, you can check out our discussion here.

When I read the final book in her trilogy, Entrepreneurial You. When I thanked Dorie once again for another encouraging work, she responded that I was mentioned in the preface of the new version of Reinventing You. She said that she would have the folks at HBR Press send me a copy.

That copy arrived. I had expected Dorie’s thank you to be a snippet in a sentence. But what appeared was a thoughtful and moving description of events in my life.

It started by Dorie saying, “One of the examples that makes me proudest is Richard Bistrong,” adding that “the book, he said, had been instrumental in showing him a path for his successful reinvention…but he wasn’t transitioning from being a lawyer to owning a yoga studio, of from HR to sales. He was transitioning from jail.”

In the next five paragraphs, Dorie also described some of my journey, with a concluding pivot to the reader, “If Richard can reinvent himself, so can you.”

Here’s a public thank you to Dorie. She’s one of a handful of people who changed my life.

Dorie’s words came true in my life — “dramatic and painful events can lead to true growth and a meaningful change in how you and others, see yourself.”

Most people don’t need the crucible of prison before deciding to change their lives. But anyone can start their own incredible journey with Reinventing You.

More about Dorie Clark’s book Reinventing You and her other work can be found here.

P.S. To learn more about my journey From Corruption to Compliance click 👉👉🏽👉🏼 here.


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