I stumbled across a Ted talk the other night, I normally listen as I fall asleep, kind of weird, I know. The video I landed on had me transfixed and watching to the very end. It was a talk by a guy called Curtis Caroll, Curtis is an inmate in San Quentin Prison in California and his talk was all about money and how it changed his life.
Curtis grew up in Oakland California, raised a the height of the crack epidemic with family that was heavily involved in drugs. At the age of 14 school wasn’t on his agenda, it didn’t offer him a future in his eyes, but crime did. In crime he found brotherhood, a sense of belonging; he found money and a future because people told him he had potential, the people around him believed in him, albeit for the wrong reasons.
He couldn’t read, write or spell but he understood that money was what he needed if he wanted to break free from waiting in line for food at soup kitchens. Times were tough, he watched his mother give blood for $40 so that she could get some money together. There was no sense of community in his neighbourhood, everyone was on their own trying to make enough money to survive.
At 17 years old he was arrested for robbery and murder and so began his time in prison. Confined within prison walls and surrounded by people who had similar stories to his he realised that things weren’t going to get any better. At 20 years old he forced himself to pick up a book, he forced himself to learn how to read because he needed to change his life. He wanted to understand how the world worked, he wanted to understand how to make the most of his situation.
It was the hardest thing he had ever done. Harder than seeing his family suffering with drugs, harder than watching his community struggle.
The more he learned the more he realised that he had a really big opportunity to help other people change their lives. He started to learn about managing finances, about the stock market and how prison inmates could make the most out of the money they get paid each year for the work that they do.
If you are unfamiliar with the prison system in America then you might be surprised to find out that a lot of parolees will keep offending to stay inside because going back to their communities means facing more hardship. In prison people have a warm bed, clothes, food and jobs to do that earn them some money. They have a sense of purpose.
Over the last few years Curtis has developed a curriculum of finance management that is now taught in the prison system to empower people who really want to change their lives. “Financial education for me has been a lifesaver,” he says. “And I have always been passionate about trying to make money. The problem with that money is it was focused in the wrong area — crime.” Curtis is giving his fellow inmates the tools to create a brighter stronger future for themselves. He is helping his community…
The reason I’m sharing this with you today is not to make you feel sad for people in prison, nor is it to judge Curtis on the crimes he has committed. I want you to understand that where ever you are in your life you can always make positive moves, you can help the people around you and you have something fantastic to contribute to the world.
Curtis is still in prison, he has accepted the punishment for his crimes and is trying to make things better in the world, maybe in the hope that he makes up for the wrong he has done.
His sentence is 54 years to life; now, I don’t know about you, but somehow the early morning alarm clock that annoys me doesn’t seem so bad right now… Curtis is an example firstly, of the road you should avoid in life, but secondly an example of someone who did take a wrong turn and has managed to make the best of a rocky road. He took responsibility for his actions and began to put a positive voice out into the world.
I know I don’t have a life sentence in prison, but I am determined to make it my life’s work to help people become stronger and better people. So start your week this week and be determined, be fearless and go after the things you want in this world. Make your future bright, Curtis made his future better by embracing his surroundings and finding a way through the tough times. Are you ready to do the same?
Stay Strong and Keep Moving!