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Beyond Bars: Mentor’s guidance paying post-release dividends

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | Jun 16, 2019

It's been just 18 months since I was released from prison, but it seems so long ago. At the same time, the experience completely changed me. I no longer sweat the small stuff in day-to-day life, but yet I really appreciate all the little things. I can't think of the last time I was stressed. Yesterday, I sat in a chair by my buddy's fountain and just thought about how my life is exactly what I dreamed it would be when I was in prison.

Here's what's going on in my life. I haven't completely rebuilt. I still don't have many possessions and my credit is slowly recovering, but I don't feel rushed on any of that; I'll get there. I have my freedom and a little more. I figured this is as good a time as any to experience living right downtown in a city, so I have moved to Salt Lake.

I've been at my job for about a year and it is better than I could have hoped for. I'm an independent contractor as a sort of shipping consultant. I work with e-commerce companies, warehouses and shipping platforms. I like the people I work with, love the fact I don't have any set hours, and enjoy traveling all over. The easiest explanation of what I do is sales, but I don't really sell anything, because that would imply someone exchanges money for goods or services.

I do all the activities that a sales person would do, like cold call companies and go out and visit them, but I am just trying to save them money. I'd say skepticism and change are the biggest hurdles I face. Basically, I give companies a discount on the shipping they are already doing with FedEx, UPS and the USPS. You'd think "selling a discount" would be the easiest thing in the world, but it's not. I sold prescription drugs and that was a whole lot easier and quite lucrative, but living with yourself and the consequences are less appealing.

Getting someone to trust you and then having them change something that isn't necessarily broken is probably harder than having them part with a little money in return for a product or service. But on the plus side, it's highly unlikely any of my customers would ever ask for a refund. I've worked hard and it's all starting to come together and pay off.

Before prison, I would have never been able to be successful at a job with little to no structure. It's always what I wanted, but I just didn't have the tools. When I first got out I had a highly structured job and that was probably good for me. K.O. Murdock gave me that job straight out of prison, but he also did another great thing for me. He introduced me to a man named David Ibarra. David met with me on his Sundays, sometimes for hours, for over a year. I had all sorts of desire and enthusiasm to succeed and he worked with me to channel that. He showed me what success looks like and how to attain it.

This is one of David Ibarra's ways of giving back, and I consider myself quite fortunate to have been the recipient of such charity. He didn't ask for money, he just asked that I take it seriously and give back when I do become successful. Mr. Ibarra has done this same thing for hundreds of others.

David is running for mayor of Salt Lake City, and I surely hope he wins because he sincerely cares about people and his city. No matter what though, it's hard for me to fathom how anything could compare to all the good that will come from the hundreds and hundreds of individuals he has personally mentored, and the positive ripple effect that will grow as all those benefactors, just like me, pay it forward.


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