Paul's Reviews > The Upside of Fear: How One Man Broke the Cycle of Prison, Poverty, and Addiction

The Upside of Fear by Weldon Long
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's review
Nov 13, 09

This is the true story of one man’s journey from rags to riches.

The author was a twenty-something alcoholic high school dropout; overall, a pretty dislikable person. One night, driving around in his pickup, he picks up a hitchhiker. Fueled by large amounts of beer and cocaine, they rob a couple of businessmen coming out of a Colorado restaurant. They are arrested later that night, which begins a decade-long journey through the criminal justice system.

After several years in prison, he is sent to a halfway house. While living with his son and second wife, he commits several armed robberies. In prison for the second time, the author begins to realize that his life does not have to be a downward spiral. He reads every book he can find on success, from authors like Napoleon Hill, Wayne Dyer and Stephen Covey, and begins to take it to heart. While out for the second time, he gets involved in shady telemarketing, and finds that he is really good at it. For a time, he runs his own "boiler room," until the authorities catch up with him. A central part of his new philosophy is to take responsibility for his actions, which means a third trip to prison on federal fraud charges.

The biggest reason for wanting to change his life is to not be an emotionally distant father to his son, like his father was to him. In prison, he gets his GED, a Bachelor’s degree in Law, and then an MBA. To show how much he has changed, he saves a guard’s life (not a path to popularity in prison). Out of prison again, he gets a sales job for a heating company, and is really good at it. After a couple of layoffs, perhaps for being "too good" or "too ambitious," he and Wife #3 start their own heating company, which becomes very successful.

Long does a fine job of showing how anyone can change their life. No one is beyond help. The first steps are to want to change, and then to visualize yourself as a changed person.


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