Interview with Weldon Long, autor of The Upside of Fear: How One Man Broke the Cycle of Prison, Poverty and Addiction
About a month ago I reviewed Weldon Long’s book The Upside of Fear: How One Man Broke the Cycle of Prison, Poverty and Addiction. I now had the chance to interview Mr. Weldon about the book, his entrepreneur path from being a convicted criminal to a successful person.
Cristian: Hi Weldon and welcome on Entrepreneurship Interviews. I had the chance to read and review your book The Upside of Fear: How One Man Broke the Cycle of Prison, Poverty, and Addiction. So what is the book about?
Weldon: Well, it’s really a book about how we can all live our dreams if we are deeply committed to achieving them. In a nutshell, I spent 20 years broke, homeless and drunk. I was your garden variety loser who spent 13 years in prison. About halfway through my “prison years” my father died and I decided to change the course of my destiny and that’s what I did. In fact, I walked out of the joint in 2003 without a dime to my name, built an Inc 5000 company with over $20,000,000 in sales and got a home on Maui. The book outlines the journey and the tools I used to transform my life.
Cristian: So you went from the lowest point in the society to becoming a successful entrepreneur. I have to ask, what is your business about?
Weldon: Ironically, the first company I built was in an industry I knew nothing about. I was trying to sell a sales and marketing system I had developed for heating and air conditioning contractors, but couldn’t give the damn thing away. I had no track record and little practical experience.
After a few months I came home and told my wife, “Honey we are going to open a heating air conditioning company!” She, of course, noted that I knew nothing about the industry. Once I got her on board we opened a little heating and air conditioning company in our living room. We generated $2,000,000 in sales in the first year; $3,500,000 in the second year; and $7,000,000 in the third year. Within 60 months we had generated over $20,000,000 in revenue and were selected by Inc Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in America. Turns out my little sales and marketing system rocked. Our competitors are still scratching their heads and trying to figure what hit them.
Now I am doing sales training for one of the largest heating and air conditioning manufacturers in the world using the same system I couldn’t give away six years ago. I also do a lot of personal and business coaching, keynotes and motivational speaking. I am trying to help others live their dream just as I am living mine. Bottom line: if I can do this thing… anyone can.
Cristian: Family balance. I know from the book that you started improving your life when you realized your child needs to grow with you as a parent taking part of his life. So how important is family balance for a successful life?
Weldon: I think all the money in the world is useless if we have no one to share our lives with. My relationships with my wife and son have given me immeasurable enjoyment and fulfillment. As I outline in The Upside of Fear, my desire to build a relationship with my son was one of my primary motivators to get my act together, and the payoff in all of this is watching him live the life I never lived. It’s awesome.
Cristian: Can you describe in a few words what was the process to improve your life and live the life you always dreamed of?
Weldon: Emerson said “We become what we think all day long.” Once I realized my thoughts created the quality of my life I got serious about thinking the right things. To do this I recommend a four step process I call FEAR. Get FOCUSED on what we want in life and what we want to become in life; Get seriously Emotionally committed to those things; Take consistent ACTION towards achieving the things we want; and accept RESPONSIBILITY for how we respond to life’s challenges. I have discovered that success in life is a reflection of how we respond to life’s challenges.
Cristian: I know there are debates over what the prison system does for rehabilitation. Does the system work or you have to have the desire to become better inside?
Weldon: I hear a lot about prison reform and sentencing reform and I believe the prison systems could do more to prepare inmates for real life. Nevertheless, if we fix the individual it doesn’t matter if the system is ineffective. Again, success for ex-cons is a reflection of how they respond to a dysfunctional prison system. At the end of the day we are individually responsible for building productive lives. I can’t imagine a more hopeless situation than counting on the government to help us fix our lives.
Cristian: You’re now a speaker and driven motivator. What could people learn from you?
Weldon: If this knucklehead can do it… anyone can. End of story.
Cristian: From my experience interviewing entrepreneurs and from my own entrepreneurial experience I know it’s very hard stepping outside the comfort zone and taking control of your life and do what you always dreamed. I said in my book review that most people are prison of the society rules, working 9 to 5, never really accomplishing their dreams, some sort of a “mind” prison. How could one escape the “society prison”?
Weldon: To escape from any confinement, mental or physical, we need to understand that our power of creative thought can help us achieve things we never thought possible. Think about it: pretty much every component of our body serves a purpose. Is it unreasonable to think that our ability to dream things that haven’t happened yet or visualize something in our mind serves some purpose? I believe it does. Otherwise we have to assume our mind’s ability to imagine amazing things serves no purpose but to frustrate us with dreams we’ll never reach.
Cristian: OK. I know that when working towards your dream you will also have hard times. You say in the book that the difference between success and failure is not the number or the importance of the problems that come along, nor about luck, but about the way you approach difficulties. Can you explain?
Weldon: Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, I believe our success in life is a reflection of how well we respond to challenges in life. Here is the reality: EVERYONE in life has problems. We’ve all had health problems, money problems, and relationship problems. You name it. But what separates the winners from the losers in life is how they respond to those problems. Successful responses result in successful outcomes. It’s not rocket science.
Cristian: Do you think entrepreneurs have a mission? What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?
Weldon: Yeah, I think we do. That mission is to create something out of nothing. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than taking an idea and turning it into jobs and revenue. It’s crazy when you thing about it. One day there is nothing but an idea and the next day there are buildings and equipment or whatever. It’s like magic.
I think successful entrepreneurs all have one thing in common: the ability to dream and communicate that dreams to others.
Cristian: What about being a successful person. My view is that you shouldn’t compare with other people “success” but make your own definition. What does it mean for you: being rich, having a great family? Living on the beach?
Weldon: Everyone’s definition of “prosperity” is different. For some it may be money, for others relationships. I certainly don’t think money is the root of all evil. Hell, bill collectors are the root of all evil!
For me it’s about quality of life and the way successful business let me live the way I want to live. I love to work; I just enjoy being able to define how and when I work.
Cristian: With the crisis more and more people think their life is turning for the worse. Any advice?
Weldon: For the person who sees crisis only crisis exists. For the person who sees opportunity, only opportunity exists. We all see what we expect to see, don’t we?
Cristian: What about people in their late 40’s Is it too late for them to start improving their lives?
Weldon: No way. Hell, I walked out of the joint seven years ago at 39 years old – broke and homeless.
I just got back from an event in San Francisco sponsored by Hay House Publishing. Louise Hay was there and told the story of how she started her company at 50 years old. Today she is in her 80’s and her company is incredibly successful. Tell her 40 is too old.
Cristian: So if you did it, anybody could do it? Or there has to be something special?
Weldon: Two things: desire and a method for your madness. For me I was driven by my desire to be a father to my son and my method was the FEAR thing. Find a system and use it on a daily basis. We don’t have a knowledge problem… we have an implementation problem.
Cristian: After reading the book I said I’m somehow hoping for a sequel to see what the future will bring into your life. So will we have a sequel?
Weldon: I am working now on a new book called Discover the Secret of YOUR Greatness. It’s kind of the “how to” part of my story. I’ve already begun producing a live weekly show, which we broadcast on Monday nights. It’s amazing technology. It’s basically a television show that’s completely interactive. Folks can check it out on Monday nights at www.WeldonLong.com.
Cristian: One last question. How is weather at your home on the beach in Maui?
Weldon: Just got back to Colorado from Maui a day or two ago… it was a constant 80 degrees. Perfect golf weather, but then again, all weather is perfect golf weather.