Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.

—James Allen

Once upon a time there was a man who had destroyed his life by the age of 32.

And although what so many people claim is true—that you can measure a person’s character by how he responds when the chips are down and his back is against the wall—there was nothing in this man’s life to suggest he was even remotely prepared to overcome the challenges before him.

But you never know what someone can accomplish if he or she wants it badly enough.

On June 10, 1996, this individual stood motionless in a prison cell—a cell indistinguishable from so many others that had served as his home for more than six years—devastated over the recent news that his father had died. He looked deeply into the eyes that glared at him through the scarred stainless steel mirror in his tomb.

Through the initials scrawled by unknown tenants before him, he saw the reflection of an unemployed high school dropout and a three-time loser who had spent his entire adult life in this hopeless state of despair. For as long as he could remember, he had known only prison, poverty, and struggle. He had no money, no hope, and by all accounts, no future. He had never held a steady job or owned a home, and he’d abandoned his three-year-old son. He had never done an honorable thing in his life.

As he stared at his pathetic countenance, grieving over his dead father, the son he’d left behind, and the life he’d essentially wasted, he considered the words ...

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