The Upside of Fear

By · Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Date Read: December 7, 2009

Book title: The Upside of Fear

Author: Weldon Lang

Book Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press (2009)

Non-Fiction / 199 pages

The Upside of Fear was the 20th book I read in 2009.

Why I read The Upside of Fear:

My friend Justin Paperny, read a review of The Upside of Fear and suggested that I read the book. It is a memoir by Weldon Long, a man who was convicted of armed robbery, then fraud, then more armed robbery, and served about 13 years in prison on the installment plan. Weldon Long was the typical prisoner, a portrait of repeating failure, until an exposure to self-help literature inspired him to change his life. I read the book because of Justin’s recommendation.

What I learned from reading The Upside of Fear:

In reading The Upside of Fear, I received a different message then the author intended. I expect that I’ll be writing about my reaction to the book elsewhere, but readers should know that I think the book will prove helpful to many of the misdirected lives that fill our nation’s prison system. Such a book may have been helpful to Weldon Long if someone would have handed him the message he articulates at the start of his sentence. Too many prisoners live without hope, and Weldon Long shows readers that with persistence it’s possible to triumph over the adversity that comes with confinement. That was the message Mr. Long wanted to convey to his readers. But as a long-term prisoner who has lived this story of self-empowerment and reconciling with society for more than 22 years, I was upset with Mr. Long’s repeating failures as a prisoner during his first decade, and more upset in reading about how the criminal justice system failed society, Mr. Long and the many victims of his violent crimes and scams.

Mr. Long is about the same age as I am, and our initial exposure to the criminal justice system began around the same time, in 1987, when both of us were 23. My crime did not have any allegations of violence or weapons. Instead, I was convicted and sentenced to 45 years for leading a group that distributed cocaine to consenting adults. Mr. Long on the other hand, pointed a gun in people’s faces and demanded their money. For that act, a judge put him in prison for about four years.

After Mr. Long’s release, he found life difficult so he got a gun and robbed a small business. Then he broke into another business and robbed a cashier. He robbed another business. Then he switched crimes and began swindling people out of cash through telemarketing scams. Then he got another gun and resumed robbery. He was in and out of prison several times, but then he began chanting mantras that he wrote out on a page. Those mantras inspired him to read more and to work through a non-accredited school that some might mistake for a diploma mill, but after family members paid his tuition, he received an undergraduate degree in “law” and an “MBA” in “management”. Mr. long was released from prison for the third or fourth time in 2002 and since then he writes that he has achieved success in sales, business and life, and that he wants to use his experiences to help others. I wish him continued success.

How reading The Upside of Fear will contribute to my success upon release:

Mr. Long appears to thrive in a career that I’ve been working for more than 22 years to enter. I applaud his success and the growth he has made, though I don’t expect that he’ll make much of a contribution to my success.

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