7 Years Ago Today I Walked Out of Federal Prison

Craig Stanland
3 min readNov 10, 2022

7 years ago today, I walked out of federal prison.

I create a dramatic narrative if I say the government took my freedom; even better, they stole it.

Drafting a harrowing tale of conquering the evil oppressor, David vs. Goliath.

People love these stories.

They’re fun. They make us feel good.

I can’t tell that story.

Nothing was stolen from me. I lost my freedom because of the choices I made.

The effects were devastating.

The glaring omission of something I didn’t even know was mine to lose. However, the hole it left behind left no doubt about its existence.

I found a gift within the devastation, one that I fight to never again take for granted.

Freedom is complex; it’s deep and goes beyond being confined to a perimeter.

True freedom is found within, and my choices either contract or expand that freedom.

Every day there are hundreds of choices to be made.

Some big, some small.

Regardless of their size, bringing awareness to every choice is the key to an extraordinary life.

This blows me away. It makes me feel small, and it makes me feel infinite.

This is the power of choice.

The more I choose to experience life, the more brave choices I make, the more opportunities and possibilities I create.

Jerzy Gregorek said,

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

I used to think the opposite. I was wrong. I know what happens when I make a courageous choice.

It’s incredible.

Every single time.

Without fail.

I’ve been asked if my crime was worth it.

I’ve been asked if the money is buried in the backyard. A few people like to play the game,

“Would you go back to prison for thirty days for a million dollars? Free and clear



Craig Stanland

I write about my journey from corporate success to federal prison and finding joy, mission, meaning, and fulfillment beyond professional and financial success.