My Interview With Weldon Long: From Prison to Paradise

weldon-long

Weldon Long

Weldon Long is an entrepreneur, author and speaker who broke a twenty-year cycle of prison, poverty and addiction after experiencing an Aha! moment in prison. After his release, he built a multimillion-dollar heating and air conditioning business within thirty-six months.

Today, Weldon, who’s known to his friends as Wally, is building a second career as an expert in personal development. His new book, The Upside of Fear, has been praised by Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins and won first place in the New York Book Festival.


WELDON LONG INTERVIEW (1 OF 3)


WELDON LONG INTERVIEW (2 OF 3)


WELDON LONG INTERVIEW (3 OF 3)


Click here to read an assortment of articles about Weldon.


As a bonus, here is Weldon’s story, in his own words, about how Stephen Covey inspired him to change his life and the unforgettable moment when he met Covey in person. Covey himself included this story with an introduction on his blog.

On June 10th, 1996, my father died and my life changed forever.

At the time I was in federal custody on mail fraud and money laundering indictments – it was my third time in prison. In fact, I was a career criminal, high-school drop-out, homeless alcoholic. I had abandoned my three-year-old son and broke every promise I had ever made.

I was the personification of the bottom of the barrel.

In the days following my father’s death, the regret and remorse of a wasted life crushed me. For the first time in my life I saw myself for what I truly was, and I was sickened by what I saw. I knew I had to change.

But there was a small problem: I didn’t know where to start. That’s when I found the book that changed everything. In a small room that served as the facility’s library I found a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People written by Dr. Stephen Covey.

As I began to read the book I felt a sense of excitement I had never before felt. I felt as though Dr. Covey was speaking directly to me. For the first time in my life I began to seriously consider the values that had governed my life, and I realized that I had not been breaking the universal principles of success – I was breaking myself against them. The personality ethic had governed my behavior as I pretended and faked my way through life. My only hope was living my life according to the character ethic described by Dr. Covey.

After reading 7 Habits I set out to rebuild my life and become a man I could love. Moreover, I resolved to be the father to my son I had never been. Over the next 7 years as I served my third prison sentence, I began to see the fruits of implementing the 7 habits. I began to take responsibility for my responses to whatever came my way in life. I began to visualize how I wanted my life to be years in the future. And I began to get my priorities straight.

By the time I left prison in 2003, I had earned my BS in Law and an MBA in Management. Within six months of getting out my son was living with me, and within a year I had married the most amazing woman I had ever known. Within three years of getting out my new wife and I owned the largest residential HVAC company in Southern Colorado. And within four years of getting out of prison my wife and I owned a beautiful home on Maui. I had completed my transformation from Prison to Paradise by implementing the things Dr. Covey had taught me through those lonely prison years.

Today, my wife and I have successful companies and my son, who is now 16, is a happy, outgoing teenager with a bright future ahead of him. I have written a book about my journey called The Upside of Fear, which outlines my twenty year cycle of prison, poverty and addiction and how I broke the cycle. My hope is that others will learn from my story and come to realize the dreams really do come true – if we work for them.

My story would be amazing if it ended right there, but there is even more… way more.

In addition to writing, I do motivational and inspirational keynotes as a professional speaker. Recently I delivered a presentation to a group of Colorado Springs’ business leaders and professionals. Just before I began my presentation a man in the front row stood up and announced that Dr. Stephen Covey would soon be in Colorado Springs to address a small group. He said that if anyone was interested in attending the upcoming event to see him before leaving.

Dumbfounded, I heard the voice of the host introduce me, and as I stood before the audience I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It was all I could do to stay focused on my task at hand and deliver the message I had prepared.

After my presentation I spoke with the gentleman who had announced Dr. Covey’s visit to Colorado Springs. He invited me and my family to attend the event and offered to get a copy of The Upside of Fear to Dr. Covey. As it turned out his daughter was Dr. Covey’s personal assistant. I could hardly believe my ears.

A month later I sat in the audience with my family as Dr. Stephen Covey spoke. As I listened to his words I thought back to the time thirteen years earlier when I read 7 Habits in a dark, lonely place. I couldn’t believe the man whose words saved my life stood just a few feet away from me.

At the conclusion of Dr. Covey’s presentation a line formed as audience members approached the stage to shake the hand of the man who had no doubt impacted them all in some way. I approached the opposite side of the stage to thank the man and his daughter who had made this special night possible for me and my family.

As my family and I discussed the impact of hearing Dr. Covey live, I was approached by someone from behind. I turned to see the face of the man who had changed my life. There, no more than a foot in front of me, stood Dr. Stephen Covey.

I was speechless.

“I really enjoyed your book, Mr. Long,” Dr. Covey said.

“I, uh, I really enjoyed yours too. It saved my life,” I stammered. Seeing my nervousness, Dr. Covey softly smiled.

Suddenly I was overcome with emotion. I couldn’t believe the man who wrote the words that transformed my life was right there. I tried to speak, and I am sure I said something that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Suddenly he reached out and put his arms around me, and I began to weep.

It was one of the most profound moments of my life. The man whose words had comforted me in the darkest hours of my life was now comforting me again – this time the way a father comforts a frightened child.

For the next several moments, as I began to regain my composure, Dr. Covey told me I had a “Divine Destiny” and that I would have the opportunity to help others with my story. I thanked him for all he had done for me and my family. We shook hands and he quietly moved on to greet others in the crowd.

I stood there with my family and friends in circumspect silence. I thought about how my life had changed, and I was grateful for everything I had learned and the wonderful life those lessons had brought me.

A few days later I learned that Dr. Covey had agreed to write an endorsement for my book. The endorsement read:

“This book comes from a magnificent person who learned the lessons of life out of profound prison experiences. Despite the harsh language, Wally Long is a true diamond in the rough who produced this inspiring and illuminating account of the path he took to freedom and prosperity.”
Stephen R. Covey

I read the words and couldn’t believe the generosity of a man who had sold millions of books and is one of the most influential leaders of our time. The endorsement was written on June 10, 2009, exactly 13 years to the day my father had died and I set out on a journey to change my life.

I guess dreams really do come true.


Here is a recap of Weldon’s life by Loyd Eskildson from the website, Basil & Spice.

Twenty years of drinking, drugging, robbing, and lying led author Weldon Long to become a three-time loser and he also wasted 13-years in prisons, jails, and halfway houses. Another consequence was an almost non-existent relationship with his young son.

Long had dropped out of school in the 9th-grade, and financed by his father, twice tried selling auto parts. Both efforts failed, losing over $25,000 in the process. Inability to hold a job and the pressure of meeting rent payments were followed by Long’s first robbery. The effort netted less than $20 from two customers leaving a Colorado Springs restaurant, and a quick arrest thanks to witnesses calling police and following behind. Sentenced to ten years, Long completed an AA degree while in prison and was lucky to progress to work-release status after only three years. Despite twice being caught drinking and driving, he was soon released from parole.

Marriage, a son, more drinking, and additional robberies followed. Caught with a gun, a felony violation, he was lucky to only be charged with a misdemeanor that netted another year in jail. This time Long switched to illegal telemarketing, lost $30,000 in a Las Vegas on a drinking anddrugging binge, and eventually was caught and sentenced to another four years. Soon after, his last three robberies caught up with Long and five more years were tacked on while still in jail.

His father’s death prompted considerable introspection and reading of a number of self-help books. Long primarily credit’s Stephen Covey’s writings with helping him turn around. Long began writing down and visualizing what he wanted – an education, a home, sobriety, a wife (his current wife was having an affair and rarely visited), being thin and active, and a healthy, stable life for his then 4-year-old son. Long also took responsibility for his own actions and started acting consistently with what he wanted.

Long finished his B.A. program and began an MBA. Additional demonstration of his new life-style came when a guard passed out and a group of prisoners gathered around, watching. Long, despite long-faded memories of CPR, decided to cut through the anti-guard environment and attempt to save his life. The guard recovered. Soon after Long was sent back to work-release near the end of his sentence.

Finding a job proved quite difficult despite having completed his MBA — nobody wanted a felon as an employee. Eventually, however, Long landed a job as a HVAC salesman and set a company record for sales the first month while earning over $10,000. Personality and jealousy problems with the owner led to Long starting his own business, and within four years of his release he was running the largest and fastest growing HVAC company in Colorado, partnered with an ex-cop. He also had a new wife and was living with her and his son adjacent to a golf course near Colorado Springs. Long now also makes regular appearances to help motivate recently released convicts.





Click here to see all the video and audio interviews I’ve conducted.






ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA

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If you feel more stressed than blessed . . . if you have more confusion than clarity about how to live your beliefs . . . if you long to live a richer, happier, more meaningful life . . . you will find a wealth of insight and guidance in Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World.

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SEE EVERY MOMENT AS A GIFT

Click here to read endorsements from authors and thought leaders.

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Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.




Like to learn more about Through God’s Eyes? Here is a free 44-page PDF sampler from the book that includes:

• an overview of the book
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THROUGH GOD’S EYES PDF SAMPLER




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sixty-seconds-coverPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.

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Here is a three-minute video introduction to Sixty Seconds.





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4 Responses to “My Interview With Weldon Long: From Prison to Paradise”

  1. mel Says:

    Mr. Phil Bolsta,

    This is really an inspiring true story of from worst to best in terms of personality development. I remember Arnel Pineda of Journey who was once lost his voice and was told cannot sing again as a result of his drug addiction, but because of determination to change he is now living his dreams.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yep, I love stories of rebirth and redemption! Thanks, Mel!

  3. Mrs. Sheila Orlando Says:

    Hi Mr. Bolsta, I just finished listening to your interview with Weldon Long. Last December my husband and I purchased his book, “The Upside of Fear”, and sent it to our son in Colorado Springs, CO. Our son, Kenny Orlando, is a convicted felon, alcoholic and drug abuser. He caused the death of another person, has spent time in jail and was just released from COMCOR yesterday (July 4th, 2010). Ironically, Mr. Long was a speaker there recently. It has been a thirty year battle of broken hearts for everyone who loves our son. Thank you for this interview. Our son says he’s “changed”. I can only pray…… Sincerely, Sheila Orlando

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    That is so heartbreaking, Sheila. As a parent, I can only imagine the emotional turmoil you’ve endured. I hope that you son has indeed changed. I’ve read many stories of such turnarounds and Weldon himself is a great example, or course. I hope the months and years to come fill your life with blessings.

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