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LESSON: Even though I’ve described how we are all alone with the responsibility to save ourselves when extreme adversity strikes, there are also times when we cannot let our hearts be so hardened, and our plates of armor to be so impenetrable, that we miss a gift that reminds us we are not alone. All the answers are inside us if we are only quiet enough to listen. Ashleigh is a gift, a miracle, and I have spent each day since receiving that letter determined to honor her and make her life a miracle, also.


The below lesson is an excerpt from my recently released Amazon #1 Best Seller, When Not If: A CEO's Guide to Overcoming Adversity, Forbes Books. 


Ashleigh and I had stayed friends even after my nuclear meltdown. After MICG Investment Management imploded, Ashleigh took a job at Wells Fargo. I took pride in her follow-on success climbing the corporate ladder there. While most of my former colleagues at MICG saw it in their interests to keep their distance from me, Ashleigh never stopped supporting me and letting me know she would always be in my corner.

She attended my trial when her busy schedule would allow, and her encouragement meant the world to me.


And then she sent me a love letter. It came to me nearly a year after I had been incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Dix. I was at one of my lowest points. Receiving her totally unexpected letter was an early miracle in a long list of miracles that would later unfold.


She said her friends had held an intervention to tell her that her constant comparison of all men to me had created an impossible situation for her to date someone and not always be focused on what they could do better. She explained that her friends helped her see that she was actually in love with me, and if she didn’t pursue this possibility, she would always regret not telling me.


In somewhat of a strange science experiment, Ashleigh had drunk the MICG culture Kool-Aid like no other, and I, humbly but truly, knew she was in love with the persona of Jeff, not necessarily in the truly flawed creature that now sat behind rows of barbed wire fences and that had lost a great deal of his confidence and belief in everything he held true before.


She said she knew everything would work out, the truth would come to light, and she would stay with me through everything. I was in shock. I had always known Ashleigh was beautiful and smart, and I had also respected her tremendously for her resilience to overcome a number of childhood challenges, as well as for her fierce independence and determination to be successful on her own. But I never imagined she would pursue a relationship with a man in my perilous position.


Ashleigh said in her letter she would visit me at Fort Dix. And as impeccably true to her word as she always was, in short order Ashleigh was waiting for me in the Fort Dix visiting area. I heard my name echoed over the visitor announcements.


It wasn’t easy. Geography required her to drive seven hours to visit me and seven hours home, which she did every month for the next six years, overcoming prison room visiting hell, until she picked me up to take me to our new home, together. The universe is a baffling enigma. I cannot explain how this happened, or why it happened, but sometimes I seem to be the luckiest man in its wonder. 


Have a great week!

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