My guest for Episode #124 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Brent Cassity, the author of the new book Nightmare Success: Loyalty, Betrayal, Life Behind Bars, Adapting, and Finally Breaking Free: A Memoir.
Brent also has a podcast – “Nightmare Success In and Out,” which explores the stories of inmates who were in and now out of prison.
Brent was a CEO of a national company, Forever Enterprises, that was recognized in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, TIME, FORTUNE, to name a few. HBO did a documentary on their company titled “The Young and the Dead” that spawned the dramatic series “Six Feet Under” – a highly acclaimed series that I really enjoyed.
As it says in his bio, Brent “had it all and lost it all…” as what happened led to Brent and his family’s story (and the story of their company National Prearranged Services Inc. (NPS) — being an episode of CNBC’s “American Greed” documentary series.
In today's episode, Brent tells his “favorite mistake” story about how trusting his dad, who had already been convicted for fraud, led to him getting into a lot of hot water with the feds… with many lessons learned in the process that he's kind enough to share with us today.
We talk about that story and other topics including:
- Was your dad forthcoming about that first conviction?
- Was the CNBC story that accurate?
- Crimes and intent vs mistakes??
- What the five rules that helped you survive prison that can be used in everyday life?
- What happens when your worst fear becomes your reality? Nothing is ever as bad as your mind makes it out to be.
- What has your life been like since you got out of prison?
Find Brent on Social Media:
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- Video of the episode
- How to subscribe
- Full transcript
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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes):
Mark Graban (0s):
Episode 124, Brent Cassity, author of the book, “Nightmare Success.”
Brent Cassity (6s):
Six years. It was a long battle. We lost everything pretty much.
Mark Graban (16s):
I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, tou'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at myfavoritemistake,podcast.com for links, show notes, and more. You can go to markgraban.com/mistake124. I also want to give a bit of a warning and disclaimer, here that in the episode, there is a brief mention of suicide.
Mark Graban (58s):
So knowing that's a sensitive topic, wanted to let you know upfront. Now here is our guest Brent Cassity, and our guest today is Brent Cassity. He is the author of a book called Nightmare Success. So it will be released in January. It can be pre-ordered and you can learn more on his website, BrentCassity.com. He has a new podcast, similar title it's called Nightmare Success: In and Out, which explores the stories of inmates who were in and now out of prison. So Brent had been a CEO of a national company called Forever Enterprises that was recognized in publications, including the Wall Street Journal and from Forbes and others.
Mark Graban (1m 39s):
HBO did a documentary on their company, titled The Young and the Dead, which then spawned the dramatic series Six Feet Under, a highly acclaimed series that, that I know I really enjoyed. So before I tell you more about Brent, first off, welcome to the podcast, Brent. How are you?
Brent Cassity (1m 55s):
Thank you, Mark. I appreciate it.
Mark Graban (1m 58s):
I can see for those who are watching on YouTube, you can tell Brent's a podcast or he's got a good podcast set up there.
Brent Cassity (2m 4s):
I've got this board and the microphone. I got it all.
Mark Graban (2m 7s):
Well, you're coming through loud and clear, but you know, Brent's life has taken some, some turns, as it says in his bio, Brent had it all and lost it all is what happened with Brent and his family story. And the story of a company called National Prearranged Services ended up as, as an episode on CNBC American Greed documentary series. So Brent, you know, I appreciate you being so forthcoming and being willing to talk about topics like this, you know, looking back at your life and your career, what would you say is your favorite mistake?
Brent Cassity (2m 47s):
Well, it's a, it's an interesting topic Mark, because I, you know, when I thought back on what was my favorite mistake, you know, I really had to dig deep into and, and my F by mistake also, I still struggle with, well, as you said, we had a, a company that grew into a national company to take you back just a little bit. I, I grew up with a dad and my brother and I, mom was family of four. And my dad was this bigger than life character. He probably could have made a movie about this man.
Brent Cassity (3m 29s):
He's from a small town, Val Victoria. And he was he's a step. Won the state championship, went to school and then graduate number one, his last class law school class. He was just that type of guy that people were kind of drawn to get that charisma. And he got out of law school once some big cases and got into acquiring businesses with doctors and at a very young age, she had a lot. And we had a lot as a family and at 14 years old, I thought my life was as normal as anybody else's life. And I found out one night, my dad said, boys, I need to talk to you.
Brent Cassity (4m 12s):
He said, I've, I've gotten in trouble with the, the federal government with the bank. And I believe I'm going to work out a plea deal. I'm not going to get any prison time, but I'm wanting to move the family to St. Louis and we're going to get a fresh start. I was like, oh my gosh, this was huge. I mean, everything in my life, down in the Southwest Missouri town was exactly how you draw it up in a book and then this, and it didn't make any sense to me, mark. You know, this is a guy that was what I was trying to be. And as it would turn out, he ended up getting six months in prison.
Brent Cassity (4m 56s):
And I, and we did move to St. Louis. And I said to myself, when we went to Marion, Illinois to the prison camp, just man, this, this can never happen to me. This will never happen to me. I'll never find myself here. And as, as it would be my dad, he got out of prison. He was able to save one company because he'd put it in the family's name, Rhonda Britt and Tyler and a trust. And so he started building that company up. That was the pre-arranged service company. You were talking about mark and, you know, fast forward one way or the other different pieces happen.
Brent Cassity (5m 43s):
And the family came together and were in that family company. I liked sales and marketing and dad really liked finance. He liked to trade as the company grew, we had these prearranged funeral contracts and we funded those by buying our own insurance company. And that was the funding mechanism. So I always looked at it as that was just a necessary evil over there. I like the sales, the marketing, the building, and we're growing. And it's fun. My biggest or favorite mistake was, is being an owner of a company and having all of this pride that dad had remade himself.
Brent Cassity (6m 31s):
And that he was so smart. I never really doubted whatever he said had to be, right. Whatever he was doing had to be right. He was just that type of guy. And my mistake was, is I had people tell me, you know, I think your dad plays a little bit in the gray. He's so smart that he'll take a statute and read things into it that maybe, you know, a guy who legislated this out and they signed it. Maybe he didn't think of. So when our world started coming apart and the issue was our insurance company, that was the one part of the company that I had not made myself familiar with.
Brent Cassity (7m 17s):
I hadn't, I had just not even acted like it was anything that I was involved in. So first of all, that was a mistake being an owner. I had responsibilities and I chose because I didn't like math. Didn't like anything to do with insurance. And I just chose lazily that it was okay. It makes sense out of that, because, you know, I'm busy over here, I'm doing all this other, but Mark as things happen one day. My dad and our attorney come to me and they said, we're getting a lot of heat with this re-insurance deal.
Brent Cassity (8m 0s):
And we're get a lot of heat from the regulators. And all these states, we were in 22 states at the time. He said, Brett, you know, we don't think your dad can be involved in this because he's an ex-felon. And we really think you'd be good to go and talk to these people. I said, wow. Okay, well, you're going to have to tell me a little bit about exactly what mechanisms this is at work, because I need to be able to speak confidently what I'm talking about. So at that moment, I was thinking about two things. One, can I put the Cape on and make this dad so proud that I can save the day?
Brent Cassity (8m 44s):
And to, you know, we had a lot of lives that were under our umbrella, that I was thinking that we had to go and talk to these people and solve this problem. So I jumped into the fray by doing that, by doing something that I wasn't really familiar with. When I got started, I became the face of what we were doing as a company to the regulators. And as it turned out, we fought for six years. It was a long battle. We lost everything pretty much. And at the end of that, we had my dad, myself, our attorney, our investment advisor, our CFO, and my dad's secretary all got sentenced to a federal prison.
Brent Cassity (9m 45s):
So as I look back on that today, mark, I really think that my wife and I had these conversations too, what would I have done? Cause I know the first thing I could have done was obviously get more involved in understanding our business, the other side of our business way before anything happened. I didn't want to do that because it was good to be in an invading. My dad's turf. He never invaded my turf and I never invaded his, but I had a responsibility to, I was the one that carried the title, not him, big mistake.
Brent Cassity (10m 25s):
The other one I have, I have trouble with because the thing that actually probably put me in prison was becoming the face of something, running into a burning building. And I struggle with that one because I always thought about the people and their livelihood and their jobs and our responsibility to them. And how could I walk away from that, that one? I'm not sure if that was a mistake or not, but it was just the hand I was dealt.
Mark Graban (11m 1s):
Hmm. So thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And I guess, you know, a couple of questions come to mind, like, you know, first off going back to when you were a teenager, what w w was your dad forthcoming about what happened? Did he admit to doing anything wrong or did he, what did he feel like he got caught in a gray area of the law? Or did, did, did, did he take ownership of what he, what, what happened
Brent Cassity (11m 30s):
To ask a question? He explained it in a way that of two counts, one was a tax fraud and the other was bank fraud. He explained it that he gave a loan to somebody on the bank board that wasn't allowed. He explained that he appreciated a mobile home park on a busy section in Springfield, Missouri, that he felt like you could appreciate it because of the land value. That's how he explained it to me as a 14 or 15 year old kid. That was way above my head. But that's how I always understood it. I just, I always thought that my dad maybe just got too spread too thin.
Brent Cassity (12m 17s):
He, as I got older, my dad was very good at seeing people's what they could bring value to. And he was, he was a great cheerleader. He would see potential in somebody or their talent, and he would be able to build them up. He did that with me. He did that with me, did that with my mom. She built these unbelievable houses and they'd go buy these houses and she'd fix them up and she'd sell them. And she never really wanted to do it, but she was so talented whether he talked her into it, she, she built these beautiful homes all over the world. And some pretty impressive people lived in them, my brother, the same way. So he always had a way of saying things over and over that they became true, even if they weren't true, he would believe whatever.
Brent Cassity (13m 6s):
He said so much that people around him also believe that. And as a son, I had to reflect on that after all of this fell, because I couldn't see such an interesting relationship because we not just ahead had a father and son relationship. We were, you know, we were, I would say, best friends. You know, we were in business together and, and we enjoyed growing the business, even though we were on different sides of the coin or different sizes of the, the branches of the company, it was a lot of fun. So having to untangle my dad was somewhat of a dismemberment from our relationship because I had to kind of come to terms with dad also because he had the ability to do that with the potential and the talents of people, sometimes you could possibly feel used.
Brent Cassity (14m 2s):
And that was a struggle for me to deal with as a son, because when you have somebody that's godlike or somebody that you idolize, and it happens to be your dad, he had a lot of great qualities, you know, that's the thing, you know, he died, he served 10 years, so seven and a half years, I think is the total. And he died two months after he got out. So unfortunately I always thought when, when he was out and I got, I had gotten out two or three years before that two and a half years, I guess, before that, I thought we'll sit down and we'll just talk, let's just lay it all out there and have this discussion of the deepest things in my mind and how he answers those things.
Brent Cassity (14m 51s):
And the weekend I was planning on doing that. He died. So we never had that discussion. So I I'm left with dealing with, I don't know if I would be the person I am today without having the data I've had, but I've learned that trust and loyalty is an important thing in people's lives, but you also have to be, you have to have your eyes open, even if it's your dad
Mark Graban (15m 22s):
So well, and for, and for one, yeah, I did read about his passing. So I, I am sorry for your loss, especially with some of those questions or that con that conversation on resolved. Can't imagine how, how difficult that is on top of, of everything else. But, you know, it was a follow-up question about the, the, the MPS days, the, the, the CNBC show and, and, you know, leave open question here. You know, I don't know if they got all the facts, right. But they portrayed your father as being an, and forgive me if this word is in delicate, but mastermind of, you know, this, this, this plot that turned into fraud charges.
Mark Graban (16m 12s):
So what I hear you saying though, Brent, is that you were running kind of the other part of the business didn't know what was happening. Weren't, weren't really part of the fraud. You were building other parts of the business. And then because then you had that executive title, you get held accountable, whether you're actively participating or just not aware of what was going on.
Brent Cassity (16m 34s):
Well, and I think, you know, mark, one of the things is, is that there, you would have thought that there would have been a lot of red sirens going off. You know, that said, Hey, wait, well, watch out what what's going on. There really wasn't, we, we went 30 years, paid over a half, a billion dollars in death claims and always paid them on time. So from my point of view and my blinders, we were a great company. I was proud of the way that we trained. I was proud of the way that we structured our people to be paid. People did well. And so I, it was so upsetting to see the company put in that light because there was so many good people doing good things.
Brent Cassity (17m 24s):
And, and as you know, the CNBC American greed, I unfortunately got to watch that in prison. And that was a strange, I don't even know how to explain that I have 435 guys see the week before that my family is going to be featured on American greed. And wow. It was really, I think the thing that disturbed me, obviously, you know, I made my dad out to be a villain and a dark figure. And I thought it was very unfortunate how they made the women and our MPS advantage to be, I think they even talked about it as being like Hooter type women and, and art that couldn't have been further from the truth.
Brent Cassity (18m 14s):
These were women that had smart, they were engaged to do well and succeed. They were as goal setters and they created these incredible relationships in these different states and was nothing but proud of them. You hate to see people destroyed like that. And, and I, you know, Stacy leaks can make anything, sound ominous with his voice, but man, those people who were working, I hated to see that cause that wasn't who they were, you know, on my dad's part, the, they, I guess it was an easy, easy play, you know, he's an ex-felon and he started another company and, and, you know, then we all get indicted.
Brent Cassity (19m 5s):
So you don't have to write the script very far from making somebody out to be a villain. But going back to what I said originally, I didn't see a red flag until we found out that we had this, this arbitration with our, when I say this arbitration, it was a person we had, the reinsurance was, was the largest reinsurer in the world. So it was like a David and Goliath thing and add, and, and Howard, because we didn't contractually have to renegotiate. They told them they don't didn't want to. And so when it became a struggle, they canceled all the policies and that started a nuclear war.
Brent Cassity (19m 50s):
And that's, you know, whenever you have smoke in the industry that, that we were in, there's always assumed to be a fire. And that hit our capital and surplus, you know, eight to $9 million of fighting with a gigantic company. And it was a mess in the end. All of those allegations of fraud were dismissed on, on the re-insurance side, because there was an email that came up years after, but still as arbitration was going on that there's no fraud here. We just made a bad mistake and we should have known our contract better than trying to just make a deal that went to the board. That it didn't matter mark, after that, because we had already lost the battle.
Brent Cassity (20m 32s):
We were in the thick of, of all the regulators. And by that time, the, the slippery slope, we were already under the avalanche. So there's no feeling like that when you start losing a company and then you start getting requests, regulatory people, there's not enough hours in the day. There were several times that I thought that we were gonna make it. You know, I, I had thought I had created a decent relationship with the insurance commissioner down in Texas. And another person got involved and decided they want to go another way. And it was just by the time it was all over mark, I was just dead, tired, just dead tired.
Brent Cassity (21m 20s):
And I knew I was going to prison. And it was just like, man, just, I guess I needed to get started so I can get it over. That's how I felt.
Mark Graban (21m 33s):
And you serve how long at Leavenworth. And that sounds like a place. I mean, I don't know much about the prisons, like violent offenders are there in Leavenworth. That's, that's a heavy security.
Brent Cassity (21m 43s):
It's, it's a, it's a place that a lot of people know. So there's, there's a, there's a USP United States penitentiary. And then there's the, the Leavenworth camp. So when you go in, you are processed into the USP, which is very intimidating. I don't know, arc if you've ever seen Shawshank, but it's, it's got that look, you know, it was built in 1879. It's an old, old place. And you end up down in this basement. And the first thing you realize is you don't know anything, and you're not going to know anything because they don't want you to know anything. And then you start wondering, then what's next.
Brent Cassity (22m 24s):
And you sit in this cell for a long time when you voluntarily surrender that day. And it's, it's a feeling like no other feeling that I will ever experience, because you almost feel like the, your freedom is shedding off of you when you're, when you're walking through that first gate and it closes and you walk through the second gate and it closes, and that guy comes to get you. And you walk into that sidewalk into the basement of that prison. It's just so humbling. Hmm.
Mark Graban (22m 59s):
And, and so, so that camp was that separate from the most violent of the prisoners,
Brent Cassity (23m 8s):
The camp, interestingly, the camp didn't look like a normal camp because back in, I think 1990, they had set it up to be a load. So there's, there's a camp there's low there's mediums and there's maximum, maximum. So it's all built on your custody level. And a number of years you're serving and so on, but the camp had, it was built like a low. So it had the scary fences with the Bob wire, the double fences with the rolled bulb wires. So it was, it was intimidating for somebody that you wanted to invite up to have a visit because it looked scary. But the, the place that was the most scary was up on the hill.
Brent Cassity (23m 49s):
And that was the USP. So if you had a job, some jobs allowed you to walk outside those fences and be outside of that small campus of, of the camp. And I was fortunate enough to work in the food warehouse. It was about a mile away that I would walk to and we served as it was 2100 people. So we had a lot of food and, but it was a good job. I got to learn, you know, I got to get forklift certified. I was the clerk of the warehouse. And my, my strategy when I went was, you know, I'm not going to stop being me.
Brent Cassity (24m 33s):
I've got to figure out what would I do on the outset? I would set goals. I would have a plan and most of it's to stay busy so that I don't fall into a rut that I can't get out of. So that my strategy going to prison was trying to continue to be made in some form or fashion, even though I was in such an unfamiliar environment.
Mark Graban (24m 58s):
And so coming out and, and, and, and before I ask a question, I, you, you were there.
Brent Cassity (25m 4s):
So I got 60 months and I was fortunate enough to be able to get into the program that allowed me a year off. It was a nine month program. It was called a residential drug alcohol program. I believe it, I can't sometimes have trouble remember the acronym, but when I was doing my pre-sentence report, the guy that was doing my pre-sentencing report, or the judge, he asked me, he said, Brent, do you drink? And I said, yes. He said, are you under a lot of stress? And I said, yes. And he said, are you drinking to relieve your stress daily?
Brent Cassity (25m 44s):
And I said, absolutely. And he said, well, he said, I think I'm going to put in your pre-sentence report to recommend that you take this program. And he said, it's not guaranteed that you'll get in. But if we put it in the pre-sentence report, it's your responsibility. When you get there to go and talk to Dr. Wells and be interviewed to possibly be able to get into the, so to me, that was a gift from the guy that I was talking to for the pre-sentencing report. And I was lucky enough to get into it. It was an interesting program, different than different than any other program in prison because of the other stuff was just kind of all a waste of time and babysitting, but there was some reasons why the RDF program was in place.
Brent Cassity (26m 32s):
It was mostly set out to try to lower the recidivism rate of, of prisoners. I don't know if anybody on this podcast would, but with the numbers are so bad and recidivism, there's two thirds that go back in three years and three fours to go back and five. So, and there's reasons for that, you know, a lot of people that don't know the whole piece of that story inmates, when they were released, it's almost like the F the last of its breed that you can legally discriminate against you. You go for a job, you have to check that box.
Brent Cassity (27m 13s):
If you go to try to live somewhere, you have to check that box. If you want to try to get credit or get a car, you have to check that box. And for those three things, those are kind of the three things that get you back into society. And I'm hoping that something's tweaked as time goes on on that, because I think there's a lot of men out there nonviolent offenders. I'm not talking about the, the people that are trying to hurt people. I'm just talking about the non-violent offenders. Those people, there needs to be a better path for them to get back to being a productive citizen in the United States. Once they get out, I hate to see that an uneven path for, for people as they get out, because you really have to find somebody that will believe in you and give you the opportunity.
Brent Cassity (28m 1s):
And there has to almost be a relationship in there built in before that opportunity exists. Yeah.
Mark Graban (28m 7s):
I mean, I did hear something not long ago on NPR where, you know, there was one person, there are many people who are advocating for trying to change some of the laws that require disclosure of, you know, past conviction or felony conviction. And, you know, as it's trying to, if people have serve their time and quote, unquote, paid their debt to society, then you've got to let somebody try to build a life.
Brent Cassity (28m 35s):
Yeah. Just the opportunity. You know, there's a lot, I saw the other day that here in St. Louis, they're having a heck of a time getting people hired and they did a job fair for ex-felons and it was heavily attended. And these people were so anxious to have the opportunity to actually be interviewed, to be taken seriously for a job opportunity. And again, I don't want to, and, you know, there's for the violent criminal that has hurt people, that's a different type of person as a person who's who's for whatever mistake they made, there's there probably should be a different path for them.
Brent Cassity (29m 15s):
Mark Graban (29m 17s):
So, you know, Brent, I know you, you know, in different ways, try to share the lessons, let others learn from your experiences. And, and I appreciate that, you know, hopefully, you know, well, you know, every, everybody listening says, well, you know, I don't want to go to prison myself. I don't want to learn Brian's five tips for how to survive in prison, but I appreciate that you have some tips of some of those survival lessons that you people
Brent Cassity (29m 41s):
Could use in every everyday life. Can you share at least some of that with us? Sure. I mean, I think the first one is, and this is this, these things that I talk about on the tips are really more, you can use, you don't have to go to prison, but I think they can be helpful in general. Like when I first got to prison, you know, the first thing that I needed to do was I needed to humble myself, look around and ask for advice who was getting, who was getting it right? Who, who was making it work for themselves. And I think that can be used in everyday life. You get a new job or you get into a new situation, humble yourself to ask for advice, because surprisingly, a lot of people will give you advice in my world that I was in a business as a young 20 something.
Brent Cassity (30m 31s):
And my thirties, I would read something and an article or something, and I would just call them. And it surprisingly, they would pick up the phone and we'd have a conversation. And I was able to actually take those pieces and implement them into our business. So, number one is that two as that, you, whether you're in prison or you're not in prison for those who haven't seen Strauss, sinker addiction, there, there was a, there was a scene in there that affects me because Andy frame is a innocent man in prison. And he chips through a wall for 19 years in his cell.
Brent Cassity (31m 11s):
And every day he, he gets holes in his pockets and he lets those that wall out into the yard. And that's his reward for sticking to what he's doing. But in his mind, he has this picture of <em></em> as a place down in Mexico. And he has it pictured so vividly in his mind, it's the bluest of the blue waters. He has this boat in his mind of, you know, he's got to fix up this whole boat, take people out on fishing expeditions. He's going to take this old hotel and have people come and experience this beautiful place. He has all this in his, you can see it when he talks about it. You can see his eyes light up.
Brent Cassity (31m 51s):
I think that everybody always needs to have as a want to nail, you know, their, their feeling of what gets you, that feeling. And that gets you pumped and then have a plan. It brings you to it. His plan was, is I'm going to knock through this wall for now. And then his reward was his letting it out into the yard. You need to do that. Where you get yourself every day, find something that you can reward yourself with. The other one is, you know, mistakes happen. They, they don't define you, but they definitely make you wiser. So use it use, use those mistakes, not as failures, but, and not as something that defines you, but just use it because the one thing you don't want to happen to where the mistake is, just do it again.
Brent Cassity (32m 44s):
You're wrong with making a mistake, just don't duplicate. It. Definitely don't do it right after you made it. You know, just use it. The other one is, is that you, you want to take it one day at a time, unfair things happen and you want to try to win the day, the best you can. For me, I wrote into a calendar every night before I went to bed. And I knew if I had a bad day, I was going to write that in the calendar. But I told myself, I'm not going to let myself have another bad day. I'm going to have to find a way tomorrow to win the day.
Brent Cassity (33m 24s):
So if unfair things happen, don't let that stop you from still trying to make a difference. And the last one is that you have to continue, regardless of the circumstances where you are, what you do still be. You don't lose you because if you do, and you get into the wrong rut, the wrong routine, you will actually, you, you will lose you. You will fall into a, what I call institutionalized, where you can see it.
Brent Cassity (34m 10s):
What's your, where do you want to be? But you can't get out of it because you're, you're afraid of it. And I think those five things, if people do those five things and live by those five things, you can almost apply them to anything in life. But it certainly helped me get through prison because whenever I felt like I was trying to Rocky it steadied me. I looked at it. That's the other thing is, is that, you know, if you have a plan, you have a goal, don't shove it in the drawer and say, okay, I did that. And then pull something out a year later and say, oh, it's time to do my goals again, no evolve with them. Let them breathe as you change, let them change. But there something you need to keep in front of you <em></em>
Mark Graban (34m 55s):
Well, it sounds like, you know, to, to, to that fifth point of, of still be you, I mean, I imagine the worst outcome of, of somebody spending time in prison is anger or depression and, or falling in with the wrong people. And that could really set things in a bad direction for the rest of your life, as opposed to, to Brent. I mean, what are some of the reflections now, you know, in, in your time out of prison and staying yourself and, and, and, and rebuild.
Brent Cassity (35m 28s):
It's a great question because I'm going into prison. It takes probably six months to a year to set yourself up in an environment to where you live a certain way, know that you're going to survive a certain way to get it sounds terrible, but to get to a point where you're comfortable living even in prison, and that does happen strangely enough, even though that any given time, your world can change by a lockdown or anything else that happens, you learn to find a way to survive. My point is, is that I never, I always think if you're feeling like a victim, flip the script, flip the script and make yourself a survivor that gives you strength.
Brent Cassity (36m 11s):
And anytime you're being a victim, it weakens you and makes you small. So my thing was is that I needed to be a survivor in prison. I made a mistake. I didn't pay attention to what I should have been paying attention to. And so I was going to suck it up and make this work. So I think that was important for me going in strange thing, mark coming out. And it's, it's a very weird phenomenon. You get six months to the freedom and your mind starts spinning. And I've talked to a lot of different guys, cause I interviewed them on my podcast and we all have kind of the same phenomenon.
Brent Cassity (36m 52s):
The things that you didn't think about are all in front of you now, and the things that make you worried ours, okay. Time actually stopped for me. It really stops in prison. Everything else goes on and you stop the clock in prison. So you know that you're moving out into a world that didn't stop while you were in. For me, I had, I had a fantastic wife, Julie, who came every weekend to see me that also enabled me to stay plugged into my girls who were in college at the time. And so I was one of the lucky ones, you know, probably one of the 30 guys out of the 434 and 35 guys that got visits to me that helped me stay plugged in, like distract all the outside world.
Brent Cassity (37m 41s):
But I still knew, even though we were a tough, strong flexor muscles family, that I was coming out into a world, they had gotten used to living without me, simple things. Julie did the, I'd always paid the bills. Now she's paid the bills for three years. What was going, how do you know the being a dad? I, you know, they had done all these moves in college and stuff that I used to do. And, and so I had to get back into society and kind of look at, okay, I'm observing as I was, when I went into prison, what is going on out here? I want to fit in correctly.
Brent Cassity (38m 23s):
And I don't want them to think I'm a prison creature because I've been in prison. And that's something you worry about, you know, when people look at you, oh wow. You were in prison. Huh? You look like normal, but I don't know. Maybe he's not. So the, all the looking
Mark Graban (38m 36s):
For prison tattoos or other like the physical,
Brent Cassity (38m 41s):
Right, exactly. So you, you have all these things spinning in your head of how can I step back in and all that's going on as you get out and everybody's looking at you as Brent, aren't you so excited? Yes, I am. I am so excited not to be in prison, but I feel really uneasy and unsteady about what I'm doing and getting back into my world because it seems stranger to me. So it took me probably six months to a year to really feel like I was back and, you know, seven weeks of it, as I went to awful place, a halfway house, it was in the worst L hole of St.
Brent Cassity (39m 27s):
Louis where all the bad stuff happens. Of course that's where the halfway house wasn't. So I lived in that environment where about a hundred, hundred and 50 guys that from maximum to minimum. And, and that was probably a worse environment than prison, just because there was real danger on the outside. The danger that I had at prison was known danger. The danger that we had living there was anything could happen and it could happen in a bad way. You could actually get killed. So that was a, that was a tough way to come out. I, you know, there's all kinds of reasons why they do certain things in the Federalist system or the halfway house system, but they need to rethink that one.
Brent Cassity (40m 12s):
It's not the best thing for people. But anyway, to answer your question, mark, the getting out is not as simple as it sounds. It's it is truly something that you have to study yourself with. You have to be in touch with yourself. You have to give yourself a little bit of breathing room to make it work. And I know that sounds really strange. Like, well, Brent, that's, you know, you got out of prison, so you're, you're super excited. Absolutely. But trying to get back into society to be gone for three years, getting back with the friends. And the other thing is I, I I'm one that really wants to stand out in front of what happened to me. I don't like walking into a room and say, I can't.
Brent Cassity (40m 53s):
He got to prison. Did I think he went to prison? I would rather people just know I went to prison and I rather them just ask me about it. And, and I don't have anything to hide about the situation. I just want to live. Normally I love freedom, love family. And you know, you really get, interestingly enough, one of those strange things, mark, that happens when you get sentenced, you have this unique thing that happens where all these people write letters on your behalf as an adult, unless you die. And people get up and talk at your funeral. You don't really do that. I got so much from that, from all these different people that I known throughout my years in different life experiences.
Brent Cassity (41m 38s):
And I took those letters with me to prison on bad days, I would get those out said, no, I'm still plugged these. I've got meaning things can happen. But I can also admit that when I decided that I was going to plea that night, that I considered suicide. So, you know, to me, that, and I, I probably should. I shouldn't just gloss over that. I, I felt like I, it was the first time in my life that I had really gone down to a, such a dark place. And I'm a half full guy. I'm not, I'm, I'm an optimistic guy. That's just the way I'm wired. But that night I had the, I felt like the kids were going to be taken care of.
Brent Cassity (42m 19s):
Julie was going to be taken care of. I was going to plea. This is going to be over. I want, I would just rather everybody have a clean slate. I don't want to be a stain on the rest of their lives, knowing that I'm going to be a convicted felon. I'm not even sure if I can live it as a convicted felon. And so I got in my car after drink. Well, I wrote a letter first and I got in my car and the, in the garage and my kids and wife were out of town. I was going to see them the next day. I was either going to run into a tree or just let the car run in the garage and think, thank God I didn't pass out or something. Mark struck me like a lightning bolt.
Brent Cassity (43m 2s):
I was like, what in the world are you doing Brent? You aren't this guy. If I would do this, it would be the weakest way that I could ever look to my family, to my kids, to my wife. And at that, at that moment, it was that moment that I said, whatever happens to me here on out. I'm a survivor. I'm going to take this experience as it comes to me and I'm going to try to use it. And to my point of where I'm at now in my life, I've been out about five years and that's why I've written the book I want.
Brent Cassity (43m 43s):
I, I have this experience and I it's, it's been such a rollercoaster of a great life. I mean, even though I have gone to prison, I have a great family and a great wife, and I've experienced some wonderful things in life and I've experienced some really bad things, but as I take it all, I get a lot out of if my story can help anybody else. And that was the reason for the book. It makes me feel good. If that can be used in a way that could actually help someone who's stuck, or it feels like a second chance. Isn't possible. They're not seeking their potential because they're afraid. And that's kind of the idea of the podcast in and out is we're talking to guys that were inmates.
Brent Cassity (44m 27s):
They're out. Now, we're talking about life before prison, life in prison, life out of prison. And in those stories, I think there's little nuggets of techniques, strategies of how do you get through it when your worst fear becomes your reality? How do you get through it?
Mark Graban (44m 46s):
So again, the book, the title of the book is nightmare success by Brent Cassity. And as he just said, the podcast nightmare success in and out, you can find that whatever app or directory you're using to listen to us right now, go and check that out. One, one other thing I was curious about Brent, you know, you talk about being out and if people wondering why, you know, I recognize that name and yeah. Was he in prison? You know, you you're, you're back there in Missouri. Some people might, you know, flee and go to a different place where like, well, maybe they didn't, nobody knows the name here. Like there was a lot covered in the St.
Mark Graban (45m 26s):
Louis media. I mean, or do you ever fear, or do you run across people who recognize the name or they're angry, they faced some sort of loss or were upset about your dad and the company?
Brent Cassity (45m 42s):
Well, I think that's always going to be out there. And it's a great question. Art, because when I was a 14 year old teenager, my dad's choice was to move away. And I always, I didn't like that when I was a kid, because I had all my friends there felt secure. There was my security blanket and we moved away from all that. As I get older, we've had some really good friends who have stuck by us. And, you know, the guy I worked for Jose has stuck by me and that strangely as a security blanket, if I moved away all, I would be as a Google person.
Brent Cassity (46m 26s):
Whereas here there are people who's known me. They've grown up with me. They went to high school with me, maybe working. Yeah. And so I I'm, it's a great question because it seems like the easy thing to do is move to where you're anonymous and it might be, I'm not saying that that's wrong. It's just that I do know now that I do have these core of people who have been with me all the way throughout, I also know that there always will be haters because there was one strong narrative that was told, and it was told for a long time, and there's no way for me to get away from any of that. And I understand too, that probably the thing that stays with me hardest and most is the people who worked for us that were loyal, that had families and they lost their jobs.
Brent Cassity (47m 15s):
I will never ever be able to, to wipe that from my brain. When I go to sleep at night, when I wake up, that's just something I live with. But it's a good question, mark. And I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. I just, it feels like I didn't like it when I was a kid. And I feel more of a security blanket where I'm at in St. Louis, not saying I wouldn't move, you know? And my, and my <em></em> scenario, I'd like to be down on table, rock lake, and a nice house. And the kids there for Thanksgiving and Christmas and a boat to go out on and listen to the Eagles. So I'm not, I'm not saying I'm tied to St. Louis, but it's, it's not a bad place for me.
Mark Graban (47m 56s):
Yeah. And I was asking the question out of curiosity, not judgment of what you did or haven't done in terms of moving. So
Brent Cassity (48m 3s):
It's actually, my wife's not talked about it. Yeah.
Mark Graban (48m 9s):
But you know, back to your, your five tips before we wrap up, I was going to share with you and you know, what, what you said, especially around ID. The idea of mistakes is so in line with what we always talk about here on my favorite mistake, whether the mistakes are really big and life-changing, or just the thing that you wish you could go back and do differently. Maybe I'll send you one of these. I have this coffee mug, you see my logo, you see my logo, but on this other side, thanks to my friend, Karen Ross, who was my guest on episode three, and us talking about these mistakes. I have some reminders here that I read to myself. He admitted, even as I'm doing an interview and I love it, I make mistakes.
Mark Graban (48m 50s):
I make mistakes, but just to read it and you know, you can't see it. And people who are just listening, I've mentioned this a couple of times, but, you know, be kind to yourself to nobody is perfect. Three, we all make mistakes. And then for the important thing is continuing to learn from our mistakes. So that's, that's what we're trying to do here is remind me of,
Brent Cassity (49m 12s):
To me, that's what you're doing mark with this podcast is it's a good thing. People need to understand that and give themselves a break and move forward. Just step take action. Just step.
Mark Graban (49m 27s):
Well, thank you for taking the step of, of coming on here, Brenton. And again, you know, do want mention Brent Casta, t.com. It's Cassity with a T
Brent Cassity (49m 36s):
Or we spell it wrong.
Mark Graban (49m 39s):
And at least, you know, Midwestern way of saying, you know, we would say Cassity and Casta T the same way it would sound like Cassity, but Brent cassity.com. The book is nightmare success. The podcast is nightmare success in and out. So, so Brian, thank you for sharing, you know, your, your story and your reflections, and really appreciate you being a guest here today,
Brent Cassity (50m 7s):
Mark. I appreciate it much appreciate being a guest of yours.
Mark Graban (50m 11s):
Well, thanks again to Brent Cassity for being a great guest today, to learn more about him and his book and his podcast, you can go to mark raven.com/mistake 1, 2, 4, as always. I want to thank you for listening. I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes, how you learn from them, or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they started being more open and honest about mistakes and their work. And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems because that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me my favorite mistake email@example.com. And again, our website is my favorite mistake, podcast.com.