Meredith Oliver

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Reframe: The Marcus Bullock Story

March 3, 2020

Marcus Bullock image at White House

Chances are impeccably high that if you’re reading this right now, you’re not currently serving a prison sentence. I’ll even go one step further and say that it’s likely you never have and never will. While it’s probably difficult to imagine what it must be like inside of a prison cell, there are probably a few words that come to mind rather quickly: Isolated. Cold. Grim. Unforgiving. Disheartening. And now, as difficult as prison would be to face as an adult, think of what it would be like to face an eight-year sentence at an adult maximum-security prison for a 15-year-old boy.

Who Is Marcus Bullock?

If you haven’t heard about Marcus Bullock, prepare to be WOW’d. I learned his story—and about his involvement with the Second Chance Act—because I happened to have the news on in my office when he began speaking at the White House. Needless to say, it was a very cool moment. Click on the link and watch the video. It’s not often you hear someone say, “When I was in cell C12 I never thought I would be standing at a podium at the White House!”

When he was 15, Marcus made a tragic mistake—he, alongside a friend, stole a car at gunpoint. It was surprising being that he was from a good family, always had straight A’s, and had only ever been considered by the adults in his life a good kid. So this awful choice got him sentenced to eight years in adult maximum security. He served his time and reentered society as a young man in his twenties with only a ninth grader’s education. You can see the path this story—and many stories like it—would take. Hardened from prison armed with anger and resentment and little education, Marcus easily could have returned to prison again and again—or faced an even more tragic end.

Marcus’ Happy Ending Began With a Reframe

Even though this story has a happy ending, Marcus faced many difficulties during his time in prison. When his mother visited, she could see how bad his mindset was becoming—and she was desperate to help him. She committed to writing him a letter every single day he was behind bars. She could only visit once a week but these letters she could send daily, offering him a glimpse into life beyond his cell acting as a light in the darkness. In fact, she said this quote to him, “These letters will be your window to the world, your reframe, to show you that there is light in this world even though you are currently in a very dark place.”

Talk about a mother’s love. She knew her son needed help. Through his mother’s letters and commitment to him as well as his own strength and stamina, Marcus ended up serving six years instead of eight and found a job as a landscaper upon getting out.

The Next Chapter

Now here’s where his story gets really good. Marcus went on to own that landscaping company. From there, Marcus went on to found a company by the name of Flikshop, an app that families of inmates can use to mail postcards to people serving time in prison. That’s not all his company does, though. Through it, prisoners are able to get assistance with housing applications, learn financial literacy, and develop important job interview skills. Today it is estimated that about 140,000 prisoners are using Flikshop to not only keep in touch with family and friends but to gain assistance from nonprofits that will help them create a better life for themselves upon release from prison.

Talk about reframing a situation, right? Through the powerful words of his mother—and Marcus’s own determination—he was able to become innovative, persevering in the face of hardship. Moreover, as this story demonstrates, some of us (think Marcus’s mother) are more able to reframe than others. This is a gift. And it gives you the opportunity to not only help reframe a situation for someone you love but also for yourself.

Life Happens. And Yet, We Rise.

So here’s the bottom line—what happens is life, right? Life happens, things happen, we can’t control what happens to us. But we can learn to reframe. It’s when we’re able to do that, that we have incredible moments of rising up.

If your team could use a jolt of inspiration and fresh perspective on your business challenges, call me! My newest keynote, REFRAME, and workshop might be just what the doctor ordered. I’d love to bring this program to your team in 2020!

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