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Are you in your own jail?

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Alan Lewis’ description of jail would sound like hell for most people: “It’s DMV with guns and Tasers.”

That’s where Lewis lived for four months while he faced three dozen felony charges for selling annuities with surrender charges. The list was later reduced to 29 felonies and one misdemeanor. He still faced the prospect of dozens of years in prison for legal annuity sales that advisors do every day. For the full story, visit this page for all the coverage on the case.

Lewis was finally exonerated when the prosecutor agreed to a hearing to dismiss the charges, but his life is forever changed. We will be covering his story in the August issue of InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, but I thought I’d share a few of his thoughts here in the meantime.

“For me, it was one big reset button,” Lewis said a few days after he was released July 10 from a Southern California jail. “You realize everything that you take for granted, just your freedom to go into Walmart, Starbucks, go grab a burger, be in a car and driving around — you hear it said that it’s the small things in life that make life worth living, and you know what?  It’s so true.”

Lewis was taking it a moment at a time and trying to figure out how he was going to get to see his sons back in Oklahoma, who were living with Lewis’ wary ex-wife. His older son tried to commit suicide a week before Lewis was arrested and he has not talked to him since.

In the days after his release, Lewis was getting some of the basics together: cleaning up and getting a haircut, picking up a few things at the store and just simply sitting under the Southern California sky at night, soaking it all in.

One of his realizations in jail was a reaffirmation of who he is. Before he was arrested, Lewis had several difficult years. He left the annuity business, lost his marriage and sank into a deep depression that would lead him to live on the streets of Nashville for a year. But, oddly enough, it was the rough and indifferent treatment he got in jail that led him to realize something essential about his character.

“There are people that punch the clock,” he said about jailers. “People like that wake up every day, go punch in, and do as little as they can to keep their job and to get paid. I’m an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs wake up every day as early as they can, pack in as much stuff as they can in every single day so they can change their lives and the lives of those around them.”

That was a reminder that no matter what situation befalls a person, essential character remains. In fact, those are the circumstances in which people find strength they didn’t know they had.

How about you? Are you an entrepreneur or a clock-puncher? What did you do today to make an impact?

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Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. Connect with Steve →

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