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Keys to Driving Massive Success in the Face of Adversity Learned From My Time in Prison When life hits you hard, you can do two things: give up, or make the most of it.

By Andrew Medal Edited by Dan Bova

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Positivity and motivation are all about prioritizing. My time as an entrepreneur has shaped all parts of my life -- especially my experience in prison. Surviving jail time is all about focusing on your endgame: eventually getting out. It is a place for meditating on what you want from your life and how to come to terms with your past mistakes. I quickly had to learn how to make the most of my time, and without things to maintain my positivity and motivation, the experience could have been much worse.

The secret to productivity is to stay motivated and positive. Some people can do this naturally with no problems, while others need a little help. I had very limited resources while I was incarcerated, so I had to focus on the absolute basics: my motivation to get through prison and build my business, and the hope that both things would happen if I worked hard enough. If I hadn't had those two things, I certainly wouldn't be in the position that I am today.

Related: 14 Ways to Improve Your Self-Discipline (Infographic)

As an entrepreneur before I went to prison, I got very good at staying positive in the face of adversity. Prison, in some ways, is no different than building a startup in that the attitude you bring to the table will very much shape your experience.

Do your time with purpose.

It's easier to keep your end goal in mind when you're not in prison. I had to focus on my goals constantly -- I couldn't do any of the things I might have before, such as set a reminder on my phone or place post-it notes. I had to focus on what I wished to do while there and what I wanted to do once my sentence was up.

"What am I aiming for?" was a question constantly in my mind. The obvious answer was that I wanted to get out -- and I wanted to keep building businesses once I got out. With that in mind, it was much easier to make the most of my time.

Fail forward.

Most people will agree: going to prison feels like failure. Luckily for me, one of the things I learned from being an entrepreneur is that failure is neither a bad thing nor is it the end. So though I may have felt like a failure when I was sent to jail, that wasn't going to stop me from making the most of it. I had to accept that I could use that adverse experience to my advantage. I had messed up, but it didn't have to define the rest of my life.

So many people have a dream or ambition that they want to bring into the world, but many let the fear of failure stop them from pursuing it. So to keep yourself positive as you continue to build and expand your business, don't be afraid of failure. If something fails or doesn't go your way, it doesn't mean that it's the end -- in fact, it may open new doors for you.

Remember why you started.

It would've been so easy to give up when I found out I'd be in prison for two to five years. In tandem with embracing failure, remembering your reason for being an entrepreneur is vital to your success. I never wanted to lose touch with who I was outside of the prison walls -- I wanted to help others grow and build new things.

Anyone who is friends with entrepreneurs know that this is true. According to attorney George Sink, an entrepreneur's ability to remain focused on why they started can almost define their success. "Founders who remain laser-focused on bringing their vision to life seem like highly positive people – and highly positive people inspire others to succeed," he says. "That motivation leads to productivity, and the more productive an entrepreneur can be, the better their odds of succeeding in their business. It's a virtuous cycle."

Most entrepreneurs don't become creators just for kicks: you had a reason for jumping into the deep end. Perhaps you started your company or venture to accomplish a goal or fill a need, but now your end goals differ from when you started. It's good to keep both in mind as you work, because if your end goal is business-based, but you started your business to help people, you may find yourself feeling dissatisfied. Without the fundamental creed of your project in the forefront, you may be more likely to give up, or worse, allow your dream to morph into something you don't stand for.

Related: Inspiring Quotes to Help You Get Through Your Work Day

How to stay motivated.

Even people who stay positive about the future sometimes lack motivation. This can be tricky when it seems like nothing is ever going to change your situation -- but if you can stay motivated and keep working even when things suck, you'll find your situation turning around soon enough.

Prison is all about time management. Every second is planned, so I had to take advantage of every moment. How I made use of that time was completely up to me, and working as an entrepreneur is the same. You're the boss, so set goals for yourself and live up to them.

Don't take on more than you can chew.

It's easy to feel like you have a never-ending pile of work in front of you. So easy, in fact, that many people falter in their motivation and productivity because they feel defeated by the sheer the amount of tasks they need to accomplish. Sectioning tasks means that you can prioritize your work a little more easily -- it assists with organization and concentration. If you treat every large project as a whole instead of a series of steps, you may find yourself falling behind due to the overwhelming nature of the tasks. As they say, divide and conquer! You'll have an easier time seeing a progression from beginning to end, as well as more accurately know how long a project will take.

Celebrate daily accomplishments.

This can seem counter-intuitive when you're busy and need motivation, but you need to take some time to celebrate small victories. If you only take time to work and focus on the end goal with no breaks or celebrations in between, you'll find that you'll be sporting a nasty case of burnout before long.

I had never been to prison before. It seemed like an impossible, uphill battle. But my experience as an entrepreneur allowed me to constantly adapt, especially in such an unfamiliar place. And when I was successful, when I met a goal I'd set, I celebrated those, even while in prison. Being proud of my little accomplishments or the completion of a goal not only gave me the willpower to continue working while in prison -- it also helped me once I had the ability to create freely.

Related: Confidence Will Make All the Difference to Your Hustle

I learned a lot in prison, but my time as an entrepreneur allowed me to get through it. I embraced the uncertainty, failure and overwhelming nature of incarceration, and transformed it into drive to pursue my passions. I took what could have been a negative experience and used it to create my own positivity and motivation.

Of course, everyone has off days, so staying productive can be challenging, but if you can keep these tricks in mind, you'll find yourself working harder to reach your goals and make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Andrew Medal

Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Andrew Medal is the founder of The Paper Chase, which is a bi-weekly newsletter. He is an entrepreneur and angel investor.

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