Prison for Life


Quick story—nearly a decade ago I was on a commercial flight (back before I had my own jet) and sat next to actor Ernest Borgnine who was 93 years old at the time. He was on his way to Toronto to shoot a movie called “Red” with Bruce Willis, which was later released in October of 2010. One comment he said during that flight stuck with me, “Retirement will kill you, work gives you purpose.” Ernest never retired, his career spanned over 6 decades in Hollywood until he passed away in 2012 a little more than two years after I first met him on that flight to Toronto.
Ernest was 95 years old and still looking to work. Let that sink in for a moment: 95 years old and looking to work still. Was he in it for the money? Sure, the money comes with it, but he was still grinding for the purpose.
People need challenges and are stimulated and thrive on solving problems. Look at any infant at 9 months old and watch their interest as they try to consume, manage, control and overcome every challenge surrounding them. Then look at your 67-year-old grandmother who with no purpose each day, no work, sitting at home and watching TV with no sense of purpose. She may spend the next 30 years living her life like this. You are observing the difference between living life and just slowly dying from not living life.


Consider all the millions of people labeled with depression when they may just have a lack of purpose and motivation.Without a purpose in your life, the world is your prison. As Ernest Borgnine reminded me on that flight, you don’t need to grow old to die! I was dying at the age of 20 because of no direction and no purpose. By 24 I was on death row and it seemed the world was my warden.


That’s what no purpose will do to you—it will imprison you. By 1983 I was finally convicted of going through my life with no plan and no purpose, self-destructing, and blaming others for how my life turned out. Instead of going behind bars, I decided to make a commitment to success.Once I clarified my purpose my sense of depression completely disappeared.

This is why retiring is usually just some perpetuated fantasy that is actually probably not good for your well being, sense of purpose, and mental and physical health. Work gives you purpose, challenges, opportunities and relationships that would not be available with retirement. We are all going to die, the question is, while you are alive will you live a life of purpose and meaning?

Comfort also makes more prisoners than all jails combined.There are also those who feel like they are in prison at a job they hate, unable to leave because of bills. Then there are the millions of licensed small businesses in America that have no employees. These small business owners are prisoners locked away in their own cell where they are both the prisoner and the warden.The middle class is in prison, trapped by old ideas that are no longer relevant for 2018.

If your job or income depends on the economy, you are not free. If you lack the ability to stay motivated, you are not free!Imagine if you were serving a life sentence in San Quentin State Prison, a place less famous than its neighbor Alcatraz, but at the top of the list when it comes to prison notoriety. It’s where Johnny Cash played the famous “At San Quentin” concert in front of a rowdy group of inmates, and it’s the largest death row prison in the United States where many of the most dangerous criminals end up.

Imagine being locked up for life in San Quentin.

What would your days look like? Would you really be any less free than you already are?  Are you free to be who you really are?Society tells you the middle class is safe, it’s freedom, it’s the goal. If politicians told you the truth—that the middle class is a prison—there would be civil unrest. The inmates would riot.You need to break out of the middle class and not impose yourself a life sentence at “San Quentin” making 50K a year, living on death row for the next 30 years without any purpose in your life.

The definition of conform is, “to comply with rules, standards, or laws; to behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards.”Sounds like a death sentence to me.The masses conform to what’s called “normal”—and their future is rather easy to predict. They will have 3 meals a day, a little bit of work, and a whole lot of time for self-introspection. A normal guy, working a normal job, taking normal levels of actions, will not be a millionaire, but rather a middle-class inmate not being able to go where he wants to go when he wants to go.

There’s no freedom without breaking the rules and stretching boundaries.

In fact, don’t break the rules, make a whole new set of rules. Think in terms of expansion and be willing to try anything, even break agreed upon norms in order to move toward getting your prison break.

If the Founding Fathers of the United States conformed to the social norms of England, they would have ended up in prison instead of building a new country. Social means, “marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one’s friends or associates.” While a norm is defined as, “a principle of right action binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide, control, or regulate proper and acceptable behavior.

Put together, you have social-norm—one of the major reasons people elect not to take the actions necessary to get out of where they are trapped to create the life they want.Of course, you want to avoid anything that will get you into trouble or hurt other people.

Don’t be a criminal. Trust me, you don’t actually want to ever go to San Quentin. But don’t live into your 90’s without purpose, in your own little San Quentin.Take a lesson from my friend Ernest: Work gives you purpose. Come join me at 10XGrowthCon 2018 and let’s find you yours.


Be great,


Grant Cardone is a New York Times bestselling author, the #1 sales trainer in the world, and an internationally renowned speaker on leadership, real estate investing, entrepreneurship, social media, and finance. His 5 privately held companies have annual revenues exceeding $100 million. Forbes named Mr. Cardone #1 of the “25 Marketing Influencers to Watch in 2017”. Grant’s straight-shooting viewpoints on the economy, the middle class, and business have made him a valuable resource for media seeking commentary and insights on real topics that matter. He regularly appears on Fox News, Fox Business, CNBC, and MSNBC, and writes for Forbes, Success Magazine, Business Insider,, and the Huffington Post. He urges his followers and clients to make success their duty, responsibility, and obligation. He currently resides in South Florida with his wife and two daughters.

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