Early Days in Prison

633 Days Inside by Greg Lindberg


Early Days in Prison

October 2020, I reported to FPC Montgomery. Here is a note that I sent out after my first year there:

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

I hope you all have been well. I thought I would drop you a line to update you on how I’m doing here at FPC Montgomery.

As of tomorrow at 10am, I will have been down for a year. (In prison slang, “down” means how much time you have been in
prison). With some luck it will be my last year in prison.

My life here in prison is normal, routine, and even comfortable. I read, I sleep, I work as a housekeeper, I work out, I eat, I fast, and I take long evening walks with my fellow inmates and talk about
everything from almonds to quantum physics. I find brilliance among my fellow inmates every day.

There are hundreds of rules to follow and if you follow all of them all the time, the camp treats you well. I enjoy the challenge of following all the rules. Every few days you learn about a new one. For example, I was coming in from the rec yard this weekend after a workout and I had my shirt off. You don’t need to wear a shirt on the rec yard. And you don’t need to wear a shirt inside your housing wing. However there is about 25 yards of distance between the rec yard and your wing where it turns out you have to wear your shirt. I was made aware of this rule by the police and I quickly put my shirt on. (In prison slang, correctional officers are “the police.”)

The discipline of mastering ever changing rules is a critical prerequisite to knowing how to command. Obeying and commanding are two sides of the same coin. You cannot be a good commander unless you know how to be a good soldier.

I am genuinely glad I came to prison. This experience has given me a monstrous amount of strength and energy that will last a lifetime. This experience has also given me an opportunity to build friendships and meet dozens of people that I would never have otherwise met. We lead fairly narrow lives on the street. (“On the street” is prison slang for being in the “free” world.) In prison, you are surrounded by hundreds of your fellow inmates and the population is constantly
changing with new self-surrenders and new inmates “coming down from a low” all the time.“Lows” are higher level security prisons that often send their inmates to minimum security camps like FPC Montgomery as inmates get towards the end of their sentence.

I’ve had the opportunity to teach a number of classes to my fellow inmates on business, career planning, stress management, and entrepreneurship. I find great joy working with my fellow inmates to help them achieve their dreams. Many of them come from broken families where no one ever told them “you can do this.”
Sometimes that’s all it takes for them to realize their talents can be applied in a legitimate career.

I’ve also discovered something I would have never discovered had I not come to prison: if you only eat on weekends—and give yourself a long 3-day weekend ;)—your body repairs itself and starts to get younger. When I was on the street, if someone told me to fast for 90 hours every week—I could not have done it. There is something about being locked up that hardens your resolve.

The science behind “intermittent fasting” is well known. When your body burns up all of its stores of glycogen—about 18 hours after eating—it starts to burn your triglycerides from your stored body fat. This in turn unleashes a whole cascade of survival genes and hormones that repair your body and help it grow stronger.

One of the most powerful effects of fasting is mitochondrial biogenesis. The mitochondria are the engines of the cell—producing energy via the “Electron Transport Chain” on their inner membranes. Mitochondria follow the same pattern: young, healthy, and energetic individuals have far higher numbers of mitochondria per cell than those who are not as healthy, young, or energetic.

Mitochondria are ancient bacterial organisms that combined with the cellular structure over a billion years ago. There are millions of billions of them in your body. If you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you. And they are hungry—for triglycerides digested from your body fat. If you only feed them glucose, they won’t be happy for long.

When your mitochondria are happy, they multiply in droves. More mitochondria means more energy for every single part of your body. More energy means all parts of your body—including the stem cells which repair your body—perform better. After a 90 hour fast, human growth hormone goes up by 10x. Testosterone goes up (for men). Melatonin production goes up. Neural connections go up. Intestinal mobility goes up. Every single part of your body is re-energized.

Critically, fasting increases your Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) by as much as 20x after a four day fast. BNDF is your brain growth hormone. After four days of fasting, your brain is on fire…absorbing, processing, and remembering information at several times its normal rate.

There is quite literally a force within each of us that, if awakened, will have the power to absolutely astonish you. If you listen to the ancient organisms that drive every ounce of energy you have, and you give these millions of billions of organisms what they want, they will generate literally thousands of gigawatts of additional energy for you along their Electron Transport Chain.

Last week I completed my 10th consecutive weekly 90+ hour fast. I am seeing dark red hair growing on my lower temples where the hair was previously gray. I’ve gained about 15 pounds of muscle and have lost enough abdominal fat to have a few defined ab muscles. Yesterday I noticed new hair growing on my arms that is far darker and more red than the hair that was there before.

My memory has improved. I can now walk through the TV room and remember the name of the actor in the show. This is a big change for me. In 2014, I went to a longevity clinic and they tested my memory. It was so bad that they asked, “Are you having trouble at work?”

I sleep like a teenager—up to 9 hours on some nights. I have not slept this well since the 1980s. My energy, focus, creativity, and organizational skills have all improved. I would gladly come to prison again to gain the knowledge of what a 90 hour weekly fast can do for the body —and build a habit of doing these weekly fasts that lasts a lifetime. In every adversity there are the seeds of an even greater advantage.

The lead prosecutor on my case told the court at my sentencing hearing that he wanted to “incapacitate Greg Lindberg.” Well, I am far from incapacitated. My body, brain, and energy levels are growing. My family is growing (I have two baby boys on the way, due next year). And the team at the Global Growth group of companies is doing an extraordinary job delivering results and is making solid progress on all fronts.

My biggest challenge is that I dearly miss my family and friends. Visitation is behind a large Plexiglas wall and it’s far from ideal for personal visits. The good news is that there is some chance that if my appeal goes well I could be home by year-end.

We received notification that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has tentatively scheduled my case for oral argument sometime this coming December 6th to 10th.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACL), a large, well-respected group of former prosecutors and practicing criminal defense attorneys, has also filed an amicus brief in support of my appeal. According to NACL, “Permitting the district court to decide a disputed element of a charge under the guise of statutory interpretation flouts Gaudin and creates a dangerous precedent for criminal defendants in both white collar and street crime cases.” Gaudin is a Supreme Court case that says a judge cannot instruct a jury on a finding of fact as the judge did in my case.

NACL explains that permitting my conviction to stand “would effectively permit judges to imprison defendants by entering verdicts on disputed elements as long as they only explicitly direct the element on one of the multiple overlapping charges.”

There is a possibility if the oral argument goes very well that the 4th Circuit could issue a short judgment (ahead of their full ruling) shortly after oral argument that vacates my conviction. That would mean that, with some luck, I could potentially be released by year-end.

If the 4th Circuit doesn’t vacate my conviction then we will take the case to the Supreme Court. And if the Supreme Court does not overturn the case, then I am well on my way to having a significant number of credits under the First Step Act, which allows early release for various activities such as earning my housekeeping apprenticeship certificate. Meanwhile, inmates are routinely sent home under the CARES Act when they reach the 50% mark on their sentence. With First Step Act credits, I could be at 50%—and potentially eligible for release—sometime next year.

If we don’t win at the 4th Circuit, and we don’t win at the Supreme Court, and I don’t get First Step Act credits, and I don’t get CARES Act early release, then it’s possible I would qualify for up to 18 months of home confinement under BOP policies, which means I would be released in another two years or so. Regardless, I am prepared.

I have this quote posted on my locker where I can see it all day long: “The only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not: that one endures.”—F. Nietzsche. I am eternally grateful to my parents for giving me the gift of extraordinary endurance.

Meanwhile, I am grateful for each and every one of you—for everything you have done and are doing. I hope to see you soon.

I was used to living in a big house. I had indulged myself with a yacht. Life was good. Now I was living in a cell in a bunk room, sharing a small space and an even smaller bathroom with 21 other men. I missed my family. I worried about my friends and coworkers, and how my companies were doing. I was looking forward to getting a prison assignment so I could at least stay busy You learn a whole new terminology and whole new way of life. Being in prison, you are “down.” When you are free, you are “on the street.” The person who shares your cell with you is your “cellie.” The surprising truth about prison is that your fellow inmates are incredibly supportive. They are a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and you learn very quickly to listen. Prisoners support each other. That is one of the most important rules in prison. Inmates stick together. The support goes both ways: if you help an inmate get through a bad day, they will be there for you when your bad day comes.

Enjoy the daily grind.
Success starts with
the discipline of daily
execution and mastery.

Enjoy the daily grind. Success starts with the discipline of daily execution and mastery. My first job in prison was cleaning toilets. I had hoped to do something that allowed me to use my philosophy or economics degrees, or my experience starting and turning around companies, but instead I was a janitor. I showed up every day and did an excellent job. After 5 months of working diligently, my efforts were noticed and I was promoted. I also got a second job as a teacher. I didn’t ask for a promotion or a new job.

I just showed up and did my best and took pride in my work cleaning toilets. I did a good job. I was courteous, on time, respectful, and followed directions. Even in prison, hard work and good performance is rewarded. Some of my fellow

Prison was also a wonderful place to become socially immersed and to overcome any lingering social weaknesses that I might have had. I lived with 300+ fellow inmates. We sleep within 4 feet of each other and interact all day long. You can’t walk more than a few steps in prison without running into another inmate. Social skills are developed quickly. My prison experience was like going to college all over again, except this time, unlike my college experience, I was not in the library studying all day long. I made numerous friendships that I would have never had time for “on the street.”

Prison teaches perspective. Few things that happen “on the street” are as important as they seem at the time. And the things that are really important require reflection and thought, not a quick “fight or flight” response. Step out of the emotional roller coaster of instant communications and gain perspective, master the details, and study your markets, products, and opportunities. Be a philosopher for a while, and a student as well. As a result, you will be a better leader when it comes time to lead.