Richard Bronson is the Founder and CEO of Commissary Club, an exclusive social network for people with criminal histories and 70 Million Jobs, the first national, for-profit employment platform for people with criminal records. He is also the host of The Yard, a weekly virtual hangout for people with records, sharing stories about their past–the good times, the frightening times, the inspiring times.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up on Long Island, NY. It was a generally happy, middle-class upbringing, with very loving parents. My father was a Marine during WWII and served as a very strong role model that I generally fail to live up to. My mother was very smart and instilled within me a love for reading. They were pretty incredible parents.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That relentless honesty doesn’t expose your weaknesses but rather your strengths, and that people will trust you much more. Also, that if you approach pretty much any situation with an honest, loving heart, it always turns out well. (albeit, in often unexpected ways)
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Within the tech world, one accepted truism is “Fail quickly.” In other words, if your business isn’t working out, move on to the next idea, and don’t go down with the ship. Yet generally most “experts” will talk about how an entrepreneur needs to be gritty, resourceful and persevering. They are seemingly contradictory because they are.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
After a very successful, lucrative career in finance, I was indicted for securities fraud. (Due to my greed and stupidity. I was guilty as sin.) and was sent to prison. When I was released, I was homeless and destitute. I had no idea what to do with my life nor even who I was. But I had learned the important lesson of humility (scrubbing 100 toilets a day will do that to you). I’m very grateful to have learned this.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Like everything else, the biggest contributor to my success has also been the biggest contributor to my failure. I’ve also had a big ego—it has gotten me in trouble in so many ways, but it also led me to believe I was put on this world to do great things.
What is your morning routine?
I’m a terrible sleeper. Generally, I’ll wake up around 3-4 am and be unable to return to sleep. So I’ll read, check emails, visit a bunch of sites, etc. in bed. I will get out of bed at 7 am and have breakfast.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I try to bring awareness to everything I do (ie, am I really hungry in wanting to eat, why am I acting this way to someone, is this the state of mind I’d like to be in if I were to die at this moment). It’s very hard for me to take a moment to slow down and engage in this introspection, but when I do, I inevitably make the right decision.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I really don’t have any strategies. I tend to put my head down and dive right into things. I’m very much a bull in a china shop. An ex-co-worker used to describe me as a D-9. Apparently, a D-9 is a very powerful tractor that pushes aside pretty much anything. That seems like an apt metaphor.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I am very drawn to Eastern philosophy and study Buddhism. This book can be read as a beautiful fantasy or an inspiring challenge to get one’s karma together. I re-read it every couple of years.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Man plans. God laughs.” –old Yiddish saying.