What facing 200 prison years taught me about happiness | Shaun Attwood | TEDxHSG

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[Music] [Music] [Music] thank you very much for being everybody my name is Sean I'm a public speaker author an activist out of London I'm going to talk about the lessons I learned on my Jail experience can you imagine what it is like to be facing a 200 year sentence after I graduated from university I moved to Arizona with the goal of becoming a millionaire in the stock market I never imagined through my own bad choices I would go so far beyond laws I would end up in America's deadliest shale started getting interested in the stock market at a young age 14 my economics teacher gave me lessons on my own show me how the stock markets what they meant the numbers in the financial times at 16 or at 50 pounds off my nan double didn't be teachers so normal mates in my little town when I go to America make a million fly you guys over that was my dream so after so after after graduating I got work as a stockbroker in Arizona in the beginning I wasn't making much money but five years in I was the top guy in the office grossing half a million a year got my own staff secretary cold callers but I had more money than common sense the money went to my head I started to throw rave parties with it and this is where I started to go beyond laws now I had people importing ecstasy from Holland they were smuggling em for me and I was distributing it so I take full responsibility for happened on May 16th 2002 will knock on my door bang bang bang bang bang I jump up from the computer look up the people it's blacked out go over to the window marks man police what vehicles whole apartment complex is surrounded all right about let them in hmmm I get halfway to the door boom the door just flies off the hinges hands above your heads get on the ground don't move it wasn't my brightest idea to be breaking the law well not only where the gang members murdering the prisoners even the garden murdering the prisoners let's get used to the sounds of heads getting bashed against toilets bodies getting thrown around people getting carried on stretchers it looked like they were dead Phoenix is the hottest of the big cities in America gets almost 50 degrees hot all year round way too hot going our black and white stripe stripe outfits so everyone's just going around their underwear bunch of pink boxes that's to humiliate the prisoner even so I'm trying to stay cooling it in your boxes it's like a concrete oven in there it's like we're being cooked alive and the building stays warm all night long and it wreaks havoc with your skin you start to get these skin infections and bed sores the itch and bleed especially on your behind because you sat around all day one of the hardest parts for me was just lying in this pool of sweats at night the itching is keeping me awake when you're sweating constantly the outer layers of your skin start to turn soggy so you get the itchiness and when you scratch yourself clumps of your own skin detach under your nails yeah I remember one night I fell asleep on my slide I didn't realize it but my ear had filled up with sweat I want to change position the sweat just when I love my face it was like someone was touching me just freaked me out and woke me up you know so we got two meals a day breakfast came in a plastic bag moldy bread and green Bologna green Bologna it's a raw sausage mean gone past its sell-by date it's got a green shine to it a lot of the food was in boxes businesses were throwing away because it had expired the mold on the bread blue green sometimes our mold came in these fantastic psychedelic colors that look like works of art and we were so hungry we would scratch them all off the bread and cause the bed was stale we put it in water and swill it to get it down evening meal was a mystery meat slop we called Red Death it looked like karate vomit blended with blood of all kinds of random eaten in its stunk occasionally there was a dead rat in em one time we gave a rap back to the guards we complained and they came back later in the day and so the jail won't get any trouble they said it was just a potato and there wasn't much we could do boss of the jail one of his favorite quotes cost us more to feed our police slugs and our prisoners and our police dogs are working for a living so my parents remortgaged the house point was almost a hundred thousand dollars to get a lawyer to shine look we can get you out the jail gold court I have a bail hearing get your bail reduced I'm getting all excited yeah finally I'm getting up to jail girlfriends excited I'm a local family shopping court uncle X police officer speaks on me huh on my behalf it seems to have gone really well except prosecutors trying to make her name of my case she sabotages the hearing the judge doubles my bail to 1.5 million cash only once your bail goes over a million you're automatically reclassified from medium secure see over to maximum security so it's about 2:00 in the morning when I walk into my cell it's dark inside but there's some light coming in from the day room first thing you notice two months L that's an improvement but wondering why my Selma is asleep on the top bunk because where I come from people fight over the bottom bunk so I think something's not quite right so walking some more I start to sense movement on the walls and the ceiling I think my eyes are playing tricks so I put my face right up to the wall to see what's going on and it's covered in these guys I got used to the violence by now trying to get sleep with these koala me gave me a nervous breakdown let's get pollen medication 8:00 at night is lockdown 10:00 is lights out they know when the lights are about to go out they start lining up in the cracks in the walls in this old building there is little movement with the antenna sticking out like an army waiting to invade as soon as the lights go out they just flood the room now you got a choice you wrap a sheet around you so you look like the mummy leave a breathing hole it does keep them off you but the sheet traps the heat to your body and like I mentioned earlier you got all these bleeding and itching skin infections and bed sores the trap heat makes it so unbearably itchy you can't possibly sleep so in there just throwing the sheet off and letting them crawl on you fortunately they don't bite they start out tickling your feet limbs palms of your hands so this day if anyone took off my hands I flinch because I woke up so many nights and tickling my hands they try to get in your ears to eat your ear wax it's like honey to them is anyone in here automatic anyone with asthma okay we'll check this story out had a neighbor had a neighbor a maximum security was asthmatic wakes up one morning out of breath grabs his inhaler takes a blast shoots a live cockroach inside himself starts starts freaking out saying he can feel it moving around inside him throws up and his stomach contents come out but somehow the insect is stuck inside it won't come out even the day time there were so many the prisoners were doing cockroach races gambling on the winner and first week in the in the morning that the fellas will come up their cells with plastic contains they put peanut butter in to trap them and that empty all the dead ones into the into the trashcan Lister's it didn't matter how many we killed they own the building now in my first year I was resenting getting caught I was pining for my old lifestyle back I was still attached to material things in the second year the prosecutor said every time we spoke about drugs on the phone carries five to ten years you've got twenty plus charges if you go over to trial and lose we're going to stack all those charges up to a maximum two hundred year sentence the prospect of getting a two hundred year sentence pushed me to the brink of suicidal insanity I couldn't sleep with the cockroaches crawling on me I've seen imaginary insects and hearing voices I had all these infections and bed sores at a pink eye infection yellow posters coming up my high ball I think I can't take this anymore I'm just going to slash my wrists and bleed out but I'm going to do it after a guard does a security walk now before I was going to do it I wanted to say goodbye to my family and friends what I mean by that is I was allowed seven photos in the jail so get the photos out my mum dad girlfriend I'm looking through them and just like getting really really sad I'm thinking my mom's going to get a call saying her son's killed himself in a foreign jail I just couldn't bear the thought that just got really sad like crying and that's what actually saved my life but when you're facing 200 years I actually credit that now with crushing that material side out of me because getting sentenced to nine and a half years with one the happiest days of my life I could see when I was going to get my life back when you're facing 200 years your million-dollar house and you swing pill on the mat on the mountain don't matter you sports Kaiser relevant plasma screen TV all your gadgets because the other thing it taught me that my second lesson was about helping others before facing 200 years my behavior was selfish narcissistic had mystic getting high get my party friends high but became a turning point in the jail about a third of the prisoners couldn't read or write I started to read their legal paperwork and explain what was going on to them some of the Mexican prisoners couldn't write home in Spanish so I started to help them write home in Spanish to the loved ones and the other thing after that I got moved over to the state prison system then once I got out of the room and jail and the guards put me in with this guy on the Left he's a serial home invader torturer he was breaking into people houses and taking hammers to their kneecaps his welcoming statement to me I've got a padlock in a sock I could smash your brains in while you sleep I can kill you another one really nice guy he knew my family was flying over to visit me for Christmas so he got his mate this guy on the right this 20-strong California biker to attack me just when my parents had flown over to visit me then it didn't end up very well for me at all let's put it that way I got smashed I got moved out of that cell and my new cell mate introduced me to a guy he thought could protect me his name was to townies it was a mafia mass murderer serving 141 years it left the dead bodies of rival gangsters from Arizona to Alaska now because he only murdered rival gangsters he was at the top of the respect in the prison so once he took me on his wing I never got smashed again he was looking for someone to write his life story called me as official biographer so I was going to sneak in his cell every day and the people who came in to pay respect to him that respect sizes row buff on me now - tony was a big reader he introduced me to John Updike Norman Mailer Tom Wolfe it comes into my cell one day of a book one of his favorites so Shawn you got to read this it was a day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn so Ivan's in the Russian gulag under the Stalin era the working these guys to death in the freezing cold if you refuse to work you dragged to death by horseback or you thrown off a cliff so whenever the prisoners complained about anything where we was that to Tony's would laugh at them and say hey this is how bad Ivan had it for example if the prisoners complained about the breakfast being called in the morning - Tony's would say where Ivan was at they were fighting over a fish eyeball in the soup so to Tony's learnt me to appreciate the small things now I also my guardian angel in there was a therapist called dr. o and he knew I was on this reading program when I was facing 200 years I pledge to read as many books as possible and I managed to read over a thousand books in just over six years I read a lot of the original texts in philosophy in psychology and they helped me go deep inside myself and address the root causes of why I got involved in drugs and crime so the therapist said that's well and good you're reading this stuff but how can you apply this to your life come up with some quotes from these books and bring them to me and we'll discuss them so I'd like to share three of those with you first one is Nietzsche live your life like a work of art look at how much effort people put into a work of art if you put that much effort into your life how much the quality your life would improve another one is Marcus Aurelius and this applies it's helpful for prisoners because they're in chaotic situations but we all go through rough things on the road of life you know loss of a loved one end up in a relationship breakup you think you never going to get anyone to love you again lose your job think you're never going to be able to pay your bills stuff like that but Marcus Aurelius the quote is that chaos you can put it to the ocean with the waves lashing against the promenade and you're like the promenade remaining strong when those waves are crashing down maintaining equanimity the third one is epictetus we're disturbed not by things but by the views that we take of them I'll give you an example this imprison people are calling each other names all day long and the people who get picked on the most of the ones we react the most but according to epictetus we can choose our reaction doesn't matter what people say we can choose it through our forts so from facing 200 years and from to Tonys I appreciate the small things now to tony's died from liver cancer meson drug taking in 2010 but in a sense the spirit of him lives on in me I wake up with a smile on my face now there's no dead rats in my food anymore there's no cockroaches in my bed I'm free I'm in the West were things I got you know so good when there's always horrible stuff going on around the world and I my biggest lesson was to learn that happiness is in your heart and you know what your thought to make it thank you I mean smoking okay
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Views: 1,753,325
Rating: 4.8692675 out of 5
Keywords: TEDxTalks, English, Switzerland, Life, Activism, America, Crime, Criminal justice, Drugs, Happiness, Human Rights, Money, Prison
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Length: 16min 6sec (966 seconds)
Published: Mon Jan 23 2017
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