From Prison Cell #118 to CEO (repost)

In the following very inspirational blog post CEO of Swipes Kasper Phil brutally honest tells about how his experience with prison helped him become the CEO he is today.

Find the original post here

When you meet me today talking about my startup Swipes, an inspiring productivity company, you’ll see a very smart and passionate guy that makes it all look super easy.

However, the road hasn’t always been easy. I was born in a total nontrepreneurial family from a tiny village in Denmark. I failed the first four startups before Swipes, and winding back a little more I was sitting in Cell number 118 for possessing cocaine.

I’m Kasper, 25 years old and I want to share with you how I turned my life around and how this transformation has helped me as a CEO.

First let’s go back to prison. How did I end up there
I’ve taken a lot of drugs when I was younger. And back in 2010 I did cocaine. You can call it teenage stupidity, being cool or “bad friends”. I simply call it bad choices.

One day in the summer of 2010, I was preparing to go on a vacation to Spain with my new girlfriend back then, Maria. The evening before that, we were sleeping at her parents house and had to drive from there in the middle of the night to the airport.

Before we drove it suddenly stroke me that maybe I shouldn’t bring the cocaine I had with me. Both because Maria didn’t know about it and because we had to fly to another country. In my panic I hid it under her bed in a slipper I found. We drove off and had an amazing vacation in Spain. Turned out the slipper was Maria’s mom – Andrea’s, and that she got quite a surprise when she found it.

So when we came back from vacation the police was waiting for me, and in the time of sending a snap I was there sitting in prison while the police was investigating the case.

I screwed it all up. I felt so guilty, I couldn’t take it. My mind went off with me: what if I wouldn’t see my little brother or my mom again. Would Maria still be together with me?

Reality hit me like a train. I was on a bad path. I had dropped out of university after only 3 months to pursue my first business, a webshop selling razorblades which had failed badly. Now Maria’s parents had turned me in and I had no knowledge about my future. I remember a priest came by and told me that for what I’ve done, I’d probably not get out for years.

That’s how far I went before truly realising I need to take responsibility for my actions! And right there at rock bottom I swore to my self: “I’m gonna change my life!”.

Luckily it turned out that the priest was wrong and after 5 days they let me out to wait for my conviction.

The new Kasper
The new Kasper was out, ready to take responsibility — with the uncertainty that he could go back to prison any day. Sounds easy right? I wanted to fix things with Maria and her parents. So I chose not to be angry over them “turning me in”, but being thankful for them helping me put an end to my drug period.

They weren’t exactly at the same level of thankfulness at that point, and they were definitely not interested in me dating their daughter. Unfortunately neither was Maria, and fixing things quickly turned out to be much harder than running away.

Showing that I’ve changed and make people trust me again took a lot of time, and it all started by me admitting my mistakes and taking action to change. I started working on my values and defining the character I wanted to be! I stopped taking drugs, I stopped drinking alcohol and I started being in control.

From one day to the other I just killed the connections to a lot of old “friends” and people in my life.

After Maria saw the changes I made and after a lot of convincing from my side, we were finally back together. However, I was yet to face my biggest fear – telling her parents. The last time I had seen them was when the police was taking me away from their house. I went to see them personally and talk to them face-in-face.

The drive to there was certainly the longest drive ever. I can’t describe how awful my stomach felt and how my imagination started going crazy. I finally arrived. And after a long talk with lots of tears, showing them how I felt and how much I respected them for what they did to protect their daughter, they accepted me back in the family. I will never forget their big gesture and how they supported me to turn my life around from that point on!

This conversation was the hardest thing I had ever done, but I can’t explain how big a relief it was after. Manning up to take responsibility is so hard and uncomfortable — but the effect is tremendous. Our brains will constantly try to justify and excuse our behaviour. We ourselves saying how it wasn’t our fault, how everyone else should have behaved differently. If you break this pattern people will see you differently and you will think differently. Manning up and taking responsibility gives you a special kind of determination to fix and improve things. This determination has helped me tremendously growing as an entrepreneur and CEO, but you can apply it to any area.

3 small ways to be better at responsibility
Here are three small changes in everyday life that has worked for me to take more responsibility. Warning: they’re simple but harder to apply than you think.

1. Admit your mistakes.

Next time you find out you were wrong, go back and tell the people involved that you were wrong. Maybe even that they were right! Pride can be our worst enemy but from fighting it comes a lot of strength. As a CEO I talk openly about my own mistakes – like when I utterly failed a presentation and said f**k in front of 150 investors. This encourages my whole team to do the same and reflect on improvements.

2. Question your point of view.

Next time someone comes and says something bad about you or simply criticises you, instead of defending yourself and spitting out thousand reasons why you were right, just say you are sorry and that you weren’t aware you were being perceived this way. Acknowledge other perspectives even though they might be wrong. This helps broaden your own perspective and you’ll discover that there might be some truth to what they’re saying. I’ve discovered many things about my self this way – from coming across as unappreciative to acting selfish in some situations. Admitting right away and improving later helps you to keep your head cool and you become a better listener.

3. Spend time with the people you care about.

Go see someone that means a lot to you, someone you haven’t seen in a while. Show them how much they mean to you, show them that you care. Too often we get caught up in our hectic lives and we take family and friends for granted. If being close to your family and friends is on your priority list, there’s no excuse to why you wouldn’t spend more time with them. Responsibility comes in all areas of life! I just went to see my grandma, she means a world to me and I’m so bad to visit her often enough.

Responsibility ROCKS!
Responsibility comes in so many aspects, and often you’ll feel that it sucks to go say sorry or admit you were wrong. But practicing this in everyday life gives the foundation for a great success in both personal life and business. Take this from someone who literally have been on the other side of the fence: Responsibility ROCKS!

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