Chuck Gallagher makes a strong entrance when he speaks. He shuffles up to the stage wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and shackled in handcuffs as he speaks about taking 23 steps into federal prison. “Choices have consequences” is Gallagher’s mantra, and his book, Second Chances: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity, reinforces that message throughout.
His talk at the ICCFA convention earlier this year was billed as “Ethical Choices: The Story of Someone Who Made Some Bad Decisions (And Paid the Price).” Stewart Enterprises was the company in the funeral industry that gave him his second chance after he emerged from 18 months in prison.
Gallagher’s crime: stealing money from his clients to finance a lifestyle that he couldn’t afford. As a trusted CPA, he helped himself a grand total of $254,000. That choice had serious consequences, although it took a while before the law of choices and consequences caught up with him and his life dove into a steep downward spiral.
When he realized the house of cards he had built with the stolen money was about to come tumbling down, he briefly considered suicide. He was out of town teaching a seminar at the time. After hours, he called various psychiatrist offices, hoping to get someone on the phone to talk with.
On the eighth call, he got a live person on the phone. That doctor gave him the message, “You have made a terrible mistake, but you are not a mistake.” That message carried him back home to face up to his choices and the consequences.
To his credit, Gallagher made restitution and paid all the money back. It wasn’t until he admitted everything he had done and realized he had no control over his life that things began to turn around for him. He lost his house, his job, his CPA certification, most of his friends, and eventually his marriage.
His reflections on his experiences and choices make a strong case for dropping a mindset of victimization to achieve empowerment and freedom.
From the book:
If you have less than positive results in your life, then you have made less than “good” choices. You are where you are because of the choices you have made. I can hear naysayers exclaiming that I don’t know what I’m talking about. “I’m a victim,” they often shout. And every time, when they honestly peel back the layers of choices made, they discover that the choices made have a direct effect on where they are today. We all may have been victims as a result of past experiences; however, living in victimization now is a choice. We all have the power to change our lives.
Over and over throughout this book, the message that you cannot avoid the consequences of your actions is repeated, and eventually, it does start to sink into your subconscious. I think of the message as I reach for a sopapilla drizzled with honey, despite my desire to lose a few more pounds before my high school reunion in two weeks. Choices have consequences – the scale is not kind.
From the book:
Consider the rules: (1) we only get one body, (2) we all learn lessons, (3) lessons often appear as mistakes or failures, (4) a lesson is repeated until learned, (5) if we don’t learn the lessons the first time, they are repeated and get harder, (6) we know we’ve learned the lessons when our actions change, (7) we tend to forget the rules when we’ve learned the lessons, and (8) we can remember the rules any time we wish.
At the end of the book, Gallagher offers 23 points to ponder, corresponding with those 23 steps into prison. Each point provides some insights into the nature of choice, change, happiness, pain, transformation, life purpose, self-imprisonment, divine order, spirituality, learning, and understanding.
If you’re looking for valuable life lessons from someone who’s learned the hard way, check out Chuck Gallagher’s book, Second Chances.
You can order the book through his website, www.ChuckGallagher.com or Amazon:
Second Chances: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity