I’m sitting here looking at the pink sunrise pouring over the hills in Reno. The sky may be completely clear but that doesn’t remove the dark cloud in my life. On Tuesday morning, in just a little over 24 hours, I will be self-surrendering to federal prison (likely I will already be there by the time you read these words). Titles like felon or fraudster will be my label for the foreseeable future but starting tomorrow, my new title will be inmate. I’m not trying to get in a “woe is me” mentality but this is the stark reality of my situation.
A little background on my situation – in November 2013, I was greeted by a dozen FBI agents raiding my home in the middle of an evening with my wife and four kids. The FBI stormed in with their full garb on (bulletproof vests, armed), announced I was under investigation for insider trading and that they had a search warrant. It’s hard to describe the wave of emotions that I felt on that day. I messed up greatly with this mistake but I didn’t compound that error by lying to the FBI or the government. I waved the white flag that night the FBI was in my house, admitted to everything and provided a recorded, verbal confession.
Fast forward a few months later to August 2014, I was sentenced to 24 months in prison for committing this crime while working at Microsoft. At Microsoft I was a Senior Manager responsible for treasury investments and capital market strategies. It was a great job and I had a bright career ahead but that all vaporized based on my illegal actions.
The last 10 months have been extremely difficult for me and my family. However, the difficulty has been tempered by the peace and strength God has given us. I am a Christian and have used this time to grow closer to the Lord and be more outward focused by being involved with more community service events as well as serving in the church. However, just because I’m a Christian didn’t keep me from compromising my morals/spiritual integrity and committing this crime. I stumbled greatly and unfortunately it’s been very public. My photo was on the front page of the Seattle Times back in December when there was a media blitz about how I was charged with insider trading. All of the national newswires picked up the story and there were also plenty of articles written about me.
From that point on, I have tried to use being thrust in the spotlight to help other people. I am trying to use this terrible ordeal, this self-inflicted crisis to share my story with others, recounting the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) in hopes that I can deter them from repeating my folly. I’ve also used this experience to be more bold in sharing my faith. I have been blessed with opportunities to lecture at multiple colleges, speak to several professional business groups and even record a message that was distributed to all 100,000+ employees at my former employer, Microsoft.
Here I sit writing these words on the eve of my imprisonment and I have a peace that I know has been given to me by God. This isn’t a naïve peace and I’m not delusional of the challenges that lie ahead. I am about to being a prisoner for the next two years of my life. I mentioned that I’m here in Reno which is the prison I’ve been designated to serve my time but this is 700 miles away from my wife and kids who live in Seattle. I will not be very present in my kids’ lives for the next couple years and not be able to provide, protect, and support them as I have in the past. I have been stripped of my wealth, job, reputation, and freedom. My career is ambiguous at best, so the future is very unknown.
In spite of all this, I know that I’m forgiven for making this stupid mistake. My wife, kids, other family and friends have all forgiven me and are wrapping themselves around me and my family during this tough time. Yes, some have distanced themselves from me. Yes, some have severed ties. But the Lord has brought so many new people in my life and I consider the new relationships a huge upgrade versus those that have fallen away.
I realize that I have a duty to use this experience to help others. If choosing whether or not to commit this crime was a test, then I failed it miserably. But my response to this stumbling is another test and I refuse to fail it. I will not waste this crisis. I will not get in the victim mentality that so many people fall into. I have no one to blame for my actions but myself. However, I will not wallow in self-pity nor will I beat myself up over something that is behind me and I’ve been forgiven for doing.
This might not be a very coherent blog entry but it is what’s on my heart at the moment. I will be blogging throughout my incarceration journey at www.bjorgenson.com and will share my insights to hopefully provide encouragement to others and prevent anyone else from repeating similar folly. I count myself blessed for having such a loving wife, four amazing children, and a network of family and friends who are loving and supportive.
I want to end with a quote from CS Lewis that gives me encouragement: “No amount of falls will really undo of us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard…. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of his presence .” – Brian Jorgenson
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___________Comments From Social Media:
Written very well and love the message…What most interests me is the reality that there are no mistakes! We certainly don’t need the experience, but, as always, it’s what we do with it…I am sorry that Brian compromised his value system and grateful that he has chosen to share his humility and recovery…This gentleman’s journey can be of importance to so many who are imprisoned one way or another by also doing that which is not who they “really” are…Will look forward to reading more of this journey…
I found you much as I imagine others do – I was near the end of an ordeal which resulted in a guilty plea to a white collar crime. As news of my guilty plea blared in news headlines, I sat alone in a rented office, lights off, watching over the Internet. I felt glazed in a poetic irony, a figurative media storm swirling while my lone shadow silhouetted against the wall, outlined by the faint glow of my laptop screen. Isolated, numb and profoundly shamed I would've drowned myself in my self-pity were it possible to. An eternity passed in the lonely silence.
I stumbled quite randomly across your time through a random search on the Internet – through an Institutional Investor article where you recount giving practical advice to a white collar felon about to report to prison for his sentence. And though my body was heavy as a stone, something compelled me to look up your number and leave a message. You rang back the same day.
I didn't know what to expect when we first started speaking. Perhaps in some way I was glad to just have someone who could relate to this experience. Someone who could foreshadow the next chapters.
Over time, I began to realize that through our talks I was tapping into not just your own personal experience and journey, but that of others like me who've through some happenstance coincidence of their own found you as well.
I imagine it's human nature, when something like this happens, to seek out practical advice to try to restore 'normalcy' to their lives as quickly as possible. However, the self-inflicted emotional volatility has dwarfed any practical advice anyone could've given me to recover. I've found that through the community of our experiences, I've been able to rely up on an emotional roadmap which has been critical in helping me accept and grow from trauma. I've met other 'survivors', and found threads of commonality which have helped me make sense of my world turned upside-down.
This remains a continuing process and my sincere hope is that I can take my trauma and recovery and use it to help give strength and hope to others, as they have to me.