Two Letters From Jail

When I was growing up, all of my friends also believed that money was scarce. We talked about money problems a lot. We made it bigger and bigger. I remember hearing my own kids talk about how we didn’t have any money because they heard me say it all the time. When I couldn’t afford something they wanted, instead of saying, “Not right now,” or “You have plenty of toys,” I would tell them there was no money.

I have included a photo of myself in 9th grade, posing with the neighborhood gang’s graffiti. I grew up in Downtown LA in an 800-square foot apartment. The kids in my neighborhood were routinely involved in drugs and gangs. Teen pregnancy was a huge issue. My family was on welfare. Ours was a five-kid, one-parent household.One big social difference I see between people with money and people without much money is a deeply rooted belief of wealthier people that you are safe and no matter what happens, things will be fine. Even if they are hit with a large, unexpected expense, they don’t despair, because they know money will come back around. They can get fired, of have their belongings stolen, but its OK. They don’t go to that place of crazy pessimism and desperation because of a setback. This attitude is actually what keeps them calm and confident. It is as if they are psychologically conditioned to be optimistic, and of course it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once things were looking up for me and my family, I was flying high. My business was growing, and I was making more money. The kids were doing well. I was traveling and I had just bought a new car. The kids were all driving and had cars. Life was going amazingly well.

I came home after work one day and walked out to grab the mail. Sitting in my mailbox were two letters. One from my mother and one from my father; both were written from jail.

It was such a contrast to the life I had built for myself and a very big reality check for me. Here I was living an incredible life and no one outside of my family knew that my parents were both in jail. Would my colleagues and friends even believe me if I told them? From the outside, I looked like I had lived a charmed life. It was my dirty little secret.

It was bittersweet, I suppose, I hated thinking of them in jail, but here I was, their daughter, creating a life I loved. I got out. I might have ended up where they did, but I chose another path. I was making a life that was not only fulfilling basic needs but was well on its way to surpassing them.

I went from welfare and bounced checks to abundance, private jets, and financial freedom. I grew up in constant chaos and drama, and now I live a peaceful and drama-free life, and I created both.

You are creating your reality. If you want more money, be on the lookout for how many times you talk about not having any. If you don’t want more money, keep complaining. Pay close attention to the words you use. This is not easy but be diligent and catch yourself when you are withholding kindness or assuming negative ideas. When you change your operating system, you get to live a bigger, better life. It’s like turning your life from black and white into brilliant Technicolor.

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*Hazel Ortega is a serial-entrepreneur and author of the Amazon bestselling book, From Bounced Checks to Private Jets: The Mastery of Miracles.

Feature photo:, Bridgette Hernandez, other photos: Hazel Ortega

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