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How a Convicted Murderer Became a Financial Guru... From Prison

Curtis Carroll is an inmate in one of the highest security prisons in the nation, and for good reason. He was a part of a robbery that turned into a murder. Yet, in one of the only cases you’ll hear about anything close to a prisoner being rehabilitated, Carroll has turned himself into a financial wunderkind.

He invests and teaches financial literacy to other inmates. He’s so good at it that he’s known on the inside as “Wall Street”. Now that is a pretty sweet, even if uncreative, nickname. It reminds me of how the second I got into Harvard, I got a nickname for life. My awesome high school nicknames were a thing of the past. No more “Gruesome Drewsome” or “Bobby Digital”. I was simply “Harvard” from the moment I was accepted. Way to think outside the box, friends.

But, more interesting to me than Carroll’s nickname or his actual investing philosophy is how he got interested in the market in the first place. The first step on his path to becoming an investing oracle was accidentally picking up the financial section of the newspaper. He thought he was grabbing the sports section. Stories like that don’t usually work out. I don’t think Albert Einstein was on his way to the horse track to place some bets, took a wrong turn, and ended up in the physics section of the library.

This stroke of luck changed everything for Carroll, but at that point he was still just a prisoner holding a piece of newspaper he didn’t want to read and didn’t understand. Then it all clicked. An inmate saw him holding the paper and proclaimed, “This is where white people keep their money.” Boom. He was sold.

Think about how crazy that is! This guy just assumed that white people are mega rich financial gurus who know exactly how to grow their money. I’m not going to dive into a complex discussion about race relations and perceptions, so I’ll just say that Carroll’s attitude in this regard is more than a little off-base. I know a whole bunch of white people who thought that it was a good idea to spend money on a Bar Mitzvah that from afar could have been mistaken for a royal wedding. I’m talking a full on casino night at a five star hotel with imported food and a waitstaff of, like, a million people. Some of these folks spent a lot of money they didn’t have to put on these events. That money most assuredly would have been better off in the stock market, where Carroll assumed it was going all along.

Regardless of how Carroll came to his realization that the market was his calling, it’s fascinating that he has grown to the point that he is garnering such acclaim. His story is a great reminder that tiny, random events can lead a person into the depths of depravity or toward a bright, rewarding future.