A friend and colleague of mine named Turney Duff is recovering from addiction. He once wrote a bestselling memoir about his rise and fall on Wall Street -- and all the crazy stuff that led him to become addicted in the first place.

The other day, he celebrated 10 years of sobriety. It's a big achievement. He's basically a walking, talking advertisement for second chances. 

Come to think of it, having read his book -- which was quite good -- he might actually be more of an advertisement for third or fourth chances. (These days he's a devoted father and a writer, and he consults on the Showtime TV show Billions.)

My friend's milestone comes just as our entire country seems to be rethinking the idea of writing off people for past mistakes.

It's most visible with the criminal justice reform movement, including the way some big companies are getting involved.

The big headline on this yesterday was J.P. Morgan Chase's announcement that 10 percent of its new hires over the past year have criminal records, and that it's going to make an effort to recruit more such people going forward.

That in turn comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal look back at what happened to three maximum security prison inmates who earned college degrees and defeated a trio of Harvard University students in a debate competition at the prison.

(Short version: Two of the three are out of prison now, working and trying to rebuild lives. The third is still locked up, serving a sentence for murder.) 

I'm drawn to these stories about second chances, especially when it comes to hiring and professional opportunities. I've written about a few of them over the years:

Besides the altruistic motivations, some business owners say they've done the math, and there's a self-interested motivation as well. If things work out, hiring people who have fewer other opportunities can be quite cost-effective.

Now, does this mean every business should start making it a priority to hire those who have been convicted or addicted? I can't go that far, especially since I don't know anything about your business in particular. 

But if most of us think back critically on our lives, we'll remember big mistakes. Maybe they don't rise to the level of a felony or a serious drug addiction, but they're there. 

As a result, I'll bet somebody, somewhere took a chance on you at some point -- maybe even something you can connect with a straight line to the success you enjoy today.

So my advice on this morning: Pay it back if you can. Trust but verify. Because also almost everybody deserves a second chance.

Published on: Oct 22, 2019
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