Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Felon Finds Failures Make Path to Positives

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Felon Finds Failures Make Path to Positives

Article excerpt

When an inmate in federal prison makes a phone call, the person on the other end can block your calls forever by just pressing "7."

"I had '7' hit a couple of times," Daniel Bull said.

He understands why. "The crime hurt pretty much everybody. Period."

Mr. Bull was sentenced in January 2012 to 21 months in prison for mail fraud after taking around $750,000 from investors, many of them friends and family, under false pretenses. When he found out the feds were on to him, the Beaver man threw his cell phone out his car window, got on Interstate 79 and drove clear to Miami.

After many dark nights of the soul in a hostel there, he returned to plead guilty and do his time. Released in July 2013, Mr. Bull, 31, is working in business development for a commercial construction firm. His employer was one of the biggest victims of his crime.

That's forgiveness.

His wife, Nicole, who divorced him - "deservedly so," he says - and had been "one of my 7s," remarried him Sept. 28. She told me she became convinced through countless examples that the father of their two young daughters had repented fully.

That's forgiveness with a capital "F."

If anyone knows Failure with a capital F, it's Mr. Bull. Part of his sentence requires repaying his victims more than $481,000. The first check he writes each month is 10 percent of his income to the federal court clerk. That's distributed "proportionally to those I hurt," he said.

He now lives in Washington, Pa. I sought him out because I'd heard something called "Failure: Lab" is coming to Pittsburgh and he's the local organizer. The venture began in Michigan last year and has held events from Chicago to Chandigarh, India.

Speakers stand on a bare stage one by one to talk for around 10 minutes about a failure: divorce, bankruptcy, addiction, whatever. The cardinal rule is no moral to the story or talk of later success. The audience is invited to tweet and write about what they've heard, thoughts that may be posted on

"There are hundreds of beautiful thoughts to one story versus one lesson to one story," says Jonathan Williams, 33, a co-founder of Failure: Lab. …

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