Saying no to the Rock Star life…REALLY???

by the water

by Kenneth Justice

Kenneth, so there I was on the phone with one of the most infamous Columbian drug lords of all times and he was offering me the proverbial keys to the kingdom” he said.

One of the nice perks of traveling is that you meet so many interesting people and the other day at coffee was no exception….in fact, the retired lawyer I met told me a tale that seemed so out-of-the-ordinary that while we were talking I looked up his name and photo via the New York Times Website to confirm that he was telling the truth.

Around thirty years ago the lawyer was starting out in his career as a defense attorney when he was handed a case which on the surface didn’t seem all that extraordinary; a young Columbian born man had broken parole and was facing an additional two – five years of jail time.

Kenneth, the case was actually a pretty simple DUI traffic violation and since I knew the judge fairly well so I simply asked the judge privately if we could lessen the kid’s sentence just a bit and he was more than willing to oblige so we walked out of court that day with a mere six months in jail for my client; nothing more than a slap on the wrist” he said

What made the case extraordinary was not who the client was or the crime he had committed; it was who the young Columbian man worked for; Pablo Escobar.

During the early 1980’s Escobar was one of the most famous Columbian Drug Lords in existence and it turned out that the young Columbian man the lawyer had helped out was a drug mule for Escobar.

Kenneth, that night I got home, took my shower, had dinner….everything was normal. And then as I was pouring my evening nightcap the phone rings and who is on the other end of the line; its Pablo Escobar himself!”

Escobar was so thrilled that the lawyer had gotten his employee’s jail time reduced that he had a proposition for the lawyer, “I want to fly you to Miami this weekend on my private jet and I want you to come to work for me” he said

By that time Escobar was front page headlines and the lawyer knew what kind of lifestyle awaited him, “Instantly I imagined bedrooms filled with women, drugs, hot tub parties, and the opportunity to see more money than most people see their whole lives” the lawyer said

Of course, working for a Drug lord could have its downside, “obviously I realized that things could turn out badly…he was a cocaine smuggler after all! But I was like 30 years old, just a kid, and this was a one chance in a lifetime opportunity” he said

The Lawyer turned Escobar down……”Pablo, look, everything in me wants to do it. I feel like I’m gonna hang up the phone and hit myself for telling you no. But both of my parents are dead and I know that they simply didn’t raise me for that kind of lifestyle

According to the Lawyer, Escobar took the news well and after thanking him again for the work he did for his employee, they hung up and that was the end of it all. The lawyer went on to become a public defender and eventually received numerous awards for various work he performed over the years. And because of that one little traffic violation case the Lawyer ended up being interviewed by the New York Times multiple times over the years; “my name was always in the record book as being a lawyer that worked for one of Escobar’s employee’s. And even though the case didn’t really amount to very much, reporters are trained to interview every name that pops up” he told me

For most of us, temptation doesn’t really come our way in one single phone call from a Colombian Drug Lord. I suspect the average person deals with things on a more simple level;

—-) We’re sitting in a car with friends as teenagers and drugs are offered to us

—-) We’re sitting at a party and our friend’s wife or husband whispers in our ear that they want to have an affair with us

—-) We’re going through a particularly tough time and we see alcohol as a way to drown out our misery

As someone who worked as a drug counselor I was always very clear with my clients; its not what you did in your past that defines who you are as a person, its what you choose to do now that matters most.

The lawyer who is now retired took a lot of pride in telling me that story; he obviously enjoyed ‘name-dropping’ Escobar……but what impressed me the most is that while I often here people tell me stories about the ‘bad’ things they’ve done in life… this lawyer’s favorite story to tell is all about turning down temptation.

Time for another coffee,


If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour of over 100 coffee shops. My next stop is in Atlanta the first weekend of March. Dates and locations are available on my website.

Categories: Culture & Society

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59 replies

  1. Just saw that you will be in Madison, WI on April 12. I will stop by at Michelangelo’s (great choice). If you need any assistance or travel trips please let me know ( I look forward to meeting you in person.

    W. Ockham

    • William,

      Awesome! I look forward to meeting you! yea, I set it up with Michelangelo’s to hang out there. I still don’t have accommodations but I’m looking forward to the trip. it will be my first time in Madison.

  2. His parents raised him with foresight. He really didn’t pass up anything but fleeting thrills. It would have been the death of him. The Rock Star life is plastered all over the news. These people crash and burn in front of the entire country. Young people loved and nurtured by concerned parents are not led down self destructive roads. It is the people that did not feel cared for that often suffer.

  3. There are temptations everywhere. Some are covered in roses, but hold within them, regret. Sometimes it’s hard to say no, especially during rough times when our guard is down. But like this lawyer did, we must always think of the consequences.

    I agree that people are not who they were, but are instead who they are. People change, people grow and a person’s past should never be held against them.

    • “sometimes its hard to say no, especially during rough times when our guard is down”

      Yea, and its not like I would ever say that ‘giving in’ is the worst decision someone can make; sometimes we grow through making bad decisions…..and sometimes we mature by making decisions that we wouldn’t normally make 🙂

  4. He had overcome and conquered himself, he was in control of himself..that is what he is happy about..we seldom can rule our desires and wants..when we can do makes us totally free,because the first freedom we must achieve is by fighting our temptations..lurking desires..he was indeed at a point in his life where he answered only to his own conscious ..and that certainly makes me want to salute a man of substance. Well one but it is me..who can put a not for sale on myself..otherwise anyone can buy me..if I have sold my soul.

  5. Wise lawyer didn’t want to persue the fame at the risk of losing him self.
    True that always it’s about “who you know” .. Gets in the show.. 😃

  6. Turning down temptation. It is something one should be proud of, although obviously this guy enjoys the sensationalism from name-dropping. I think it makes even more of an impact nowadays because popular culture would have us believe no one says no to temptation.

    • “although obviously this guy enjoys the sensationalism from name-dropping”

      EXACTLY!!! lol….I couldn’t help but note the irony when he was telling me his story 🙂

  7. Good for him for not selling his soul

  8. I think it takes more strength to do what one believes is right.. then walk the path of ease..
    for drugs goes the same to defy your friends when they offer something when in a group..

  9. ouch!!!! that was so interesting! you are really meeting some people and getting the stories of a lifetime….keep on moving, I’ll be following to hear you next wild adventure.

  10. It’s great to hear a “good news” story.

  11. A really interesting post! I was just wondering, do you ask permission of people you talk to in coffee shops to put them in your blog posts? I guess I’ve always kind of thought you didn’t really have to cause you kept their names out and anonymised them a lot. But surely this guy is pretty identifiable from your writing, so I guess you might have asked him? Forget the question if you think it’s “out of line” 🙂 Thanks.

    • iarxiv,

      in the past I simply changed certain details and whatnot and wrote about things….but since I began my year long coffee house trip I almost ALWAYS tell people what I’m doing and they STILL tell me stuff. Costa Rica was a fascinating trip because I was very upfront with everyone about being on a writing/blogging trip and yet people still kept telling me stories about their life……a couple people even contacted me via email after I published their ‘stories’ and thanked me for writing about them………

    • Thanks for answering! I guessed it was kind of like that since the year started. Sounds like you’re having a very productive blogging tour! Looking forward to reading more 🙂

  12. I couldn’t be more proud of the lawyer and I don’t even know him, Kenneth.

    Surely that lifestyle would have gotten old…quick. Right? Surely? I have no doubt… None. Not one… Not today. Tomorrow. Not during the day… Or the night. Well…maybe the night, a little doubt. You know, when I sit back with my cup of coffee and think about what he gave up….well, forget it. 😆 Let’s just go back to him making the right choice, shall we? 😀

  13. What an interesting story to share, and even though most of us, as you expressed, will never have such a choice so clearly defined in our lives, there are, like you said, a series of choices. I once stayed in a job that tested every limit of my integrity and moral character, feeling trapped to the dollar because I was caring for my terminally-ill mother, and yet, eventually, the cost became too great. I quit the job, and as it turns out, my mother passed away about six months later. It proved the obvious; sometimes you get by on next-to-nothing because you simply have no other choice. Ultimately, you have to make the choice that you can live with. Or the choice that you can die with. Same difference. Thanks for sharing an interesting conversation (again).

    • ” Ultimately, you have to make the choice that you can live with. Or the choice that you can die with.”

      I love that sentence, its an excellent way to summarize all of my own thoughts on the subject 🙂

  14. I’m happy there are people like this lawyer out there. I like to think the best of humanity and here is a perfect example. I think most people want to do good and be good. I’m happy he didn’t let the potential glitz and glamour distract him from his values.

    • “I think most people want to do good and be good”

      I think for me it has to do with the time of day or the day of the month; most of the time I want to do good…..but I have THOSE days 😉

  15. If more people had the courage to make that call, the world would be a better place. Kudos to those strong enough to turn down the easy way!

  16. Hey Kenneth. You always have an interesting and thought-provoking story to tell.
    “As someone who worked as a drug counselor I was always very clear with my clients; its not what you did in your past that defines who you are as a person, its what you choose to do now that matters most.”
    I love this statement. I have been persuaded to believe that the present is all we have. The past is done and gone with and the future is unsure. We need to live in the now. And the choices that we make now will reflect what is to come.
    Blessings =)

    • yea, especially working in the counseling field; people tend to be OBSESSED with the past. It can be very tiresome because it is the past which holds so many people back from moving forward in life. I was trained in a lot of different psychological philosophies but one of the main ones I came away with was Gestalt and that had a lot to do with living in the here-and-now and letting go of the past……

      sadly it takes some people an entire lifetime to get beyond their past

    • if I may chime in here…. I recently heard that “regret” is one of the number one things MANY retirees find they have to cope with – well after they adjust to retirement mode and other things – but wow- plagued with regret is not cool.

    • yea, plagued with regret in old age would suck. A friend of mine who died two years ago started struggling with that exact problem quite a bit. He had actually accomplished so much with his life but he always felt he ‘could’ve done more’….I felt it was God’s grace that he died when he did; he was 86 when he died.

  17. “Pablo, look, everything in me wants to do it ….” Sounds like a tape recording or a practiced recital. Or is that me being slightly sceptical? Saying no to a drug baron – all the films says you end up feeding the fishes. Does two and two always equal four?

  18. this post ended with such a bullet….. “this lawyer’s favorite story to tell is all about turning down temptation.”

  19. Gotta love a person who is proud of resisting temptation and not afraid to say so.

    Hey, Kenneth! I just noticed you are over 9,000 followers…OMG…that’s fantastic!!!

  20. Man, you meet the most fascinating people Kenneth. My favorite part of my job is the people and I swear all the stories I could put together just hanging out with you for a day lol, totally incredible. Your stories are so awesome. YOU will be an interesting interview now even. This guy’s story is so basic and yet so fascinating and probably for the same reason he loves to tell it – he resisted temptation. That’s awesome. I’m not sure how I feel about lightening a DUI case, but I suppose that’s another matter. Anyway, another awesome story and a wonderful lesson if you ask me.

    • Jen, well I don’t meet all these people in one day! lol……but perhaps you are surrounded by just as many interesting people and don’t realize it.. Not everybody wants to talk either; right now I’m sitting at a café with people practically hugging me they are so close; but they all have their headphones in and are lost in their little world. So nobody is talking to me today 🙂

    • lol well I never said you did – it was a bit of an exaggeration but still you get my point. You do make a good point that there could be interesting folks here and I’m sure there are but probably most are snowbirds. The folks here are happily simple and there’s nothing wrong with that. 🙂 They’re nice, good people. No one talking to you YET I think is the key word. 🙂

  21. Fantastic story and fantastic lesson. Nicely done!

  22. I just love the surprises I read in your blog each day! I never know what’s coming next but you never disappoint…

  23. Very cool writing-most enjoyable ana

  24. Awesome post, Kenneth, and best of luck with your tour. It sounds like an interesting experience.

  25. I would have been afraid to say no for fear that I would be killed by mob goons at an unsuspecting moment. Maybe I’ve watched too many Hollywood portrayals!

  26. Interesting story, Enjoy your coffee. 🙂

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