by Colin Walsh

November 5, 2012

I wanted to write a piece to explain how The Straight A guide has impacted my life.  It has helped me in ways that I still cannot totally see at this point in time. I do know, The Straight A Guide serves as my compass in prison, providing me with all of the tools that I need– not only to survive– but to thrive in prison.

Coming into prison was a totally new experience. It was like nothing else that I have experienced in my life. I was absolutely blind. I didn’t know what to expect or where to turn. I was thrown into an oblivion at the crossroads of thousands of different roads. I had no clue which direction to go. There we literally thousands of people trying to pull me in hundreds of different directions. At this point, my future was very unclear. Many questions were unanswered. I asked myself, “where do I go from here? What am I supposed to do for the next four years?” These questions were answered by the Straight A Guide. The guide gave me the light to see where I was going.

I began the program only six months after beginning my prison term. I began the program by reading all of Michael’s books, based on his experiences in prison. By reading these books, Michael set a standard to live by, and served as an person to emulate. Without Michael serving as a role model, I would have easily fallen victim to the people who were around me. I would have followed the wrong path, as many do. By emulating Michael, I automatically started to travel down the right path.

Next in the program, I began answering the questions presented in the workbook. By answering all 300 of these extensive, thought provoking questions, I forced myself to practice introspection. This is what the famous philosopher Socrates termed, “knowing thyself.” Looking inside of myself allowed me to see myself from the outside looking in. I was then able to see my motives, and what made me tick. Thus learning more about myself than ever before. The questions also forced me to consider things that I would have otherwise ignored. They forced me to plan for my future. It taught me to set goals, and use this time that I was given to begin reaching those goal. By answering all of the questions, I created a roadmap leading me to the future, and that future is success. These questions also brought light to the dark aspects of prison. They forced me to open my eyes to the environment, and forced me to realize my surroundings. This helped me to navigate safely through prison, avoiding the many traps and pitfalls of prison. Most of all the questions helped me think clearly, helping, and teaching me in many ways through prison.

Now, even though I finished the workbook, the program isn’t over. The program will stick with me for the rest of my life. As I continue the remaining portion of my prison term, I will follow the track that the Straight A Guide has laid out for me. The questions that I had coming into prison are now answered. I am no longer blind. The path is chosen. The Straight A Guide has answered these questions, and has removed the curtain from my eyes, uncovering the path to success. The true impact that the program has had made is inexplicable. Without it, I don’t know what would have happened in these past two years.

by Colin Walsh

251. What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership isn’t just a trait, it is a way of life. A leader is on duty 24/7 and 365 days a year for the rest of their lives, because being a leader means leading one’s own life first. Being a leader is much more than just someone who tells people what to do. Leadership begins within a person. A leader must first lead themselves before they can lead anything else.  Leadership is the ability to be a leader.

In order to know what hot is, a person must first experience cold. Likewise, in order to know what a leader is, a person must know the opposite. The complete opposite of a leader is a follower. A follower is a person that wears a collar around their neck and is dragged through life by other people. They are a slave to everyone around them. The people that surround them tell them how to dress, what to do, when to do it, how to look, and how to act. Every action of a follower is viewed in a social mirror and compared to everyone else’s’ actions. Therefore, every action is decided for them.

A leader is the complete opposite. Leaders are individuals. They make all of their own decisions, based on their own values and goals. Leaders know what they want, and know how they are going to get there. Leaders don’t simply accept something as right because someone else said so. Every decision a leader makes, is made with a purpose. By leading their own lives, a leader sets the trend, instead of simply following it.

Overall, leadership is the ability to be a leader. A leader first leads their own way by choosing a path where they want to go. Then by traveling this path, they clear it for others to follow. A leader cannot lead anything without first leading themselves.

252. In what ways have your past decisions prepared you for leadership?

In my late teens, before I was arrested, I was the antithesis of a leader. I was a follower. Every decision that I had made was compared to what others’ opinion was of me. Immediately after being arrested, that all changed. I was then forced to become a leader in order to save my life.

Being a follower during my late teens led to my arrest. The choices that I was making weren’t my own thoughts. I was like a puppet, and my friends were like the puppet master. Unfortunately, the choices that I was making were wrong. These choices led to my arrest.

Following being arrested I was forced to become a leader. As soon as I was arrested I was no longer able to see any of my friends. Therefore, I was forced to think for myself, and make my own choices. Being in the county jail, under 23 hour solitary confinement, I realized that I was all alone in life. Therefore I myself was the only one to blame. I realized that I needed to regain control of my life. This is when I decided to become a leader.

My following decisions made me more of a leader. First, I wanted to immediately separate myself from the group that I was arrested with. In order to do that, I did what no on else in the situation did, I pleaded guilty. I took responsibility for my actions, thus separating myself. the decisions that I made from then on were my own. Every choice that I made from then on, led me closer to becoming a leader.

Now even though I am in prison, I am a leader. I don’t simply live like the stereotypical prisoner. I try to be an individual, and separate myself from the stereotype. Being an individual makes me a better leader.

The choices that I made in my late teens were the antithesis of leadership. Those choices perpetuated great failure. Following those nescient decisions, I chose to become a leader.

253. Where does leadership begin?

Leadership begins with a the person being the leader. People must be able to first leader themselves, before they can lead anyone else. If they can’t lead themselves, it is not possible that they can be a leader.

If  two people are lost in a desert and neither of them know where they are or where they are going. Which one is the leader and which is the follower? Clearly neither because they are both lost. But if one person knew where they where going, then they would be the leader. It is the same with anything else. It is only possible to be a leader if that person knows where they are going. Therefore it is obvious that leaderships must begin with the leader.

The leader must find their own way first, before they can lead anyone else. Otherwise, everyone is lost.

254. In what ways can an individual measure his capacity to lead?

A person can measure their ability to lead by the way that they lead their own lives. A person that can lead themselves successfully, has a great capacity to lead. By measuring this ability, a person can gauge their ability to lead.

By having accountability for themselves, people are able to measure their lives. People can hold themselves accountable by setting and achieving goals. This method forces a person to gauge themselves, thus gauging their ability to lead.

Leadership begins with the individual who is leading. Therefore for a person to gauge their ability to lead, they must first gauge themselves.

255. In what ways can an individual measure his effectiveness at leadership?

A person can measure their effectiveness of being a leader by measuring themselves. A person’s effectiveness in their own lives, directly reflects their effectiveness in general.

A person emanates leadership by leading themselves. By setting an objective and pursuing it until achievement, shows everyone  that a person is effective in leading themselves. This shows that this person can lead others identically. Living this life sets an example and clears a path for others to emulate and follow.

Nobody would trust an overweight personal trainer, a crazy psychologist, or a sick doctor, because if they were effective they would have first taken care of themselves. Likewise a successful leader must first prove to be successful in their own lives.

256. What does it mean to have a vision?

Having a vision means to see the end result without actually being there yet. In a plan it is the target that is aimed for, or the goal that is sought. If point A is where we are now, and point B is where we want to go, the vision would be point B.

Having a vision is like standing in New York City and deciding that you wanted to go to Rockefeller Center. That is the vision. You know why you want to get there, you may even be able to picture it. But the fact that you want to get there is your vision.

A vision is abstract, because it can only exist in the mind. Until it is implemented it isn’t real. Call it a dream, call it an aspiration , or a vision, whatever you call it, having one is the first step in a successful plan. You can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist.

257. How does a leader gauge the effectiveness of a plan?

Leaders gauge a plan before it is even created. This is the vision. Leaders have the ability to assess quickly whether or not something is worth pursuing. This ability is not magic, and anyone can do it.

Leaders first assess risk versus reward. Once they decide that a plan is worth pursuing, the leader picks an objective. With the end in mind, a leader will break this large objective into smaller manageable objectives. Then they set a timeline. With these objectives, and a timeline leaders are able to gauge their effectiveness. As each objective is reached in the correct amount of time, a leader knows that their plan is effective.

Knowing where you are, and setting a plan to get there gives a person the ability to gauge their plan.

258. Why would leadership require accountability tools?

Leaders would be wise to use accountability tools in every aspect of their lives. These tools show leaders whether or not they are on the right track. It allows a person to adjust as soon as a problem develops, instead of letting the problem grow. Without using these tools, leaders will leave things to chance, and can end up wandering in the wrong direction.

The only way to gauge progress is through accountability tools. Even if people know where they want to go, how do they know they are going to get there? The only way to know for sure, is through accountability tools.

259. How would a leader make the most effective use of accountability tools?

Leaders could make the best use of their accountability tools, by constantly referring to them, and by using them in every decision. That is how leaders can receive the greatest benefit from these tools.

Just like on any machine, leaders should constantly refer to their gauges. They can use these to constantly measure progress. Leaders should first identify their vision, and clearly define it. Once it is defined, they should map out a detailed, step by step plan, methodically planning every step. Then as they work through the plan, they should constantly check their progress. This is the only way to make sure that they are headed in the right direction, toward the goal. Just as a person would constantly refer to a map, making sure they make every right turn, leaders can make the most out of their plan by constantly referring to it.

260. How would you describe leadership by example?

Leadership by example means that the leaders must practice what they preach. It isn’t just telling people what to do, but showing them how to do it. Leading by example is about inspiring others to live by the values that the leader lives. Leaders, that lead by example, are writing the script for others through action.

This is the difference between a ruler and a leader. A ruler just makes orders without taking their own advice. Leaders, on the other hand, inspire people to want to follow them because they see the results of the leader’s actions.

Multiple management studies show that autocratic leadership is ineffective. These same studies show that leadership through example is one of the most effective management techniques.

Leadership through example is the only true form of leadership. If a person told another to go into the woods, and the other person went alone. The person that told them to do it is not leading anything. Now if the person actually went into the woods with the other, then he is leading. Until then he isn’t any different than the person that he is trying to lead.

261. What does leading with integrity mean to you?

Leading with integrity is leading in adherence to a strict code of ethics and values. If leadership begins with the individual then leading with integrity also begins with the individual.

For a leader to read with integrity, they must first live their own lives with integrity. This means living in accordance with set values. Then a leader must live in harmony and consistency with these personal values.

Always living with integrity is the only way to lead with integrity.

262. In what ways does personal leadership require an individual to put the concerns of others ahead of his own?

Personal leadership requires people to define their roles in life. They need to know their responsibilities. They also have to know what positions they hold. In order to serve these roles people must consider others before they consider themselves.

A person must define their roles in life. Whether they are a father, son, employee, or whatever, everyone has roles in life. When a person defines these roles they must consider others that are involved in the role in order to effectively serve that role. If a person is a father they must consider their son, if a person is a son they must consider their father. If they are an employee, they must consider their boss. This is the key to personal leadership.

263. How can our behavior in prison influence the lives of those we ask to support or sponsor us?

Our behavior affects everyone that is in our lives. The decisions that we make from the second that we wake up , until the time we go to bed, affect our own lives. By affecting our own lives, we affect the lives of everyone in our life.

Our lives are an aggregation of our choices. Our choices become our actions and actions form the lives that we live. In prison the rules of life don’t change. Since prison is such a restricted environment even small decisions can be life altering. Something as elementary as a snide comment to a guard, can result in disciplinary action. The consequences of these choices can completely change a prisoners life, thus changing the lives of the people that support the prisoner.

Every action that a person makes has a negative or positive reaction. Like a stone thrown into a pond, the stone does not only affect the water that it touches. It affects the entire pond. Our behaviors are the same as the stone. No man is an island onto himself, everyone is part of the mainland.

264. When living within the restrictions of prison boundaries, where can we turn for leadership training?

Even though a prisoner is very restricted within prison, it doesn’t mean that their time has to be totally useless. Prison is a great place for self improvement. One skill — among many — That a prisoner can train is their ability to lead.

A leader must be an individual. They must make their own decisions, and they must only take others opinions as suggestions, then use those opinions to make their own decisions. Prison is a great place to learn how to do this. When coming into prison, a new prisoner can be whomever they want. Therefore, if a prisoner wants to be an individual, this is a great place to start. A prisoner can train being a leader by training to be an individual. A prisoner can do this by taking control of their lives, and living a schedule that is beneficial to them.

Also, prisoners have access to a large selection of literature. I feel that reading is the best way to learn leadership techniques. By reading books, magazines, and newspapers, that can teach these techniques, a person can learn how to be a leader. Also by reading books about other successful leaders, a person can learn how to be a leader. Anyone can teach themselves a great amount of leadership techniques, by simply reading books and other publications.

One final source of leadership knowledge is through others who have experience and have knowledge in the field. Believe it or not, prison is full of people who have been CEO’s, other top executives, and even some political leaders. Many of these people have a lot of good knowledge to offer. They have many years of experience, and much to teach about leadership. From my experience, I have realized, that these people are very eager to teach and help others. Currently, I live with a man who has over 50 years of business leadership experience. He has been the CEO of multiple multi million dollar companies, and has built some of his own. He has multiple degrees, and even more knowledge. I constantly tap this knowledge and use it to train myself. Prison is full of people who are and were leaders. Learning from them is a great way to train in leadership.

Even though a prisoner is restricted and cut off from many valuable resources, they are not helpless. Prisoners still have multiple opportunities for self improvement. Through taking advantage of these opportunities a person can train themselves as a leader.

265. Describe an individual who has leadership skills that you admire?

There are multiple people that I admire for their leadership. There are historical figures, political leaders, and leaders of muli-billion dollar companies. But none of these people amount to the two people that I admire the most. I admire these two because I can relate to their journey.

These two extraordinary leaders are the epitome of leadership. Their many accomplishments are more private than public. Although these accomplishments have not yet made them famous, I know that they both lead lives that I believe to be quintessential leadership.

The first person is Michael Santos. He single handedly conquered a quarter century of prison time, in some of the roughest prisons in America. Not only did he simply survive through this, he thrived. He made a vision, early in his sentence, this vision was about being successful. Even though he couldn’t always control the conditions in which the system placed him, he controlled himself, and lead himself to the vision. He set a plan, and then followed it directly. This vision may have been 20 years in the future, but he kept it in sight, and stayed in the right direction until achievement. Michael has earned advanced degrees– that the majority of the world can only dream about– he formed a writing career from inside of prison, and that is only the most evident of his accomplishments. The list of his accomplishments can be published as their own book. Michael’s life matches and exceeds that of any of the greatest leaders in the history of the world.

The second person is Justin Paperny.  His leadership is almost identical to Michael’s. Like Michael, Justin formed a vision. Even though his life was uprooted when he was arrested, he still formed a vision. With this vision he formed a plan. Then with this plan he marched step by step following his plan. Eventually he reached his vision. This vision was also success, success through adversity.

These two great leaders exemplify leadership. They both first started by leading themselves. Once they successfully completed that, they are now leading hundreds of prisoner to the same success. This is what leadership is all about. They both are the greatest leaders that I know.

266. To what extent would emulating such leadership traits influence your prospects for success?

I predict — with great confidence– that by emulating the traits of successful leaders, I too will become successful.

This seems like common sense to me. By emulating the traits of great leaders, and following there greatest habits, then I too will become like them. They say that if it walks like a duck, it looks like a duck, and it sounds like a duck, then it is probably a duck. Likewise, if it walks like a leader, looks like a leader, and sounds like a leader, then it is probably a leader. So learning how to walk, talk, and look like a leader is important. Following in the ways of established leaders, will lead a person to success.

Leaders–who have succeeded– have proved, through their action, that their traits, and habits are effective. Their success didn’t happen by chance. These leaders have cleared the path to success. Following this path, stepping in each footprint, I believe will lead to the same place.

267. In what ways do our day-to-day actions show our commitment to personal leadership development?

Our day to day actions clearly show whether we are leading our lives, or our lives are leading us. Through choices and day to day actions, it is evident how a person leads their life.

A fisherman fishes, a baker bakes, and a leader leads. The activities that we choose to do define who we are. In prison it is the same. A person that chooses to waste their time watching TV, or sleeping all day, shows that life is controlling them. A person that chooses to use their time to better themselves shows that they are controlling their life.

Choosing to take control, shows that a person is leading their own lives.

268. How can a commitment to personal leadership development while in prison influence your relationship with people you haven’t yet met?

It is human nature that people are going to judge others. People always form opinions of others. Many times these opinions are based on little information. The only way that a person can change that opinion is to provide more information that is contrary to their opinion.

As for me, I know that I will be constantly subjected to a prejudice based on my past. I know also that I can influence this opinion. I know that I can do this by showing my commitment to personal leadership. This will be a long stride in influencing this prejudice.

269. In what way can the Straight-A Guide influence your prison adjustment?

The Straight A Guide acts as a guiding light in the dark tunnel of life. The Guide has a great and lasting affect on a prisoner’s adjustment. A prisoner that follows the Straight A Guide, positions himself for a successful life.

The Straight A Guide helps a prisoner stay focused on what is important. The guide forces a prisoner to set a vision. With this vision, a prisoner is more able to avoid the ambient noise that exists in prison. After a prisoner selects a vision, the guide forces them to set a plan. With the prisoner’s plan, he is even more focused. This focus plays a very important role in a prisoner’s adjustment. Finally, the guide encourages a prisoner to follow their plan step by step. By following their plan they spend their time working toward their vision, not wasting it. Doing these three simple things, through the Straight A Guide, will have a positive influence on any prisoner’s adjustment to prison.

Overall, the Straight A Guide is a recipe to success. It helps lead a prisoner from point A to point B. Any prisoner that completes that Guide will be more prepared to face the remainder of their lives.

270. In what ways can the Straight-A Guide influence your prospects for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release?

Upon release, the Straight A guide will still be an influencing factor in my life. The principles and values that I have learned, through the guide, will always be embedded in my life.

These principles that are guiding me through my self-improvement in prison, will guide me through the rest of my life. No matter where I go, or what I do, I will always apply these lessons. They will influence every decision for the rest of my life.

271. In what ways will you use the Straight-A Guide going forward?

Even though I am finished the Straight A Guide workbook, the real program is never over. I intend to use the Straight A Guide for the rest of my life. The Guide will influence every decision that I will make in my life.

For the remainder of my prison term, I intend to use the Straight A Guide to guide me through this time. I will continue to follow the plan that I have set, and to hold myself accountable along the way. This path will lead to my vision. Through these next two years, the Straight A Guide will guide me to success.

After my prison term expires, the Straight A Guide will continue to guide my life. I will use the principles of the Guide to guide me in ever decision that I make henceforth. As a student, employee, family member, and friend, the Straight A Guide will help me to fulfill all of these roles to the highest extent. The Guide will act as a road map, showing me where to turn, and where not to turn. Ultimately, I believe that the Guide will lead to success.

Even though I am finished this workbook, one cannot ever finish the program. There is no beginning and there is no end. The program is perpetual, and should be used accordingly.

by Colin Walsh

126. When you assess your environment, what opportunities for self-improvement can you create or seize?

When I initially assessed my current environment, I searched high and low for every and any opportunity that could exist. I quickly discovered that the prison itself has little useful to offer, and that many of the opportunities exists within myself.

When I first arrived at prisoner I began a search for opportunity. After talking with a few peers I was directed to the education building. That evening I entered the education building only to find that there was very little education  going on there. I entered through the front door and walked straight to the library. The library was unlike any library I have ever been in. it was a mad house. There were about 100 people hanging out, talking, and yelling. I couldn’t even find a seat to sit down. This environment was not conclusive to anything. I approached the county and picked up the card catalog book. I fingered through the passed and realized that more than half of the books are James Patterson novels and the rest are other fiction. I ask the quasi-librarian if they had any non-fiction. He walked down to the far end of the county and grabbed another card catalog book. This was the non fiction booklet. It was only half the size of the fiction book. When I read through I found that the majority of the non fiction books were “The complete Idiots” to anything from astrology to Zen. I set the library. I walked from the library down the short hallway into the education department. The hallway walls adorned with bulltins of the different programs they offer. I read them one by one as I walked. Cage Your Rage, Alcoholics Anonymous, Successful Re-Entry, Help for Gambling Addicts, I think to myself these all may be great for some people but I don’t think any of these will help me reach my goal. Then I come across “Kent State University Business Program 22 College Credits.” That Sounded more interesting.

127. What is your interpretation on the value of self-imposed structure of free time?

If a train were taken off the track and let to roam free it would most definitely wreck. I believe that is the same people. People who lack structure lack success.

I personally see a lack of structure in people every day. People in prison who lack structure spend their days minute to minute. This allows them to fall victim to spontaneity. Like a pin ball; they bounce from one thing to the next and never go anywhere besides down the hole. This life leads a person to not advance anywhere. Therefore day after day nothing is accomplished, except wasting time.

When people are first born, they are free from responsibility and structure. What do they do? Well, they eat, sleep, and cry a lot. This lack of structure accomplishes nothing. It isn’t different for adults either. Just as a lack of structure in a baby’s life doesn’t accomplish anything, a lack of structure in an adult’s life is the same. Lack of structure in anyone’s life leads nowhere. Structure is the rail that we follow that leads to success.

128. What relationship do your daily activities have to the vision you have for your life upon release?

Every activity that is a small building block in the foundation for my future. Therefore every activity I perform relates to my vision.

The time I spend on each individual activity aggregates into one gigantic activity. These aggregations will eventually accrue to become my vision. 

Every day from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep; I study various subjects. This constant studying is building my skills on these subjects. Eventually over time I will build a solid foundation in which I will be able to build my life upon that is my vision and I am working toward that every day.

129. Imagine that you were to replicate your activities or use of time yesterday every day or your sentence. If you did, what level of preparation would have to triumph over the obstacles that await you upon your return to society?

I really don’t have to imagine replicating my activities everyday, because I do replicate my activities each and every day. I know that doing this will elevate me to a high level and prepare me for my future.

This effect is like a snowball rolling down a hill. At the top of the hill the ball is small and rolls very slowly. Then with each roll it picks up a little bit of snow. Even though the ball is only picking up a small amount of snow, it is growing progressively. As is grows it begins to pick up speed. Eventually the ball is exponentially bigger, and moving much faster. Likewise I will do the same.

Replicating my activities daily will eventually aggregate into a bigger, better version of me. Like the snowball rolling down a hill, I may have started small, but I am rolling, accumulating, and picking up speed.

130. What activities within the prison environment can you pursue that will enhance your strengths?

I try to pursue all activities that will enhance my strengths and my weaknesses. 

I consider my strengths to include writing, reading, and analyzing what I read and personal relations. I enhance these strengths by practicing them daily. Every day, I write and read. I actively read about 100 pages daily, I read the newspaper, magazines, books, and textbooks. While I read, I take notes on what I read from these notes and write reports. These reports help me analyze what I read.

Also, I study and learn ten vocabulary words daily. These words improve my writing and diction.

I strengthen my personal relations skills by corresponding with people daily. Also, I read many books on various theories of human relations.

As much as I work on my strengths, I emphasize my weaknesses more: I consider my math skills to be somewhat of a weakness. Math doesn’t come as easily to me as literary arts. Therefore I spend more time working on this weakness than my strengths in hope to turn the weakness into a strength.

Every day, I am in pursuit of making my strengths and weaknesses stronger.  Therefore as a professional athlete practices his game daily to improve, I am practicing my game toward improvement.

131. What activities within the prison environment would you categorize as a weakness?

A weakness is a matter of perception. Many may consider that they lack of commissary or the lack of recreation activities are a weakness. The people who believe this favor these activities. As for me I have another set of particular weaknesses.

The prison system has numerous weaknesses. The list of these is innumerable. Lack of available contact with the outside world, lack of useful educational programs, lack of motivation to prisoners, an excess of useless activities, the encouragement to chase after useless certificates. I can enumerate these weaknesses for pages. Although these are important prevalent weakness these are what I consider to be external weaknesses. There are an entire other set of weaknesses that are internal, and they are in many of the prisoners that I see every day.

Everyone in prison has some amount of time to serve in prison; even the guards. The manner in which they all choose to use the time, is either a great strength or a great weakness. The people who use the time to learn and grow, I consider to be a strength. People who use the time to waste, through useless activities, I consider to be a great weakness. I believe that the only weakness that can exist is the weakness that we are not trying to improve.

The best example of this is Michael Jordan. Everyone know Jordan as one of the best basketball players of all time. What many people don’t know is that Michael didn’t make his high school basketball team. When Michael asked the coach why he didn’t make the team, his coach told him that his free throw percentage was too low. So that defined Michael’s weakness. That is until he started improving it. The story continues that Jordan would practice every day, and he would stop shooting free throws until he made 500. Every day he became better, and the rest is history. If Michael simply accepter the fact that he couldn’t shoot free throws as a weakness, then he would have never became the greatest.

Therefore, I consider the only weakness that exists in prison, is for people not working on their own personal weaknesses, and wasting time instead.

132. What activities within the prison environment would you perceive as offering opportunities?

Just as weaknesses are a matter of perception so are opportunities. I am sure that many prisoners will tell you the fact that there are five more televisions is an opportunity. My perception is much different.

In reality the prison environment restricts opportunities more than it facilitates them. But there are some opportunities that exist. The main opportunity that exists for me is the fact that I have the entire day, free of responsibility, to devote to personal growth and development. This is an opportunity that I have never had before. This is a great advantage, I will spend these three years honing in skills, building my strengths and weaknesses. This is a great opportunity and I take advantage of every second of it.

Maybe having a few extra televisions is an opportunity for some, but not for me. I found true opportunities here, and I will take advantage of them.

133. What activities within the prison environment do you perceive as threatening your prospects for success upon release?

There are three determining factors through which I assess an activity. This way I assess everything that I do and judge whether it is threatening  or not. This method is very simple and effective.

Previously, I defined my roles and my goals. That is all that I am, and who I want to be. Therefore, When I am faced with an opportunity I ask myself whether or not the activity is in line with first, my role, and secondly, my goals. If it is not, then what is the point of doing it. If the activity is not in line with a role then the activity is not who I am. Likewise, if the activity is not leading me toward a goal, then I consider it useless. There is no point in doing it.

For example, If I am studying and someone approaches me and asks, “Hey, would you like to play cards.” I would ask myself first, “Am I a card player? … No.” Then I ask, “Do I want to be a card player…No.” Then, “is the person my friend” Then I will ask, “Do I want to build a relationship with this person?…Not really.” After I complete this thought process I graciously decline their offer.

Therefore, I consider any activity that is not in line with my roles and goals, to be threatening.  This is because anything that is contrary to these two simple values can change my path. They can change my roles and my goals. That alone is a great threat.

134. To what extent do the activities you pursue inside the prison environment contribute to your strengths and opportunities?

I believe that all of the activities that I pursue, contribute to both my strengths and opportunities, to the highest extent.

From the time that I wake up, until the time that I go to sleep, I spend each minute in constant pursuit of enhancing my strengths, changing my weaknesses, and creating opportunities.

Everyday, I work toward multiple goals. As time passes, These goals aggregate into big accomplishments. Chasing these goals enhance my strengths, change my weaknesses, and open opportunities. Therefore, all of my activities are in pursuit of my strengths and opportunities.

135. What steps do you deliberately take to minimize your exposure to weaknesses and threats?

Prison is a very different place. There are threats and weaknesses lurking around every corner. Crossing paths with one of these, can totally derail my entire progress. To avoid this, I take multiple steps daily in an attempt to avoid them.

Every morning I wake up at five in the morning. This is before the majority of others wake up. At this time I go to the recreation department to exercise. I choose this time because the “yard” is practically empty at this time, thus avoiding any conflict. Then I return to the housing unit and take a shower, before anyone else is awake, and the showers are empty. Then I get dressed and leave the unit just as everyone else is waking up. I go to the library because it is much safer and quieter. After the library closes at ten, I return back to the until. I read until eleven then I wait until the entire unit has left for lunch, then I trail behind the last of the group. I go to lunch by myself and try to sit at an empty table. After lunch I return back to the unit. From 12:00-3:30 the unit is empty, because everyone else is at work. This is when I do the most of my studying. At 3:30 everyone is recalled back to the unit, so it gets unbelievably noisy. During this short time, I thumb through a magazine. At 5:00 I go to dinner and then straight to class. At 8:30 class is over, and I go back to the unit. Then I plan my next day and as soon as the guards pass by and count at 9:30 I go to sleep.

Each one of my actions throughout the day are created to minimize my exposure to other prisoners. Reducing this exposure reduces rick.

To avoid being derailed from my track of success, my entire schedule revolves around avoiding threats and weaknesses. This in turn enhances my strengths and opportunities.

136. Using the SWOT-assessment technique, how would you assess your decision-making process prior to imprisonment?

Prior to being arrested, I don’t think I assessed much of anything. I may have been an ordinary 17 year old, but I don’t think my decision making process was great.

Prior to being arrested, I really didn’t know who I was. I was lost, and I fell victim to others deciding who I was. I was essentially a slave to others. The only way that I assessed an activity, at that time, was by whether or not another person was doing it.

Basically, I was told what to do by everyone else. Rarely did I make a conscious decision of my own. This lack of personal assessment is probably the leading cause of my arrest.

Prior to my arrest, my decision making process was virtually non existent. Every decision I made was extemporaneous and lacked any purpose. I believe this lack of direction and discipline led to my arrest.

137. In what ways can the SWAT-assessment technique guide your decisions as you prepare for success upon release?

As I prepare for release, the SWOT analysis works as a gauge to assess my life. The SWOT analysis takes into account everything that matters when making a decision. This assessment allows me to clearly see my surroundings, and helps me make any and every decision.

By assessing my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, I am able to see the whole picture. I can see where I am, and where I want to go. Like the many gauges on a car, that tell someone when they need more gas, or when they need to change their oil; the SWOT analysis tells me what I need to fix, work on, and avoid, to prevent a breakdown.

I use the SWOT analysis to gauge my every decision. The SWOT analysis takes risk verse reward into consideration. I use this to determine whether or not a decision is worth doing. I will continue to use this gauge throughout my prison term, and through the rest of my life.

138. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant one: low-risk/high-reward?

Low risk high reward activities are activities that don’t entail much risk, but produce high rewards. These are the activities that everyone should be looking to do. For investors this is a dream stock. For prisoners, they are activities that a prisoner should spend their time doing.

In prison avoiding risk at all costs is essential. A prisoner’s well being and livelihood depend on avoiding risk. Taking risk in prison can mean uprooting a prisoner’s life, and sending them down the wrong path. To avoid risk a prisoner must choose activities that are low risk.

Avoiding risk doesn’t always mean avoiding reward. There are activities, that a prisoner can do both at the same time. These activities are anything that aids in self improvement, but avoids conflict with staff or other prisoners. These activities include, but are not limited to, Reading, writing, exercising, studying, and preparing for the future. These activities are sure to avoid all prison risk, and also are guaranteed to produce a high reward.

Anything that has a low risk and a high reward is worthwhile.

139. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant two: high-reward/high-risk?

High risk high reward activities are activities that entail a risk, but produce a worthwhile reward. For an investor it is a stock that they have the possibility of losing everything, but they can also gain a lot. For a prisoner, it is an action that can get a prisoner into trouble, but the reward is great.

In prison there is a long, innumerable list of activities that a prisoner can receive that will lead to a disciplinary infraction. Therefore, there is always a lot of risk, for a lot of activities. Although most of these activities aren’t worth the risk, some are. One activity that is frowned upon is any legal legitimate project that has the potential to produce an income. A person can do this and risk getting a “shot,” but the reward of earning money to aid in release is also great. This is an activity that I consider to be high risk but also high reward. Other than earning money for release, I don’t perceive any other activities to be worth taking a risk.

140. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant three: low-risk/low-reward?

141. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant four: high-risk/low-reward?

142. To what extent do your consider risk-reward analysis when assessing activities, interactions, or time allocation in prison?

143 What type of self-improvement programs would enhance an individual’s prospects for success upon release?

144. What thoughts have you given to the type of employment you want to pursue upon release?

145. Define the qualifications necessary for the type of job you want to pursue?

The qualifications for an entrepreneur are vast. An entrepreneur is the boss and the employee. They have to be able to do it all. In a business everything is always riding on the owner. Success or failure is determined by the actions of the entrepreneur. Therefore it is imperative for an entrepreneur to be adroit.

Specific qualifications needed by an aspiring entrepreneur include all of the business disciplines. Marketing, finance, human relations, business law, accounting, and sales. These are the most important skills required for an entrepreneur to be successful. Developing those specific skills requires a strong base of prerequisites. These include: basic math, algebra, and calculus, and also, very strong writing and speaking skills. Building a strong base in these areas is a good foundation to build the the more specific skills.

Being an entrepreneur requires many skills. They need to be multi-faceted, in many fields. But first, they need to be very strong in rudimentary, reading, and writing, in order to be successful in the field.

146. How do your self-improvement programs prepare you for the type of job you want to pursue?

Every program that i do is geared toward the type of career that I want to pursue. Throughout each day I practice various skills that will lead to me being more apt for the job I want to attain.

I begin each day by writing responses for the Straight A Guide. Writing these responses serves many purposes. Not only do they help me think more openly and give me a clear prospective, but they also help me to improve my writing and diction.

Writing daily and processing the questions presented, makes me more tactful with writing and critical thinking. Building these two skills are essential to being an entrepreneur.

Also I study and learn almost ten new vocabulary words everyday. Learning these new words improve my writing and diction also. Having a vast vocabulary is a sign of intelligence and helps me to be precise, and clear in speech. Therefore Simply building a strong, multifarious vocabulary is also essential to the field that I am pursuing.

Along with these two programs, I study a second language. I know that America’s population is becoming more and more diverse. The Spanish speaking community is growing the fastest. Therefore I feel that speaking the language of a fast growing population is important. As an entrepreneur communication is pivotal. I don’t just want to be able to communicate with people who speak my own language. Doing that would cut off an entire market. Therefore I learn Spanish daily to improve my communication. I know that these skills will prove useful in my future.

I also practice math daily. Everyday I practice simple basic math; such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I practice these to improve my computation speed. Practicing  these every day, I am able to do most of this basic math in my head, and without a calculator. Also to improve my math skills I do puzzles called Ken Ken. Ken Ken puzzles are Japanese math puzzles. They are similar to Sudoku but involve math as well as logic. Doing these puzzles helps improve my math skills greatly. Along with all of this I study algebra. All of this practice helps me build skills that are essential to being an entrepreneur.

On top of all of this I read constantly. This reading helps me learn skills in various disciplines. I read books on management, human relations, and many self help books. Reading these books teach me how to do what I want to do in the future. Along with books I also read magazines, and newspapers. I read the Wall Street Journal every day, also I read many business magazines, such as, INC, Entrepreneur, Business week, Fast Company, and a few others. Reading these publications teaches me through presenting real life examples. All of this reading builds many necessary skills.

Lastly in order to build skills that will prove useful in the future, I take college courses. These courses, are specifically focused on the business disciplines. The courses build many skills that will help me in the future.

All of these exercises that I spend my entire days doing, are distinctly designed to build skills that will make me more tactful and adroit as an entrepreneur.

147. What types of self-improvement programs can you pursue independently that will enhance your prospects as a candidate for employment upon release?

Self improvement can come in many forms. Many scholars say that there are three aspects of a person’s “self.” These three things are, mind, body, and spirit. Building these three areas is important to maintaining life. Programs that build these aspects will greatly enhance one’s life.

Programs that build the mind can include studying skills such as, math, writing, art, science, or any other subject. Any program that increases these skills, thus increases the mind. Strengthening these will also enhance one’s chances for success. Building the mind can also include building mental stability. Programs that help a person deal with stress and life appropriately will be very helpful to a person’s future.

Building the body is essential to health, thus it is essential to life. Therefore, any program that maintains or improves one’s is enhancing their chances for success.

Lastly, building one’s spirit is essential to success. A persons spirit is everything that they are. It is their personality, and entire being. Therefore, any program that will build this skill, is essential to success.

Overall, I believe that any type of self improvement program that builds in any of those three aspects of life, is a program that enhances one’s chance for success.

148. In what ways do academic credentials influence an individual’s candidacy for employment?

Academic credentials are essential to any professional level position in the workforce. These credentials serve as proof of knowledge. They are like a ranking system that shows what level a prospective employee is. Therefore, the greater level of academic credentials a person has, the greater the chance of good employment.

Academic credentials are like a step ladder. Each credential earned is a step in the ladder. Since one cannot skip steps in the ladder, these credentials prove a lot about a person. They prove to an employer that a person is qualified or not for a particular position.

It is a fact that the unemployment rate is lower for people with higher degrees. It is also a fact that most people with degrees have more favorable working conditions. For some positions, one isn’t even able to apply for, without a certain degree. Therefore having these credentials is essential to employment.

Academic credentials are essential, from a doctorate to a high school diploma. Each credential offers proof that one has completed a required number of hours in a field, and also proved to be proficient in that field. Just as a drivers license is a credential that offers proof that one is proficient in driving, academic credentials offer that same proof.

149. How do prospective employers gauge the value of academic credentials?

Academic credentials are important to employers. These credentials are usually the primary qualifiers that an employer uses to gauge a potential employee.

Most all jobs require some form of credential. Even a cashier at McDonalds requires a high school diploma, or some equivalent. Likewise, a computer engineer is most likely required to have an engineering degree. Potential employers wouldn’t even consider someone without these credentials. Therefore, it is evident that employers place great weight on academic credentials.

From what I know, based on experience, academic credentials serve as a preliminary filter for employers. This filter weeds out potential employees. An employer may receive 1000 resumes in a week. Based solely on academic credentials, this employer should be able to make the 1000 resumes 500. Thus filtering out 500 people. Therefore this shows that academic credentials are important to obtaining employment.

150. What types of self-improvement steps trump academic credentials?

There are two different types of learning: theory and practice. Earning academic credentials usually focuses more on the former of the two. Although there is a lot of importance in academic credentials, there are a lot of other, ancillary, and essential self-improvement programs that are more important than the credentials themselves.

One of these self improvement essentials, and the most important, is life management skills. These skills envelope everything required to live a successful life. These include: how to manage time, how to set and attain goals, how to manage relationships, how to manage money, how to be a parent, how to manage stress, how to live with values and morals, and everything else that is required to live a happy successful life. There are thousands of books written on these subjects, but these things are rarely taught at any school. One can be the smartest man in the world, but if he doesn’t possess these skills he will surely fail. People must teach themselves these skills above academic credentials.

The epitome of this is my cube mate. He has a long list of prestigious degrees, from his ivy bachelors degree, to his MBA, and PHD. Even with these extensive degrees, this man lacks many of these basic life skills. He is proof that there is more required in life than earning degrees.

I still believe that academic credentials are essential, but there are things that are more important, than just a degree. Learning those skills are essential to success.

by Colin Walsh

223. How would you gauge your level of financial literacy today?

If first grade was the lowest level, and twelfth grade was the highest, I would have to say that, as for financial literacy, I would be in about 7th or 8th grade.

Finance is a deep involved field. It must be if there is a doctorate degree for it. Not only is there personal finance, but there is also corporate finance, and other types. A person can study finance every day for the rest of their lives, and they would still not know everything there is to know about finance. Therefore it is impossible to gauge one’s progress.

For me, I have my own personal gauge. This is how I gauge my progress; I used the analogy of grades. First grade is where I was, and twelfth is where I want to be.

As of right now, I would consider myself to be in seventh or eighth grade. Through personal studying, I have learned the basics, the alphabet of finance. This was first through third grade. Then through studying with an established professional, I moved through some more intermediate financial concepts. This moved me to fifth grade. Then through the studying in college in business courses, I advanced myself further, through fifth to seventh. Now I am not quite where I want to be, but I am moving there. I only have five grades left to go.

224. To what extent would you suppose that financial literacy relates to your probability for success upon release?

Personal finance is essential to success. If a person cannot budget and manage their money, they will fail. Even the richest people in the world need to budget to avoid this. The ability to manage one’s finances is essential to success.

It is a fact that 75% of lottery winners file for bankruptcy protection within the first three years following their win. I believe that this is because they lack the skills to manage their new found riches.

This shows that a person must have financial capabilities to be successful. Having money isn’t enough, a person must know what to do with it.

For a prisoner it is also important. Many prisoners lose the ability to budget because it atrophies over time of non use. Many prisoners do not use financial skills. A prisoner is limited to $290.00 per month at the commissary, and they don’t have any other bills. $290 is nothing in the outside world. Over the years of only dealing with this small amount, I feel that many prisoners lose the ability to budget. I think this also reflects recidivism rates. I believe that without the ability to manage money, a prisoner will fail. And many prisoners do.

The probability of success for someone without some financial know how is very low.

225. What opportunities exist for prisoners to improve their financial literacy?

The advantage that prisoners over the rest of the world, is that they have spare time. A prisoner can essentially devote every second pursuing whatever they want. If a person wants to improve their knowledge of finance, they have enough time to do it. Along with time, a prisoner also has the invaluable resource of each other.

A prisoner can spend their entire day playing cards if they want. But a prisoner can also spend that same time studying. If prisoners want to improve their financial knowledge they have to devote some of their time to that. This can be a great opportunity for prisoners.

Along with time, prisoners also have the resources necessary to learn finance. Mostly all prisoners have access to television. They can spend time every day watching financial programs. Also prisoners have access to a library. Even though the library is limited in books, they will have some books, magazines, and newspapers that would be helpful in teaching finance.

Also the prisoner is a very diverse population. The prison is full of people who earned their doctoral, masters, bachelors, degrees and it is full of other professionals. I currently live in a unit with 300 other people, and their are 5 other units just like this one. There is 2000 people on this prison compound. There is a great chance that there is at least one person here that has some financial knowledge, and there are many. Personally I found a person who has his PHD in finance. He helps me learn a lot about finance. He is like my personal 24/7 tutor. Also with such a dense population, there is always many books, newspapers, and magazines everywhere. This great mass of people is a terrific resource and offers a great opportunity. There isn’t a question that cannot be answered by someone here.

If a person wants to increase their financial literacy they can do that in prison. There are many great opportunities that exist. All that one has to do is take advantage of them.

226. How would you summarize the total costs of your imprisonment?

To the best of my knowledge, it costs the government $30,000 per year to keep me in prison. This covers the cost of housing, clothing, food, and supervision. this totals $2,500 per month, so to maintain my imprisonment for 55 months it will cost the government $137,500.

Also the excessive cost to investigate, charge, arrest, and prosecute me had to have exceeded $1 million. This would be included to the cost of my imprisonment. This cost would have included two senior prosecutors’ full time salary, plus two FBI agents’ salaries, for two and a half years, plus their entire legal and investigative team. This would also include judges and all of the court room staff, and anyone else involved in the matter.

Finally my cost should include the fact that I am unable to contribute to society through taxes. I won’t pay taxes for the four years that I am here. This is included in the cost because it is a loss of revenue to the government.

If I had to estimate a total number, I would say that the cost that it took to imprison me exceeds $2 million, in a matter of 7 years.

227. Describe ways in which in an understanding of the stock market may help you value investment opportunities.

When investing in the stock market, an investor buys a piece of something, and bets that the price goes in the direction that they bet. Eventually, the person sells the piece back to the market for a profit or a loss. A successful investor doesn’t just randomly pick securities. It takes analysis and research. I believe that the skills required to be an investor are great life skills also. Learning these skills would be very helpful in life.

Understanding the stock market forces a person to weigh risk verse reward. If a person risks $100, to make $1. That is not a good investment, because the risk is greater than the reward. If a person risks $100 to make $50, that is an excellent investment, because that return would be a 50% Return on investment.

In life, risk verse reward is equally essential. A person needs to be able to consider this in every activity. For example, anyone could sell drugs. They basically sell themselves, and the business is very lucrative. It is easy money. A person can easily make $1 million. But for me, the risk of going to prison or being killed far outweighs the reward. In a business sense, it is not a good choice to invest time nor money into a business that is going to fail. In a personal sense, it isn’t worth investing time into a relationship that is going to fail. Every choice that is made in life uses the same rules of investment.

Learning and applying these skills is very helpful, not only in investing, but in life.

228. How would improving skills to analyze the fundamentals of a particular stock lead to becoming a better small businessman?

Investing in stocks is essentially buying a portion of a business. The ability to analyze, and research other business, gives a person insight into how businesses operate. Owning a piece of a business, through the stock market, also analyzing, and researching these businesses, will help a potential business owner learn  the necessary skills.

In order to be a good investor, a person must research a company in depth. Throughout this process, a person will learn a lot about the companies that they are researching. Also they will learn about business in general. Over time a person will acquire the skills necessary to operate their own business.

Buying stock gives a person ownership of a small piece of a business. Being part owner of a business is a great way to learn the essentials of running a business.

229. Describe the level of thought you are giving to your financial future.

I continually think about my financial future. Being so young, my future is always on my mind.

I think constantly about how much money I will need throughout my life. I always ask myself, how much do I need upon release. How much do I need for a car, housing, clothing, food, college, recreation, and everything else required for life? I think about how much will I need in five years. How much do I need in ten years? I even think further into the future, how much do I need in 20 or 30 years?

Not only do I simply ponder about these questions. I also think about how I am going to reach the goals that I set.

These thoughts constantly rest on my mind. I think about it all of the time and look for opportunities to make these thoughts reality.

230. Describe the level of preparations you are making to prepare for retirement.

Personally, retirement is a long time away. It is about 40-45 years. Even though it is so far off, I still give it some amount of thought an preparation.

As of now, the only preparations that I make are researching and learning everything that there is to learn about retirement. I learn all of my options. I learned about various investment options such as, IRA, 401(A-Z) And other options. Knowing about these options will prepare me for future retirement.

Personally, I believe that retirement is too far away for me to begin investing. Too much could happen between now and then. I can’t afford to lock up my money for almost a half of a century. I would rather use the money that I do have, to make more money, then invest in retirement. So as of right now, the only preparations that I am making is through learning.

231. In what ways would an understanding of the U.S. tax code contribute to your preparations for release?

Over the past year I have met many people, people who have violated the tax code. Out of all of those people I would assume that half of them were ignorant of the code. Many of these people could have avoided coming to prison if they only knew the code. Personally, I too, could avoid returning to prison if I was familiar with the tax code.

The tax code is an 800 page tome. It isn’t something that a person just picks up and reads cover to cover. A person must take a significant amount of time to learn it.

Understanding the tax code isn’t only for accountants, but for everyone who pays taxes. Every person needs to know what they do and do not owe the government. Not knowing the tax code is like playing a sport not knowing the rules. A person who is ignorant is going to make mistakes. Dealing with taxes, these mistakes could carry great penalties.

232. What is your understanding of entrepreneurship?

The definition of entrepreneurship is risking time and other resources for a business venture. An entrepreneur is someone who does just that.

I recently took a college course specifically teaching entrepreneurship. The first chapter covered risk assessment. I believe that this is the most important aspect of being an entrepreneur. If one is unable to assess risk effectively, then they are going to fail.

The remainder of the course covered other business disciplines including: Marketing, management, planning, Finance, sales, human resources, strategy, and many other ancillary topics. I agree with the book in stating that all of these topics are essential to entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is taking risk for financial gain. Anyone can be an entrepreneur, but a successful entrepreneur takes much skill. Likewise, for a person to be successful in life, they too must have some of the same skills as an entrepreneur.

233. What would you attribute as a primary reason for business failures in the United States, and why?

It is a proven fact that the primary reason that 75% of all businesses fail, is due to an lack of capital. Looking deeper into the problem, I realized that although the proven statistical  reason for business failures is lack of money, I believe that that the problem starts far before that.

Nobody wants to go into business to fail. Everyone expects to succeed. Everyone thinks they will succeed. Otherwise why would they even try. Therefore, everyone thinks that they have enough capital to succeed. This proves that the main reason for business failures cannot simply be lack of capital, but in truth it must be lack of planning. If a person would have planned to anticipated more effectively, they wouldn’t have ran out of money, or they wouldn’t have even tried. This clearly shows why I believe that lack of planning is the primary reason for business failures. This lack of planning, is like the first domino, it causes all of the other problems.

Even though the government stats show that they lack of capital is the main reason why businesses fail, I believe lack of capital is only an effect, an effect caused by lack of planning.

234. If you were going to run your life as a business, how would you describe your preparation to succeed?

99.9% of successful businesses have a well thought out business plan. This is why I know that the guide to a successful business, is a great plan. If I was planning to start a business soon, I would begin by making a plan. Therefore in running my life like a business, I plan also.

Planning is the current stage of life that I am in now. Like running a business, planning is essential in life also.

A business plan has various topics that covers a broad base of subjects. There is marketing, finance, policies and procedures, operations, management, and this just scratches the surface. A business plan goes into great depth. It tries to anticipate every possible scenario, and plans how to overcome ever difficulty. The business plan looks years into the future, and shows, step by step, how a company is going to succeed. It begins from the inception, and continues far into the future. Basically, a business plan lays out goals, then systematically and methodically, shows how the business is going to get to that goal. For life it is the same.

I operate my life like a business, and now I am writing my plan. I break my life into categories on different subjects. Personal finance, education, discipline, relationships, et cetera. Within each of these categories, I plan every possible scenario, and plan how to overcome every possible problem. I look years into the future. I have goals, and show, step by step, how I am going to achieve each goal. My life plan is essentially  identical to a business plan.

The key to an successful business is a well throughout business plan. Likewise, the key to a successful life, is also a well throughout plan.

235. What resources do you have available to you now?

As of right now, my resources are scarce. Two resources that I do have are time and educational material. These two resources far exceed any monetary figure.

Currently, I don’t earn much of an income.. I only make a few dollar per month. The maximum that I could make is about $200 per month. In order to earn that amount, I would have to sacrifice another priceless resource, time. In order to make that much I would have to work over 40 hours per week. I believe that my time is worth more than that meager wage. Especially when the work is meaningless, monotonous, and robot work. I consider time to be the number one resource. It should be used wisely… Working a prison job would cost me this valuable resource with little reward.

If I worked 60 hours per week, for every week that I was here, I would be working 54% of the time that I was awake here. At the end of 4 years I wouldn’t have even earned $50,000 which is the average salary in America. After figuring this out, I realized that the risk was not worth the reward. I chose not to waste the valuable asset for that diminutive reward. Even though I am able to earn $200 per month, I chose to not, and I chose spend the time more effectively.

Instead of wasting my time making less that a dollar an hour, I utilize my time and use it effectively. The resource that I value the most is time. I only have 16 hours every day. Being in prison allows me to focus this time on bettering myself. I have already invested 7360 hours into myself, and I only have 15440 hours left. Time is the greatest resource available to me. I have every second of every day to devote to bettering myself.

Along with time, I have educational material as a resource. Even though I am in prison, I still have access to books, magazines, and newspapers. This material serves as a great resource. With this resource I am more able to make better use of me time.

Although prison lacks many resources, many still do exist. I try not to focus on what is not available, but what is. I use what does exist to the best of my ability.

236. What potential markets exist for you?

There is one advantage that I have gained over the time that I have spent here. I have first handedly experienced prison and learned in dept about prisons. Also, I have encountered a great adversity in my life, through this experience. Not only have I encountered adversity, but I am working to overcome it. These advantages have opened a giant market for me.

The prison market is growing daily. More people are going to prison and less are getting out. Also the number of people that come out of prison and are returning to prison is proliferating. This trend defines the market. I expect to use my knowledge in the field to influence this market. I can reach this market in numerous ways.

Along with the prison market, others do exist. I am now able to better relate to people who have faced adversity. With this insight, I can help show and teach anyone who is facing adversity, how to overcome it.

I know that other markets do exist, I just haven’t defined them yet. I believe that over time they will reveal and develop, but as of right now, they are not clear.

There are millions of various markets that exist in America. For me, there are a few that I have an advantage. I intend to use this advantage, and operate within these markets.

237. What level of resources do you anticipate having on the day of your release?

When I am released from prison, the seeds that I have planted will begin to grow.

Even before I was sentenced, I started preparing for release. I have collected and saved resources. I anticipate to employ these resources upon release.

Everyday, I glean resources in anticipation for release. These resources are not only financial, but mental and human as well. I intend to have enough resources saved to begin on the road to an successful life.

238. What level of earnings do you project during your first three years after your release?

I don’t expect to make much money in the first three years of release. This is because I will be attending college full time. I do still intend to work on the side, and work full-time during the summers.

If I had to guess, I would estimate that, in the first three years following release, I will make a salary of about $20,000. I will earn this working somewhere part time.  I know that I can also make another $10,000 per year doing freelance work on the side. Along with that, I assume that I can make another $10,000 working full-time during the time that I am off from school. So in total, I expect that I will make $40,000 per year gross income. For three years, that would be $120,000.

239. What level of earnings do you project during your first decade after your release?

After the third year following my release, I will be graduated from college. After college I intend to land a professional full-time position. I also expect to work on the side doing other freelance work.

Following college, I expect that I could land a decent full-time job. I think that it isn’t unreasonable to expect that I could make a $40,000 per year salary.

Along with this steady income I intend to do professional freelance work. For the first few years of doing this, I expect to have a gross income of $30,000.

Between these two incomes I intend to make an average of $70,000 per year for the first ten years. This will total, $700,000 over the period of ten years.

This is a very rough estimate, the success of hitting these marks depends on many external factors. Even though it is an estimate, it is my goal. This is what I want to earn. It is the target that I am going to aim for. Whether I earn it in the ways that I stated, or not, the goal doesn’t change. I will try to reach this goal by whatever legal means necessary, not only meet the goals, but far exceed them.

240. What action steps can you begin taking to increase your financial literacy?

If a person wants to build a strong financial literacy, he must build a strong foundation in rudimentary subjects. A good start to building knowledge is having a good basic foundation.

A person cannot run before they can crawl, and they can’t understand anything in finance until they learn the basics in Math and Reading. Mastering skills in Math, reading, and writing, would put a person on the level where they are more able to understand more complicated topics, such as finance. Learning the basics will open many doors, and advance a person toward mastering finance. That is where a person should begin to learn anything, especially finance.

Trying to learn financial concepts before learning the basics, is like trying to build a house on sand. You might be able to get by, but eventually it is all going to come crumbling down. Not only learning the basics, but mastering them, is required.

241. What relationship do academic credentials have to enhancing financial literacy?

Some may believe that academic credentials are a direct correlation to overall knowledge. Although this may sometime be the case, many times a person who masters one skill, will be lacking in another. Academic credentials only show that a person has passed the minimum requirements is a particular field. It doesn’t mean that they are knowledgeable in everything.

When it comes to financial literacy, many people with advanced degrees, are completely oblivious to that subject. The perfect example is my college English professor. He had his Doctoral degree, and could write 100 page dissertations on his subject, but when it came to math, he probably couldn’t do a math problem to save his life. Unless a person focus is on learning financial literacy, they will not learn it.

Even though academic credentials prove that a person has made it to a certain level of education, it doesn’t mean that they have reached that level in every topic.

242. In what ways would fluency with mathematical concepts and equations enhance your potential earning power or opportunities upon release?

Building the basics in all subjects, establishes a strong base to build any career. Math skills are especially important. I believe that everything in life is one big math problem. Math can be applied to all fields. Having proficiency  in this field would enhance one’s chances of being successful.

Math can be applied to everything. The world that surrounds us is all math and all numbers. A value can be placed on just about anything. The ability to use and manipulate these numbers, and use them to one’s advantage, is a great asset.

A person that lacks this basic knowledge is are a severe disadvantage. They will be taken advantage of. For example: Pricing techniques are all designs to trick the prospective buyer. Gas savings is a great example. There are people who spend dollars to save pennies. Gas stations manipulate their prices a few cents to drive in buyers. Some people will drive miles out of the way to save a few cents off of a gallon. So, if a person saves 2 cents on 15 gallons they only saved a total of 30 cents. If they drove 7.5 miles out of the way, that is actually 15 miles out of the way, to and from. If a car gets 30 miles to the gallon, they just used a half of a gallon to drive 15 miles. If gas costs $3.00 per gallon, this person just spent $1.50, to save 30 cents. That is a loss of $1.20. Using math, this proves to be ridiculous, but there are people that do it everyday.

Not only is math useful in everyday life, every career could also uses math. Whether it is an artist, or an engineer, every career could use math. Therefore, being well versed in these skills will open up career opportunities. The higher the level of this skill the higher level of opportunities.

Overall math is essential to life, the more that a person is skilled in math, the more fulfilling their life will be.

243. In what ways would developing your skill with regard to reading, writing, and speaking enhance your potential earning power or opportunities upon release?

As with math, improving skills in all basic fields would enhance one’s chances of success.

Reading, writing, and speaking, are all skills that can be used in all fields. Having these skills can elevate anyone in any profession. Even a construction worker that can read, write, and speak, will have a better chance of advancing his career, than the guy who doesn’t. These skills serve as a spring board to launch a person into a higher position. Those who do not have these skills will remain at the bottom.

The ability to read write and speak well, can open many possibilities. The ability to do these well, shows intelligence, and the perception of intelligence is what will create the opportunities. Each level that a person reaches in these skills, the more doors that will open.

244. Describe the types of books that might broaden your financial literacy and thus help you prepare for success upon release?

There are thousands, maybe even millions of books, that are written about finance and business. I believe that reading any of these books, would enhance one’s ability to comprehend finance. Along with books, there are also many other publications, magazines and newspapers that cover many subjects of finance. Reading these will also help one to learn about finance.

Business is a very broad topic. The range of books that do exist is endless. There are an innumerable amount of textbooks that cover all of the disciplines of business. There are also books written for the general public on finance, including books covering business, the stock market, and others on investment strategies. There are also expose books about companies that have failed. Also there are biographies about successful businessmen, and financiers. Reading any of these books would definitely improve a person’s comprehension of finance, thus enhancing one’s chances for success.

245. What resources will you rely upon to make financial decisions in your future?

In the future I intend to make financial decisions the same way that I intend to make all decisions. I plan to make them based on my values, and goals. My decision making process will not change with financial matters.

When faced with a financial decision, I will first assess the risk verse the reward. Then I will assess the decision and decide whether or not this decision will get me toward my goal.

For example: If I had $100,000, I could easily go and buy a brand new Lamborghini. What would stop me from making that decision? First, It is not part of my values. I wouldn’t waste that amount of money on something such as a car. Second, having a Lamborghini is not one of my goals. Therefore, I would spend the money more usefully.

I will make financial decisions just as I make any other decision.

246. To what extent do you anticipate investment decisions having a role in your future?

I expect that investing will be an important factor in my life. In order for the money that I make to generate more money, I know that I must invest.

I expect to be an avid investor in the future. With the knowledge that I have acquired, I can use investing as a secondary income. That is what I plan to do.

The decisions I make while investing are critical. A person can lose everything and their shirt while investing. It is very important that an investor makes intelligent decisions to avoid losing.

My investment decisions can make or break my future. If an investor doesn’t make good decisions, they won’t be an investor for long. Knowing this, I know that the decisions I make are crucial.

247. Describe the resources you anticipate relying upon as you advance in age.

The more that I age, the more resources that I am going to need. I need to position myself, so that the money that I make in the earlier years can grow, and then be used in the later years. I intend to make this happen through investing.

I intend to make a primary steady income through means other than by investing. With this money that I make, I intend to  invest a percentage of it. As I age, this money will gain interest and grow. Also, this money will provide a secondary income stream through dividends and other payouts.

As I age further, I will begin investing into my retirement. Eventually, this money will aggregate into an amount I can live off of through the final years of my life. As I age, the more I will rely on the money I have invested in the earlier years.

248. What role will these resources play in sustaining your life?

The resources that I aggregate over time will provide a secondary income. This money should also reach a reasonable amount, that I will be able to utilize in the final 20-30 years of my life.

These resources should help provide a comfortable living while I am young. And as I age they should provide me the ability to sustain myself without working.

249. How will you adjust your tolerance for risk as you age?

As I age, the amount of risk that I will be able to take will inevitably lessen. The less years of life that I have remaining, is the less years that I would have to recover from a bad investment. This means that I must make more conservative investment decisions as I age.

While in my twenties and even well into my thirties, I expect to take a greater amount of risk while investing. With a higher risk there is usually a higher reward. Because I will be so young, I want to take advantage of this higher reward.

But with any investment, there is a risk for loss. As I age into my forties and fifties, I need to avoid taking this risk. Therefore I need to shift the majority of my investments into more conservative investment options. As I get older, I won’t be able to afford the risk that accompanies less conservative options. This will be because I won’t have time to recover from a loss. A loss in the later years of my life would be much more detrimental than in my younger years.

As everyone ages, their risk for everything should lessen. It is the same for investing.

250. What influence would another problem with the criminal justice system have upon your financial stability?

Another collision with the criminal justice system would completely crush all stability, especially my financial stability.

I have met numerous people who have lost everything through their arrest. They have lost their house, cars, furniture, clothes, jewelry, cats, dogs, everything. Anything that they once owned is gone. As a result they also ruin their credit, which weakens their financial position in the future. Through lawyers fees, court costs, restitution, fines, and the inability to work, many people destroy their whole financial stability not only for the time being but for the future also.

I know that I am not special. I know that another arrest would ruin everything in my life, and whatever financial stability that I have gained. Therefore I must completely avoid taking this risk.

by Colin Walsh

200. What relationship do you have to others in the world?

As a human being I have roles in life. Although I am a prisoner, that doesn’t remove me from these roles. With each of these roles in life, I have relationships.

As a member of a family, I have a relationship with every member of the family. As a friend, I have many relationships with various friends. As a Catholic, and a Christian, I have relationships with all other Catholics and Christians. Being a prisoner, I inherently have a relationship with all other prisoners. As I gain more roles in life, I too will gain more relationships.

My roles in life establish my relationships. The roles that I choose to live also decides what relationships I am in.

201. To what extent do the decisions we make have an influence on the lives of others?

The decisions that I make affect everyone around me. I learned this the hard way. Actions are like a stone thrown into a pond. Not only does the stone affect the spot where the stone lands, it also affects the entire pond.

I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was arrested I never thought that my reckless actions could affect anyone but myself. I was very selfish. I later realized that my actions had been affecting people for a long time, even before I was arrested. Mainly my family was affected. My grandparents, my parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, they all worried about me, and my reckless behavior. They saw that I was headed for a wreck. I was totally blind to all of this. I thought that I could make my own decisions, and I thought, why should they care anyway, it isn’t their life. Then my reckless behavior led to my arrest, and that is when it all hit me. It opened my eyes, I realized that my family cared all along because my actions were affecting them. Ultimately, the great consequence of my actions affected them even greater. The collateral damage of my actions hurt my family significantly, emotionally and financially. This taught me a powerful lesson. Never again will I be so selfish. No man is an island unto himself. Every person is a part of the mainland. Each person’s actions not only affect themselves, but everyone around them.

To this day, I weigh my actions by this value. I consider each action not only how it will affect me, but how it will affect people in my life.

202. In what ways does a relationship with God influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?

Every person has a different belief in God. Every religion has a different set of principles and practices. Also within these religions there are different beliefs. Although there are various beliefs and practices, the main premise of many of the religions have the same guiding principle.

The religions that are derivatives of Judaism and are based on the Bible follow a set of rules; The Ten Commandments. These rules are absolute. Regardless of religion, if a person follows them exactly they will live a perfect life. A person that lives by these rules will do no wrong. Many of the major religions have some sort of guiding principle like the Commandments. Therefore following the rules set by God, will greatly enhance one’s life.

203. In what ways does our relationship to anyone else influence the choices we make or behaviors we pursue?

I truly believe that  a person becomes the people with whom they spend their time with. At the very least they become some compromised version of them. People inherently pick up traits from other people. Therefore relationships are very influential.

I’ve seen it time and time again, people falling victim to their peers. They become a slave to everyone around them. That is exactly how I ended up in prison. Peer pressure goes far beyond high school. The people who don’t know who they are, are more susceptible.

It is common sense, relationships are based on shared interests. The people must agree on these interests to maintain the relationship. For example, there is a girl named Leah, she is considered a “good girl,” she rarely parties. Over the past year she devoted her life to family, work, and school. Then she meets a girl named Tori. Teri is younger, and doesn’t have the same responsibility that Leah has. Teri and Leah become great friends. They spend a lot of time together. Tory likes to party. So now Leah is faced with a decision. Either Leah changed her lifestyle or she loses her friendship. Leah decides to change, and she throws everything that she worked for in the past year aside and decides to party. Thus changing her entire lifestyle. Things like this happen every day. This shows how influential relationships can be.

Relationships mold people’s lives. A relationship can lead a person down the right or wrong road. For me it lead me down the wrong road. Therefore I know that one must choose their relationships very carefully. They must only choose ones that help them to better themselves, not make themselves worse.

204. If everyone in society made decisions from the same code of personal values that we embrace, how would the world advance or decline for future generations, including our children?

If everyone in society based their decisions on these values, the world would be a better place. This code of ethics leads down a road to success. Therefore, if everyone embraced these values, society would steadily incline, and advance toward success.

The values that we live are the same values that led Michael, to success, through a quarter century of prison. These are also the same values that many of the most successful people in the world use. The main premise of this lifestyle is setting goals, and achieving them. If everyone in the world was doing that, the advancement would be unimaginable.

I believe that these values are the foundation of success. If you dissect the lives of every successful person in history. I am almost certain that you would find these values. These values may be the missing link to success.

205. To what extent do your choices and behaviors match the choices and behaviors you would want your children or people you love to see and emulate?

I believe that there are two ways to learn; through experience, and through other people’s experiences. Based on this principle I not only want to teach the people that are closest to me, but anyone who wants to learn. In order to do this, I must teach be example. Not only to show the mistakes that I have made, but to show how I recovered from them.

As we all were growing up our parents told us not to touch the hot stove. This is because some where in the history of time, someone experimented and discovered that when one touches a stove they burn their hand. Therefore from their experience most of us avoided touching the stove and burning ourselves. The same applies with everything else. Therefore I can use every action from my past, from the time of my arrest until now, as a lesson.

As I said before, actions speak louder than words. If you just simple tell someone not to touch the hot stove, they may still want to try it. But if you were actually to touch the stove, burn yourself, and show them the burn, the person would be much less likely to try it themselves.

In my own case, I would like to teach anyone that wants to learn, not to make the reckless decisions that I have made. Everyone now knows the great consequence. I had to learn from my own experience, I could only hope that no one else has to learn this way also. Also I hope that my subsequent actions, following my arrest, also show how to advance and overcome adversity. I think that my actions now show that I screwed up, I took responsibility for what I did, I am now reaping the consequence, but still focusing on the future. What else can I do?  I know that there are many lessons that can be learned from my experience. These are the lessons that I want to pass on.

The past choices that I have made define failure. The subsequent choices that I make now show the path to success. These two contrasting lessons are useful for anyone to emulate.

206. What does it mean to you to live with integrity?

Upon approaching this question I reached for my Merriam Webster dictionary, in order to find the true definition of integrity. Integrity is such a abstract, vague word. I needed help. The dictionary defines integrity as the adherence to a code of values. Therefore, living with integrity means to live in adherence to a code of values.

For me, my values are established. In order to live with integrity, I must live fully in accordance to these values. I define my life by eight values. From these values, I set goals. Then everyday I take steps achieving that goal. Therefore, I live everyday with purpose, direction, and most of all integrity.

I believe that living with integrity, is living a life according with values. It isn’t simply wandering through life errantly, like a fish in a pond. But it is living with values and purpose, constantly setting and chasing goals, and ultimately achieving these goals.

207. What does it mean to you to serve a prison sentence or to confront adversity with dignity?

No matter what the type of adversity is; facing it with dignity allows a man to hold his head high. Facing adversity with dignity means to accept the inevitable, and to turn every negative into a positive. It means making the best of every bad situation, and to use every situation to one’s advantage. Ultimately, facing anything with dignity is the ability to accept, and move forward. It means getting back on the horse when you are thrown off.

Everyone faces failure and adversity in their lives. Many people crumble under the pressure and recede. But the people that don’t cower, will ultimately accede.

Many people don’t know that Albert Einstein was predisposed to be a failure. In the beginning of Einstein’s life he was slow to learn how to speak. Because of this, his family dubbed him “Derr Depperte, or Dopey one.” Also, Einstein was raised a Jew in Germany, and faced anti-semantic prejudices throughout his childhood. As a Jew he went to a Catholic grade school, and faced even more adversity there. He was almost thrown out of high school for bad behavior. He barely graduated college; he only made it by a half of a point. He couldn’t get a job in his field after college. He had a illegitimate  child in his 20′s, far before he had a permanent job. Then he was forced to work as an examiner in the patent office, which was a very low level position. He was only able to get this job because of a friend’s recommendation. Based on all of this what was the result of Einstein? He became one of the best scientists in the world. Einstein was a success because he faced all of this adversity with dignity. He never simply focused on the negative. He used every moment to his benefit, and always focused on the future. Mainly, he made it because during the lowest, and slowest moments of his life, he was busy writing dissertations. At the time these dissertations were deemed by professionals as, crazy and illogical. Later these ridiculed dissertations, formed Einstein’s most famous theories. Einstein is the perfect example of someone that faced adversity with dignity. And what was the result? Absolute success.

The stories can go on forever. Another example is former president Lincoln. Lincoln’s early life was riddled with adversity. Lincoln’s family growing up was extremely poor. Before Lincoln was president, he had two businesses that went bankrupt, he was rejected from law school, and he lost eight elections, all before finally being elected president. Later Lincoln became one of the most famous presidents of all time. Lincoln is another perfect example of a man that faces adversity with dignity. Again his result was success.

There are thousands of examples of people who faced their adversity with dignity and overcame it. These two examples clearly illustrate what it means to face adversity with dignity.

Facing adversity with dignity ultimately means never giving up. If Einstein or Lincoln would have gave up the world would have missed out on their greatness. They both saw failures as lessons and used them to advance their lives. I think that defines facing adversity with dignity, more clearly than any dictionary.

208. In what ways do your relationships with other prisoners influence your possibility for success upon release?

Relationships with other prisoners can severely hinder a prisoner’s journey. A prisoner must be very cautious when dealing with other prisoners, and must choose these relationships wisely. They can’t just haphazardly spend time with anyone who talks to them. They must be circumspect, and only choose people who have similar, positive values.

Some prisoners make poor decisions, and choose to live their lives contrary to the way I live. Associating with prisoners like these, can greatly hinder one’s chances of success. It is absolutely imperative to use this discipline, and to be selective. that is the only way to avoid this pitfall. These pitfalls can affect one’s chances of ever succeeding.

209. How do your relationships with other prisoners influence the way that prison staff members assess you?

The prison staff’s opinion of a prisoner is based mainly on empirical data. They take very little time to personally assess a prisoner’s character. That is why it is essential to make a good outward impression all of the time, because the staff is always watching. A prisoner is under surveillance 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Watching prisoners is the only way that the staff gets to know them.

The prison staff are trained cynics. They try to see the worst in people. They have a tendency to judge every prisoner according to what they see. These judgments are made empirically, based on their constant observation. It doesn’t take much to be seen in a bad light by the staff. A prisoner must be aware, and always recognize they are being constantly watched and assessed.

One thing I believe is essential to consider, is the people a prisoner surrounds themselves with. If it is true that the staff assesses a prisoner empirically, then the company that a prisoner keeps is very important. If anyone surrounds themselves with thieves, they will be assumed a thief. If a person surrounds themselves with gang members, they will be assumed to be a gang member. This is basic human nature, and it is unavoidable. This judgment will always occur. Therefore it is imperative to surround oneself only with people who cast a good shadow on them.

The prison staff doesn’t take the time to personally asses each prisoner. That would be impossible. They surmise an opinion from scant, empirical data. For this reason, a prisoner must make a good outward impression. Surrounding themselves with good scrupulous people is a great start.

210. In what ways will your relationships with other prisoners influence the probation officer who supervises your release?

Just as the prison staff, the probation officers don’t have the time to assess each one of their cases.

A person on probation may only see their PO once a week for ten minutes. There isn’t much that the best psychologist in the world can figure out about a person in that amount of time. Therefore probation officers stick to the facts. They use another method of assessing people. They too, like the prison staff, form opinions from scant information.

Probation officers, are like a sniper, with their sights on the target just waiting for a reason to pull the trigger, and send a person back to prison. So if a person doesn’t want to return to prison, they must make a good impression, with their probation officer. Only associating with people who have a good positive influence, helps to make that good impression.

211. What efforts are you making today to influence the relationships you will have in the months and years to come?

As of now, I am trying to build a case for myself. A case proving that I am worthy of meaningful relationships. By showing my dedication to success, I hope to influence future relationships.

I won’t simply allow myself to be judged. In order to have future relationships, I need to refute all negative judgment against me. To do that I need proof, and documentation to prove their prejudices wrong. Building this proof, is what I am doing right now to influence relationships.

212. In what ways can you influence relationships with people beyond prison boundaries while you’re incarcerated?

In order to maintain relationships beyond prison, it takes constant effort. Everyday I do something that helps to maintain my existing relationships. Whether it is writing a letter, email, a visit, or a phone call, I constantly keep in touch with the people in my life.

Even though some relationships have died, and some have eroded, I never give up trying. Corresponding daily, constantly is the only hope for maintaining relationships beyond prison.

213. How would maintaining relationships with people who embrace criminal values influence your potential for success upon release?

Having relationships with people who have criminal values will always lead a person to failure. A person who has criminal values will always resort to criminal actions. Being associated with people of this disposition makes a person completely guilty, guilty by association.

A person is always judged by the people that they surround themselves with. So if a person surrounds themselves with a criminal, they will also be assumed to be one. Anyone that is assumed to be a criminal is doomed to failure. A person must be weary of the people that they spend time with.

Not only will spending time with criminals shed a dark shadow on a persons character, it will also influence them to follow the criminals example. I believe that peer pressure extends throughout everyone’s lives. The whole field of marketing is based on this concept. Most people want to do what the majority is doing. So in a small group, if the majority wants to commit crimes, the other person most likely will too. Therefore, I believe that spending time with criminals influences a person to be criminal.

A person who spends time with criminals is doomed to fail. If a person does, they will be judged as a criminal, and they will most likely become criminal. So spending any time with anyone who embraces criminal values wouldn’t be prudent to success.

214. In what ways do grooming and personal appearance influence your relationship with others?

Personal appearance is influential in every aspect of life, especially in relationships. Personal appearance is most important in creating and maintaining relationships. If a person that is not conscious of their appearance, they will ultimately have trouble with relationships.

A person is judged by how they look. The majority of people don’t give much time for first impressions. Therefore it is important how a person looks like in order to make a good first impression, and to meet new people. If a person looks dowdy and slovenly kept, people won’t want to even talk to them, let alone be in a relationship.

Also, people are judged by the people they are seen with. Many people are very weary when it comes to this, and they are very selective with who they are seen with. When this is the case a person won’t spend time with someone who looks terrible. Therefore, this is another reason why it is important to look presentable.

Personal appearance is important in life, especially in relationships.

215. How do writing skills influence the potential for opening new relationships that may lead to success upon release?

For a prisoner, writing skills are essential to developing new relationships. A prisoner is very limited in methods of communication. Therefore a prisoner must use the methods that they do have to the highest efficiency.

Creating a new relationship while in prison isn’t easy. Being locked in prison miles away from people, removes a prisoners mobility, and creates a great boundary to overcome.

A prisoner is very limited in communication with the outside world. They are every further restricted with new contacts. A prisoner cannot visit with anyone that they didn’t personally know prior to imprisonment. Therefore new contacts cannot visit. Also a prisoner cannot just pick up the phone and call anyone. They must first add the person to their contact list, then the administration must approve, then the person receiving the call must accept the call after listening to a automated recording. This recording explains that it is a “federal inmate” calling. The chances that this would happen, with a new unfamiliar contact, is very narrow. As for email, a prisoner must submit the email address to their contact list. Then the recipient must log onto a separate account, then they must go through a cumbersome process to accept to correspond with a prisoner. For a new contact, it is unlikely that they will do this. This leaves postal mail. There isn’t many restrictions on postal mail. Therefore this is the best option, to reach a new potential relation.

Although writing letters is the best method, it isn’t the easiest. Writing letters only give a prisoner one chance to really reach a contact. Doing this effectively, requires great skill.

If writing letters is the best method of reaching new contacts, and writing letters requires great skill. Then having good writing skills will increase the chances of finding a new contact and creating new relationships.

216. In what ways are you working now to nurture relationships that may help you succeed upon release?

During the course of my imprisonment, I have constantly taken time, specifically, to nurture relationships. Each day I take some amount of time to nurture my existing relationships. I do this through constant, and consistent communication.

There is never a day here that I don’t reach out to the outside world. Whether it is through through email, phone, letters, or visits; I communicate with my contacts. Through this communication I nurture relationships.

217. What influence will your relationships with others have on your possibility for success upon release?

Relationships are very important in anyone’s life. As humans, we are interdependent beings. It is essential for us to have relationships with others. The more influential and positive relationships a person has, the more inclined they are to success.

No one ever became a great success all on their own. Even Einstein required friends, and established scientists to promote his new theories. Einstein’s first job in the patent office, was obtained from a recommendation from his best friend. Throughout his life he used relationships to climb the ladder. Steve Jobs also required the help of an expert programmer, and multiple other people. Jobs would have been a failure on his own. Either of these people would not be a success without the help of other people. They required relationships to be successful.

Since every successful person required the help of someone else, then I would consider that having relationships is an essential ingredient to success. Why would it be any different for a prisoner? In order for a prisoner to be successful they too require relationships.

218. How would prospective mentors respond if they were to hear you attribute your predicament to the choices or actions of another?

No one likes a person that makes excuses for everything. Throughout life we run into these people and they are repulsive. Prospective mentors aren’t any different. They too will also be repulsed by that.

Throughout my life I have run across many of these chronic excuse makers. In grade school, it was the kids who told their parents that they got bad grades because of the teacher, and they told the teacher that they didn’t do their homework because of their parents. In sports, it is the kid who missed the tackle because he slipped, dropped the ball because his hands were sweaty, struck out because the bat was broke, or missed the catch because there was a hole in his glove. In prison it is the guys who blame their co-defendants, the “snitches,” and multiple other conspiracies for their crime. These people go through life pointing fingers, and making excuses for every one of their faults.

From experience, as everyone knows, every person is annoyed with these people. First, because this excuse making is essentially lying, and no one likes a liar. Also, people know that this person is never going to better themselves, because everyone knows that the first step to self improvement is admittance of fault. Therefore naturally, these chronic excuse makers, are usually eschewed. They will never have a good relationship, especially with a mentor.

As for a mentor, they are making an investment on a person’s life. People who can’t accept responsibility, are doomed to failure. Like an investor wouldn’t buy a stock that they know is going to fail, a mentor won’t invest their time into someone that they know will fail.

Overall, no one likes a person that points fingers and makes excuses, especially mentors. People who make excuses are going to fail, no one wants to associate with a failure.

219. In what ways does the blaming of outside forces strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?

Blaming others, completely extinguishes one’s character and thus also extinguishes one’s chances for success. When a person blames someone other than themselves, they pass their guilt from themselves to something else, but only in their own opinion. In the case of someone who is in federal prison, the government still believes that the person is guilty. If a person cannot admit that they are wrong, they are not going to change. And if a prisoner doesn’t change, they are going to remain in prison.

Except for a few rare cases, everyone in prison is guilty of something. Whether their conviction is right or wrong, moral or not, everyone here did something that provoked the government into an investigation, that led to an arrest and a conviction. Guilty is guilty whether it is out of ignorance, negligence, happenstance, or blatant defiance of the law. Everyone in here was either found guilty, to they pleaded guilty. They received their due process of law, and are considered guilty, until proven otherwise. Therefore in the government’s eyes they are wrong and need to change.

Even if a person believes with all of their heart that they are innocent, unless they prove it through proper methods, they are still considered guilty. A prisoner can point fingers at everyone and anything, but when it comes down to the truth, the only person they can blame is themselves.

If a prisoner doesn’t want to keep getting arrested they must change. The first step to changing, is admittance of guilt. If a prisoner blames someone or something else, they are not admitting they are wrong. They will wait for the thing that they are blaming to change, and they will never change themselves.

If people cannot admit that they are wrong, they are doomed to fail, especially a prisoner. A prisoner can believe with the utmost conviction that they are innocent, but the government still believes differently. So if they leave prison and do the same thing, they will be arrested again. Prisoners need to change the things they did that turned them into a prisoner. The first step to changing is taking the blame.

220. How do your relationships with others influence the people closest to you?

All of a prisoner’s relationships create a big web. Every person is connected to one another. Each person influences every other person in the web. Everyone that I associate with,affects everyone close to me.

The people that I associate with are also associated with every other person that I know. I owe it to the people close to me to only associate with people who help me better myself.

221. To what extent does living with transparency, or as an open book, influence relationships?

Living as an opened book, allows anyone to read past the cover of the book. Just like a book, not much can be told by simply reading the cover. A person must open the book in order to find out more about the book. Likewise, living with transparentcy allows people to read into another persons life.

Other people are very quick to surmise an opinion of someone else. Many people don’t look past the superficial, and the ostentatious qualities of a person. They form an opinion based on the things that are readily available and obvious; mainly appearance, background, or stereotypes. This is where the cliche, judging a book by its cover comes from. These people don’t put much effort into opening the book and seeing what it is truly about. Therefore it is of utmost importance to open the book for them, and allow them to read by living as transparent as glass.

This is especially important for a prisoner. Prisoners are faced with the daunting stereotype. Prisoners must beat this stereotype by removing the shroud that hides their lives, and they must live transparently. Prisoners must make the private evident, the invisible visible, and the confusing understandable. Unless a prisoner can do this, they will be stereotyped and discriminated against. Living like an opened book, will prevent this.

Living like an opened book, removes the lock on the story of our lives. It allows anyone to read the story. It removes assumptions,that are based on the cover. It uncovers the truth.

222. How would behaving one way with one group of people and another way with others strengthen or weaken your potential for success upon release?

Behaving a certain way with one group, and behaving a different way with another group, shows ambiguity of character. It weakens others perception of integrity. It shows that the person is an imposter, a poseur, and a fake.

Behaving differently with different groups shows that the person is a fake. The ambiguity shows that they person is acting, or posing. They are trying to be something that they are not. Acting in such a manner reduces character and weakens relationships, which also reduces one’s chances for success.

No one likes an imposter. It makes people feel like they are being cheated, or tricked. Therefore, living two lives greatly weakens one’s chances for success.

by Colin Walsh

151. Describe situations you can recall when inadequate communication skills led to decreased opportunities in your life.

Communication is essential to life. Even mutes and the deaf need some way to communicate. The word communicate comes from two word parts: Comm, which means to join or share, and uni with is one. So I believe that communication literally means to join as one. Communication is essential in a interdependent world. To illustrate this I have explicit examples to show situations where the absence of communication weakened people’s opportunities.

Communication is essential in any relationship; especially intimate ones. The divorce rate could be cut in half if couples would communicate more effectively. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of cases where spouses and partners are mad at each other, but neither of them really know why. there are even more cases where partners or spouses know superficially what is wrong, but they don’t know exactly what the problem is. This lack of communication can cause many to split when they never had to separate. I believe that 99..9% of problems can be solved through mutual discussion. Communication clears the air and allows for mutual understanding. Communication is the key to a successful relationship.

Another example is a personal anecdote. About four years ago, I was at the beach, at a small restaurant. It was about 110 degrees, and I was standing in a line, waiting for about 20 minutes. The young girl at the counter was obviously from a foreign country, and she has a strong European accent. It was very hard to understand her. The line was barely moving. This was because she had trouble understanding the customers, and the customers had trouble understanding her. Many people in the line noticed this dilemma, and left the restaurant without ordering. The company was losing a lot of business over this. I remained patient, and stayed in line. I finally got to the front of the line. There was a Hispanic man in front of me ordering. He didn’t speak much English. I heard him at the counter with his strong Spanish accent, and his broken English. He could only speak in short phrases. He tried to order a hamburger. The girl and the counter with her accent, told him that she couldn’t understand him.  But he didn’t understand her. Then she kept yelling, saying that she didn’t understand him. This went on for some time, before they were both yelling at each other, in languages neither of them could understand. Then the man finally walked away without ordering. This was a total communication night mare. This story illustrates that this lack of the simplest form of communication greatly hindered all parties involved. The woman may have lost her job, and the man couldn’t even order food..

One final story is pertaining to my arrest. The event that caused my arrest, was all cause by a lack of communication. Simply because the victim spoke a language that was foreign to us all, and neither of us could understand each other. The fight began because someone said something to the victim, which he couldn’t have understood, but he must have felt threatened. So then he retorted something in Spanish. He could have said, ” I am sorry to offend you, I am leaving now” But out of ignorance my friends and I interpreted this as threatening also. Then he yelled at us in Spanish, we yelled at him in English. Looking back I realize how stupid it was, because none of us understood each other. This incoherent bickering escalated into to a fight, that led to this man’s accidental death, which led to my arrest. This entire event was clearly a misunderstanding, and I firmly believe that it could have been averted if we all would have communicated with each other. The complete absence of communication caused these terrible effects.

These illustrations completely elucidate the importance of communication. The world would be such a better place if everyone was able to communicator with each other.

152. Describe situations where stronger communication skills may have enhanced your prospects for success.

The latter of the two previous examples, is the greatest example of how stronger communication skills, would have not only enhanced my prospects for success, but would have eliminated my great failure. If I would have been able to communicate more competently, the entire situation would have been averted.

The night that I was arrested, I never wanted to be arrested. I was just a stupid, drunk, 17 year old kid. I was with other stupid, drunk, kids. My biggest fear that night was getting arrested and charged with underage drinking. The last thing that I wanted to do was get into a fight on the corner of a populated street. But I obviously wasn’t able to communicate that to either my friends nor the victim. If I was a more adroit communicator, I could have been able to persuaded my friends to walk away, or I could have persuaded the victim that we didn’t want any trouble. Instead, I was unable to communicate any of this and and fight ensued, which led to my arrest.

This one situation changed my life for the worst. This is why I know the real value of communication. It is extremely important. Without it life would seize to exist. In my own life, increased communication skills would have prevented me from ever being arrested, and I know that they will help me in the future.

153. What do communication skills mean to you?

Since communication is the portrayal of one’s thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and opinions; communication skills are the skills in doing these things. There are three distinct ways to communicate: Writing, speaking, and body language. These three aspects construct communication skills.

As proven in the previous two responses; competent communication skills are essential to life . Building these skills will greatly enhance one’s chance for success.

154. In what types of ways can improving communication skills assuage the burden of confinement?

A prisoner can ease the burden that prison places on them. The most important way is through building communication skills. A previous anecdote that I used was a story told by Dale Carnegie. The story is about a dowdy, slovenly kept man who walks into a bank and walks out with a job. The reason that he received the job was because he was an incredible communicator. I think that the story can be parallel with someone being released from prison.

Effective communication skills can completely erase the black mark that prison places on a prisoner’s character.  I know this because I have used this while awaiting sentencing. In this time, I have gained many people’s trust. I expunged myself in many people’s eyes. Even with a felony and awaiting a four year prison sentence, I used effective communication to build and foster relationships. I expect that if I can do this anyone else can too.

When I person is released from prison. They leave with a target on their back. In the eyes of society, a felon is considered a reprobate, and should be eschewed. If a prisoner isn’t able to prove that society is wrong; they must accept this fate and carry the target. The only way to prove society wrong is through communication. Effective communication can remove this target. Someone can be the best person in the world, but if no one knows about it, it doesn’t make a difference. One must communicate and convey themselves to society.

Like the man in Dale Carnegie’s story, a prisoner can use their communication skills to remove prejudices and ultimately be successful.

155. What types of influence do communication skills have on an individual’s prospects for success upon release?

There is a theory that people are judged in three ways: How they look; how they speak; and how they act. I believe that above all else, we are all judged predominantly by the way that we speak. Therefore communication is not only influential but essential for success.

Communication is a powerful persuader, and influencer. Take for example the presidential election. The president seems to communicate more during an election year than the other three years in office combined. Likewise the other candidates, which no one has ever previously heard of, suddenly become salient. Each candidate gives speeches, written by profession speech writers, masters of rhetoric. The candidates use these speeches to communicate that information to the country. They spend most of their time and speeches refuting prejudices, past mistakes, along with their views, beliefs and opinions. Why all of the communication? Because they are trying to influence the country to elect them. No person was ever elected by being silent. Communication is the ultimate form of influence.

Likewise in a prisoners life, communication must be used as a tool of influence. As a felon and an ex-prisoner, I know that I am going to have a lot of prejudice to overcome. If I just sit back and remain quiet, people will just assume and stereotype me. I know that I need to use communication to influence future: employers, creditors, landlords, banks, friends, and virtually everyone and anyone else. I need to use communication to prove my disparity from the stereotype.

It is a fact that people are judged based on how they speak and what they say. It is also true that communication is the ultimate form of influence. Therefore I know that effective communication can be used to overcome prejudices and influence my success.

156. How can developing communication skills open opportunities through imprisonment?

Developing communication skills is essential in any situation. A lack of these skills instantly reduces one’s opportunities in anything. As we build these skills, opportunities automatically open.

Many doors can open with effective communication. When we get down to the deepest level of existence, I realize that everything ever acquired in my life was acquired through communication. When I was a baby I cried for food, that is communication. As I grew I learned everything that I know from communication. As I continued to grow and learned how to communicate more effectively my gains increased. As a baby I communicated for food, then in elementary school I communicated for friends, as a teen I communicated for girlfriends, and as I turn into an adult my gains will grow: spouses, houses, cars, money, jobs, and every possible achievement is earned through communication.

This proves that as our communication skills increase, so do our opportunities. The same applies for prisoners. As with any skill, skills and opportunities grow laterally. The greater our communication skill the great our opportunities, and the opportunities are infinite and innumerable.

157. In what ways can an individual take clearly-defined, measurable steps toward improving communication skills?

There are many ways to practice communication. Like any skill, one must first learn the theory, then put the theory into practice. It is no different with communication. There are three different types of communication. Verbal, written, and non verbal. Building skills in these three areas will ultimately build one’s level of communication.

The theory of communication is summed up in the psychology of human relations. There are thousands of books, textbooks, and articles written on this topic. One of the masters of human relations is Dale Carnegie. Carnegie sold hundreds of millions of his most famous book “how to win friends and influence people.” This book and many others teach the theory of communication. Reading these books and learning the theory is the first step to mastering the skill.

As a general contractor would require many tools to do his job, an effective communicator also needs tools for his trade. The tools of an orator are his words. Building a strong and copious vocabulary is an integral part of being a communicator. This is important because it is very difficult to express oneself as clearly as possible without a vocabulary. The English language is one of the most complex languages. For one word, there is a list of synonyms that are alike but slightly different. For example what is the difference between the words: copious, panoply, multifarious, plentiful, plethora, cornucopia. They all have similar meaning but have slight nuances between them. Learning as many words as possible and being able to use the words correctly is certain to build the skills of a communicator. Many times the difference between a good contractor and a great contractor, is the types of tools he has. Same holds true for a communicator.

Once a person has learned the theory of effective communication, and they have acquired the necessary tools; the only thing left to perfect the skill is practice. A person must practice every aspect of communication: verbal, nonverbal, and written. One can easily practice these skills with very little resources. A person must use the theory that they have learned every day. Something as simple as talking with other people will build communication skills. Building written Communication skills is simple also, one just has to write and write often. Non-verbal communication is more difficult though. Many people are completely oblivious to the quirks and idiosyncrasies they do. Something as simple as not looking someone in the eyes, rolling their eyes, crossing their arms, biting their nails, or table manner and other edicit . Simply smiling, scowling or frowning says more than any one word. Mastering this nonverbal communication takes much more conscious effort. Because changing these small habits are usually difficult. But working at correcting these quirks are essential to effective communication.

There are hundreds of individual ways that one can build communication skills. There are whole books written on the topic. But the best way that I consider are through: reading, writing, speaking, and mastering the English language. In other words learning the theory and practicing it. Doing this will significantly build one’s skills in anything especially communication.

158. In what ways have you taken measurable, deliberate steps to improve your communication skills?

I have taken all of the steps expressed in the previous response. I believe that these steps are essential to building communication skills.

I practice communication skills daily. I read various books on human relations, including all of Dale Carnegie’s books. Reading all of these books provides me with many effective communication techniques, and theories. Learning and using these techniques in turn improves my communication skills.

Along with reading, I have acquired many “tools” for communication. These tools are vocabulary words. Over the last year I have learned over 1000 new words that I didn’t know previously. As a mason uses a trowel; I will use these words as tools to be an effective communicator.

Reading books and learning words is a great start for me, but no one ever became great at anything without actual practice. Therefore I put what I have learned into practice every chance that I get. Just by simply writing daily I build communication skills. I also communicate with a select few people in prison and many others outside. This daily practice builds my skills.

I try to practice what I preach. It is not enough to just talk about doing something. I believe that communication skills are imperative to success. Therefore I do everything that I can to improve these skills.

159. What value do enhanced communication skills offer to a prospective employer?

An employee that is unable to communicate is basically worthless to an employer. This is because an employee that cannot communicate is a dime a dozen and dispensable. On the other side of the same coin, and employee that possess strong and effective communication skills can be invaluable to an employer.

Communication skills aren’t easy to come by, so one who does possess them is automatically more valuable than one who doesn’t. As a person climbs the employment ladder; communication skills become increasingly important.

For example, in an manufacturing operation. A person who is on the assembly line needs little to no communication skills. But the shift supervisor does, in order to lead the shift. And the building manager will need more, all the way up to the CEO, who will need incredible communication skill. A higher level of communication skill is required the higher the position.

Employers need communicators in these advanced positions for two reasons. One because the positions are leadership positions. Leaders require these skills. One cannot be a leader if they cannot communicate. The second reason is because people in these positions are highly visible and are representatives of the company. Any company is cautious of their image. They don’t want someone who cannot speak in a visible position.. That would project weakness. Protecting the integrity of the company’s image is imperative to any company. Therefore employers must place effective communicators in these positions. Anything less than great could be the demise of the biggest most powerful company.

Communication skills are invaluable to any employer. I believe that any employer would love to hire someone with enhanced communication skills, over someone who did not. This is because these skills provide an employer with multiple benefits.

160. How can a prisoner convey the extent of his communication skills and his personal investment to improve such skills?

In order to convey to anyone any skill, one must prove that they possess the skill. It isn’t enough to simply tell someone. One must show it.

People rarely take someone’s word for anything. For example: if someone wanted to renovate their kitchen, and they were looking for the best, most skilled person, to do the job. the person wouldn’t just ask a contractor if they were the best. This person would want proof that they were the best. They would want to see previous work. Only then could they decide who is the best.

The same applies with any skill, including communication. One must prove beyond words that they possess this skill.

One can prove this through the way that they write. Letter, emails, any form of written communication says a lot about a persons ability to communicate. One using incorrect grammar, and misspellings shows that they lack these skills. Also using acronyms as shortcut, such as brb or lol or gtg are signs that someone lacks sophistication and communication skills. If one wants to prove that they are an effective communication they must use correct grammar, spelling and must refrain from using acronyms.

Another way that a prisoner can prove their skill of communication is through activities such a the Straight-A-Guide. Each one of the responses that I answer is a chunk of proof that I generate. One who is not a effective communicator would not be able to answer these responses. Answering them and sharing them with the public proves to whomever that I am an becoming an effective communicator.

One final method of proof is the most obvious. What is a better way of proving something than by just doing it? I think that the best way to prove that you can communicate is by communicating, and doing it often. By simply flaunting the skill and touting it well shows, without a doubt, that one possess the skill.

The only way to prove a skill is through practicing it every day. It is not enough to simply talk about it. Proof only comes through action. Words are just words, only action possesses true meaning.

161. How does the prison experience influence an individual’s development of communication skills?

In my opinion, prison is detrimental to a prisoners communication skills. In prison there is a discrete jargon. This language is derived from a love level, low class, slang. Hearing this slang, all day every day, can be very acrid to one’s development of communication skills.

The majority of prisoners speak much slang. This slang is full of grammatical errors, and pronunciation errors along with profanity. If a prisoner is not cautious, and conscious of this slang, they will fall victim to inherently using it. Being in prison is like being in another country that speaks a foreign language. If a person spends enough time in this country they will end up incidentally speaking the language. In prison, after hearing certain types of trite cliches, and errors repeatedly  a prisoner accepts these errors and uses them. This has a negative impact on a prisoners development of communication skills.

Prison can be a great detriment to a prisoner’s communication skills. If a prisoner is not careful they can entirely lose this skill in prison.

162. In what ways do developing communicating skills resemble the development of physical fitness?

I believe that building any skill can be related to building physical fitness. Building physical fitness requires daily action and a detailed plan. Likewise building communication skills requires the same.

Building physical fitness requires daily action, and discipline. One must work at least three to four days per week in order to build a level of fitness. once a certain level of fitness is reached, one must still work the same amount to maintain this level. It could takes months or years to reach a certain lever of physical fitness and it can be lost in half of the time. Physical fitness requires constant attention.

Building physical fitness also requires a plan, and specificity. With out a plan one is more likely to become errant and not reach their goal. Also this plan needs to be specific. Without it one will never reach their goals because they will not know that they are working at. For example: on wouldn’t train their biceps to strengthen their quadriceps. A detailed plan and specificity are required. Likewise, Building communication skills require those two identical aspects.

Building physical fitness is a skill, so is building communication. Therefore, the principles to develop them are the same.

163. What does it mean to read with a purpose?

Reading with a purpose means reading with an end in mind. It means reading in an attempt to reach some type of goal. It means much more than just passively turning pages, on the way to the end of a story. In order to read with a purpose, each page should be turned with a purpose, evincing a little more with every turn, in the search of an ultimate goal.

Reading with a purpose begins with the selection of a book. In order to read with a purpose, one bust select a book with the same purpose in mind. It is not enough to read a book because it was seen in a magazine, or someone recommended it. One must select a book with the end of the book in mind. Personally, I select books based upon what I can learn from them. If I can’t learn something from a book, why should I waste a week reading it. I can spend that time reading something that has retainable value. Reading with a purpose requires selecting a book with a purpose.

Once a book is selected with a purpose, it is important to read every page with the purpose in mind. I always start reading a book with a series of questions. Then with every turn of ever page, I begin to uncover the answers. I also read with a highlighter, pen and paper. When I find an answer to a question or something else that I learned I highlight it and write it down. Then following each chapter I go back and read all of the highlighted parts, and at the end of the book I re-read all of the highlighting throughout the entire book. Simply doing this turns passive reading into active reading.

Reading with a purpose is like doing anything with a purpose. One must set a goal and work to achieve it. It isn’t just reading a book to get through it, but reading a book in an attempt to achieve a goal. Personally, I read to learn. Therefore I read every book for that purpose.

164. Describe the pattern of books you have read throughout your term in prison. What kind are they and why do you read them?

I keep a meticulous record of all of the books that I read. Looking over this record I have read 36 books–not including textbooks and workbooks–in one year. Each of these books was chosen and read with a purpose.

The majority of the books that I have read are non fiction. There are also four types of non fiction. Exposes, Biographies, Autobiographies’, and self help books.

The two expose books that I have read, were about the two biggest business scandals in the country: Enron, and ADM. Reading about these financial  scandals, taught me how to avoid pitfalls. They also taught be about business ethics.

I’ve also read many Biographies and autobiographies including: Michael Santos’; Steve Jobs’; Gordon G Liddy’s; Nelson Mandela’s; Marcus Aurelius. Reading these books gave me the perspective of these great people. Having this perspective Can help me emulate some of their traits. The traits that proved to be successful.

The majority of all of my reading is self-help books. 20 or of the 36 I would classify as self help. I’ve read the entire Dale Carnegie series; 7 habits of highly effective people; The One Minute Manager; The world is Flat; And many others. These books all deal with different aspects of life. I couldn’t list everything that I have learned from these books. There is way to much. These types of books are the most beneficial to me.

Along with these types of self-help books. I also read spiritual self help books. These books Deal with spiritual growth and development. They help me better understand my God, and my religion. The biggest spiritual book that I have read is the Bible. I have read it cover to cover once and expect to read it in full two more times. The Bible has taught me more about life than all other books combined.

The last type of books that makes up the minority are fiction. I don’t read much fiction because I believe that it is mostly frivolous, and trifling. But I don’t read fiction simply for entertainment purposes. I read it for these three distinct reasons. One because many fiction stories posses a deep moral, or meaning. There is much to be learned from good fiction. The greatest that many people are taught are through fiction. For example the boy who cried wolf id fiction, or any of Jesus’ parables are all fictitious. Another reason that I read fiction is because as an aspiring author, I like to study the craft and styles of other great writers. Like an aspiring athlete will study the moves of their favorite professional, I study the famous authors to study their moves. The final reason is the most important. I read fiction because I feel that the strongest form of communication is telling stories. And the ability to do so is very powerful. One who can tell a story and relate to things, is a much more powerful and influential communicator. Telling a story entails a lot. Even telling a true story isn’t easy. It requires the skills of a great author. One must develop the character, develop the scene, the plot, describe everything is great detail, then the ascending action, the climax, and finally the descending action, or conclusion. I feel that any communicator requires this skill.

The fiction that I do read is by famous authors. Authors that have stood the test of time. Such as Hemmingway, Camus, Ayn Rand, Orwell, Golding, and a few others. These authors are considered the best of their trade. Through their stories, they have a lot to teach.

In each of the 10,000+ pages that I have read thus far, I have learned much about many things. Each page was read with a purpose. At the end of each book that purpose was achieved.

165. In what ways do books you read prepare you for success upon release?

All of the various books that I read help me in some way toward future success. That is the main premise as to why I read them. Therefore the reasons why I read each book –expressed in the previous response– are the same reasons that help me prepare for success.

166. When you consider the amount of free time available to you on a typical day, how do you determine the most effective ways to use it toward preparations for success?

When I first came to prison, I assessed the amount of free time that I have in one day. I figured since I spend eight hours sleeping. Then I have 16 hours of free time. From this I sought to fill each one of these hours with some useful activity.

First I began to think of goals that I wanted to attain; things that I wanted to achieve. Then I determined how much time each of these goals would take to achieve. Then with each goal, I allotted an amount of time to work on these goals. I allotted two hours for.

Spanish, an hour for vocabulary, two hours for reading, four hours for school, three hours for writing responses, two hours for math, an hour for exercising. As I kept listing the things that I wanted to accomplish , I realized that I didn’t have any free time left. Now I have my schedule perfected down to the last minute. Each of the 16 hours is filled with something productive to do.

By simply finding what I wanted to do, then finding out how much time it took to do it, eventually created a schedule and filled all of my free time. Doing this ultimately created the most efficient and most effective schedule possible.

167. In what ways do you work to improve your dexterity with language, using words, sentences, and paragraphs to communicate ideas?

Every day I do some things to improve my communication skills.

The main way that I practice is by answering the Straight-A-guide responses. By answering these, I am able to use word skills and techniques that I have learned. I am also able to use critical thinking, and analytical skills, which are essential in communication. In other words I am able to practice what I have learned.

Also, I learn ten new words daily. By learning new words everyday I am increasing my vocabulary exponentially. Therefore I am able to be more direct and clear in my diction.

One other way is through writing letters and e-mails. Writing to various people helps me to better communicate through writing.

The final way is by simply talking with people. By speaking, I am able to work on my pronunciation and diction. Practicing these things helps improve my communication.

Everyday I try to improve my communication skills. I do this by simply practicing everything that I have learned everyday.

168. How would you describe the argot of the imprisoned class?

The distinct argot of prison is unlike any other. It is composed of trite phrases and slang. These phrases are littered with profanity and defies multiple laws of proper English grammar. I would gauge that this language is below the lowest class of society.

This argot is mainly composed of banal, hackneyed, cliches. Most of these cliches are derivatives from some sort of terrible influence. Whether the influence is rap music, country music, rock music, or any other influence, the language that is created is also terrible.

This language is basically meaningless. How can someone have a meaningful conversation with phrases such as: :”What’s good witcha’ or You good?; That’s crazy” Even the most commonly used phrase “what’s up” is meaningless. Also in prison everyone goes by some nickname. Everyone is either, player, brother, bro, bo, dude, fam, or homeboy. And the name that they call themselves is a nickname also. In this prison alone, there are at least ten guys named “E” and at least five of every other letter of the alphabet. The point is, is that everything is watered down to the point of no meaning or sophistication.

Along with being trite, and meaningless. The language in prison is riddled with malapropisms, mispronunciations, syntax, and grammatical errors. In prison the suffix “ing” is reduced simply to “in” As in doin’ comin’ goin’ or Bein’. Also it is not uncommon to hear such grammatical errors such as: I seen something or me and him seen something. Another aspect of this jargon is the use of nonexistent words such as: seent, killted, axted, for seen, killed, and asked. The prison language is littered with many errors and simple things such as double negatives and other errors. All of these errors further reduce the strength of the language.

The final and most influential aspect that ruins the language is the excessive use of profanity. Almost every sentence is laced with a curse. Many use the “F” word as every part of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, etc. In a desperate attempt to enhance their language, the over use of profanity reduces the level of communication below any level existing in society.

When I first came to prison, I swear that I couldn’t understand my cell-mate– a prisoner of 13 years. Granted he had a strong southern draw, but his accent could have been Japanese because the language itself was totally incomprehensible. This proved to me that a different language did exist.

The prison argot is a language of its own. It is essential a culmination of slang from across America. Everyone from different parts of the country and from other countries, bring something to add to the language. Although this language is diversely created it is a very distinct and low level language. It is far from proper English and a prison would be prudent to refrain from using it at all costs.

169. In what ways does the jargon of imprisonment compare of contrast with the language in the society you expect to encounter upon release?

In comparison, The language that I expect to encounter in society is a complete contrast to the language of prison. In my opinion even the lowest class of society is a step above the worst class of prison language. Since I don’t expect to associate with the lowest class of society I assume that the contrast will be even greater.

I expect the contrast to be similar to the contrast of apples and oranges. The only similarity that exists, is that they are both fruits. Just as the languages are both derivatives of English.

I don’t expect to ever lower my standard of speaking. Not now nor when I am released. Therefore the language that I will use in comparison to prison jargon, is a complete contrast.

170. What does an individual speaker’s enunciation convey to his listeners?

A persons level of enunciation evinces a lot about that person. Enunciation or lack there of is a tell tale sign of education, sophistication, and class. People with excellent articulation are immediately assumed to be smarter, more sophisticated, and belonging to a higher class. Likewise people who lack the skill of articulation are assumed to be the opposite.

Many aspects are involved with diction. Vocabulary, syntax, grammar, pronunciation, and inflection are all involved. Mastering these elements takes time and effort, which shows others that the time was taken to develop these skills. Therefore, revealing a level of education. Also when people hear excellent articulation they immediately relate them to someone who also has a great level of sophistication and class. It is like the chirp of a bird. Every bird has a distinct chirp. If someone heard a “quack” they automatically know that it is a duck.

It is a fact that enunciation evinces a lot about a person. It is a reality that everyone is judgmental on some level. The majority of people judge based on how someone speaks. Therefore, the level of diction conveys to anyone one’s level of education, sophistication, or class.

171. In what ways do an individual’s grooming habits or manner of dress communicate his values?

Communication goes far beyond words. People sometimes say more by not saying anything. This is why personal grooming and overall appearance are very important.

A person is judged by more than what they say. They are usually judged before they even utter a word. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and pictures don’t say a thing.

When I think about it now there are many things that can be told about someone just by what they are wearing, and how they look. If a person is wearing a T-shirt, shorts, running shoes, and they are sweaty and their hair is messy. I could easily and accurately assume that this person was just working out. Likewise if I see a person wearing a suit, nicely dressed, with their hair combed and kept. I would assume that this person just came from work. Also if I saw a person with dirty jeans, boots, and they were dirts. I wold also assume that this person came from work. Futhermore, I can assume that they first person is a disciplined, and conscious of their appearance and health. The second person, I would assume that they are a “white collar” worker. Maybe a stock broker, or a lawyer. I would assume that this person is successful, and educated. For the third person I would assume that this person is a “blue collar” worker. I wold assume that he is good with his hands, hardworking and works hard for his money.

I could be completely wrong about each of these people, but these are the inevitable assumptions that anyone would assume. Not only can a person make a good assumption about where the person was, they can also easily assume their values.

Some statictics say that a first impression is mad within the first seven seconds. That alone tells a lot. It shows that the majority of judgment is passed upon how someone looks alone.

172. To what extent does documenting a prison journey communicate an individual’s commitment to success upon release?

Documentation of anything offers proof that something happened. The entire subject of history is based on someone’s documentation, and someone perception. Without documentation, history woulf not exist. I believe that for a prisoner it is the same. Documentation offers proof and tangible evidence, that a prisoner can use in their future.

If I didn’t document what I did here; it is more that likely that everyone would assume that I was sitting around doing nothing. That is the general assumption of society. My constant documentation offers more evidence to refute this assumption. Likewise, anyone can use this type of documentation to communicate this point.

I believe that the documentation that I provide proves a lot about me. It ultimately proved that I am disciplined and devoted to my future success.

Providing documentation of my prison journey, provides evidence and clearly communicates my dedication to success.

One of the exercises Michael embraced to develop his communication strategy included writing book reports. In Earning Freedom, he wrote that books opened opportunities that contributed in meaningful, measurable ways to prepare him for triumph over the obstacles he expected to encounter. Each book had a purpose, and to stay on course, he used the following format to write his book reports:

  • How I came across the book (title of book):
  • Why I choose to read (title of book):
  • What I learned from (title of book):
  • Ways in which (title of book) will contribute to my success upon release:

 173. In what ways would writing similar book reports contribute to the development of your communication skills and preparations for success upon release?

Writing book reports makes reading with a purpose possible. When a person writes book reports they are forced to read with the end in mind They are forced to retrieve the information that they have just read. Recalling the the information then ossifies the information to memory. Along with recalling the material read, book reports provide proof that the book was read.

There is a study method that is named SQ3R method. This method is supposed to be the most effective way to study. Writing book reports forces a person to use the SQ3R method. SQ3R is an acronym that stands for: scan, question, recite, review, retrieve. The initial reading of the book is considered the scanning. The questions are the ones posed by the book report. And answering the questions forces a person to go back and recite, review, and retrieve. If the SQ3R method is truly an effective study technique, and book reports force a person to use it. Then writing book reports is also an effective study technique.

Along with being an effective way to study, writing book reports also provides proof that the book was read. Throughout elementary school and high-school, I was always forced to write many types of books reports, on every book that I read. Otherwise, no one in the class would have read them and the teachers wouldn’t have known the difference. The book reports proved to the teachers that the books were read. The same applies now. I could read 1000 books and not be able to tell one fact about any of them, or I could just say that I read 1000 books. The only way to prove it is through documenting what was learned. One way to do that is through book reports.

Not only are book reports a great way to learn. The provide verifiable proof that a person not only read a book but learned something from it.

by Colin Walsh

Four years ago at this very moment, I was sitting in a 7×10 jail cell all alone in the county jail. It had only been weeks since the incident that landed me there in jail. All alone in the jail cell, I realized there was no one to blame but myself. This is the moment when I finally woke up.

It was at this time that I made the commitment to change the person that I was, and to begin striving to become the person I should be. This is when my journey began.

Since then I have walked a straight line on this journey. The road ahead is definitely windy and bumpy, but as long as I stay on the road I will get to the final destination. I know that I will get there.

The commitment I made four years ago I still stick to today. I didn’t make it for anyone else but myself. Everyday, I walk in line with this commitment, and it guides me through every choice I make.

by Colin Walsh

As I check my daily log, I realize that this is my 440th day in prison. I realize now, that this time away from friends and family, has been the longest time I have ever been this far from home. Looking back, I realize that this alone is a great accomplishment. Not only did I complete almost 500 consecutive days away from family and friends, but I faced it with dignity, and grew through it. Even though, the massive hardships that I face daily, I didn’t crumble and grow bitter, or even despondent. I feel that I became better in this time. I believe that these 440 days, have been the greatest period of growth in my entire life.

As I continue on my prison journey, I will continue to follow this same road. Even if the road gets windy and bumpy, I will stay on track. At the end of the journey I will have completed almost 1300 days of confinement. But these days won’t be served in vain. They will all aggregate into success.

by Colin Walsh

174. In what ways do you perceive relationships with people you knew prior to confinement to evolve over the course of your imprisonment?

Relationships are always evolving. People are always changing. Environments change. Rarely does anything stay the same. Unfortunately, when a person goes to prison, relationships continue to change without them. The world keeps moving around them.

Good relationships are difficult to maintain. It is even more difficult in prison. With the various restraints and restrictions that inhibits contact it is inevitable that some weaker relationships will fade. I expect this will happen to me, I have even experienced it to some extent.

Even in the short time that I have been in prison, I lot of relationships have changed. Many people that I talked to a year ago, I haven’t talked to since. Many people that I have considered friends are more distant and talk to me less and less every week. Many other relationships evolved also. As for friends not many remain. The ones that do remain aren’t the same. As for family they are all still there. But even with them the relationship has changed. At the very most I see them once a month, some family twice a year, some once, and some never. Even though I maintain contact through e-mail and telephone, it isn’t enough. I know that the relationship has changed because of it.

Relationships are inevitably going to change. There is no stopping that. I know that being in prison will enhance these changes. All that I can do is try to maintain what I have.

175. In what ways have you nurtured support networks during the time you’ve served thus far?

I try to nurture relationships to the best of my ability. I use the limited resources that I have and try to utilize them to the best of my ability.

I take a significant amount of time daily to build and foster relationships. I use the limited resources of e-mail, phone calls, letters, and visits to build a support network. Because these resources are so scarce and valuable I must use them to the fullest. I try not to waste a character in an email or letter, or a second of a phone call. I try to use ever resource that I have to its full capacity. By doing this everyday, I build and nurture valuable support.

176. In what ways will the support network you have in place now contribute to your success upon release?

The support network that I have in place now will help me break the fall as I am released from prison. The transition from prison to the outside world is not easy. The more people that I have to help, the easier it will be.

Being released from prison is like a bird being nudged out of the nest. They either fall or fly. The more people that can help will increase the chances of flying.

Overall, my support network provides me with some sort of stability. They will help me survive so I will be able to thrive. With my support network I won’t be forced to make decisions out of desperation, or necessity. I will be able to make decision toward success. My support network will do what the name implies; provide support, they will ease some of the burdens of life and make it easier to succeed.

177. In what ways would you build a strong support network while you climbed through years of imprisonment?.

Once I am completed with the Straight-A-Guide, I intend to attempt to further my support network. I intend to do this by using the Straight-A-Guide as proof of my dedication, as a tool to evince my true self.

I intend to emulate Michael and send letters to people of influence. If it worked for Michael, I believe that it will work for me. Through these letters I intend to cast lines beyond the prison walls and hope to build my support network.

These letters will act as bait to attract people to my profile. The profile then will act as a hook, creating enough interest in me to write me back. Then hopefully I intend to pull these people into my support network.

Using letters and my profile, I expect to build my network, even while hidden behind these walls.

178. In what ways do support networks or the lack of support networks influence prison adjustments?

In general, it is a fact that prisoners with stronger support networks are less likely to return to prison. Support networks are very influential to a prisoners success. They help a prisoner keep on foot on the outside while keeping one in.

Prison is a completely different world. There are different edicts, and ethics. It isn’t uncommon for a prisoner to become lost and accept these differences as normal. Accepting these values makes a prisoner act a certain way, a way that is not acceptable in society. Without something to hold a prisoner accountable for their actions, they will most likely become lost.

A support network helps a prisoner by holding them accountable for their actions. Whether actively or not they are constantly holding  a mirror for the prisoner to see themselves in. A person inevitably becomes like the people they associate themselves with. This mirror hold the person accountable, by giving the prisoner standards to live up to. This will guide them to do the right thing. A support network can be the impetus that drives a prisoner to use their time wisely or the angel on their shoulder whispering right from wrong. Either way a support network is influential.

A support network is the light at the end of the tunnel. They give a prisoner hope, and something to attain. Even the stats show that support networks are the most influential factor in a prisoners life. They can determine success, or failure.

179. To what extent are the values that those in your support network embrace harmonious with the values you profess to embrace?

Everyone in my support network is honest, law abiding citizens. The majority of them are professionals. Some are even community leaders. Even though there is a variety of people, they all share these common values. These are all values that we have in common.

180. What steps are you taking now to build or nurture your support network?

Everyday I take steps to build my support network. Everyday in some form I reach beyond these walls to my support network. Whether it is through e-mail, phone, letter, or visits; I correspond with my network. Dong this nurtures my existing support network.

181. In what ways can those in your support network facilitate your aspirations?

The people in my support network will act as a web of support. This web will extend far beyond the people that I know. The web will aid in my future in many ways.

Having a strong support network will aid in my success by creating strength through numbers. In theory, ten people are ten times stronger than one. If one falls off, then the other nine are there to help pick them back up.

My support network extends far beyond the people that I know. A support network grows exponentially. If I just know five people and each of those five people know five other people, who each know five other people that is 125 different people. This is also on a very small scale. There is a theory that says that most people can extend this out six times. This is equivalent to five to the sixth power or 15,625. Most people also know more than five people, which makes this number greater. This shows in theory how a support network extends far beyond the people in the network.

With this great web of support I expect to spread the word of my skills and capabilities. By spreading this to other people in my network, I expect that they will share it, carrying it down the line. I expect the word to spread virally, thus enhancing my chances of success.

Being released from prison, people are going to be suspicious of me. Building a support network of people that know and believe in me will help ease this suspicion, and aid in success.

182. In what ways is your support network helping you now?

As of right now, my support network helps me in innumerable ways. They are the crutch that I lean on for many of my most basic of needs. They make a lot of things possible. I depend on them a lot and they always pull through.

The people in my support network are my liaison to the outside world. They conduct many of the things that I need done. Some order me books, others type, others run errands. My support network are my arms and legs outside of prison. Without them, I would be trapped.

Also, my support network supports me financially. They send me money to care for my most basic needs. Without them I would be forced to work a time consuming job, that pays diminutive wages, which would leave me with less money, and time to focus on my release, than I have now. Their help makes it possible to prepare for release.

Lastly, my support network helps me emotionally. They are a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to listen. They give me hope for the future, and motivate me to be successful. Without them I would be all alone and lost inside of prison.

My support network is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. They are a great help. They help me in ways that I cannot enumerate.

183. What level of allegiance do you pledge to your support network?

The devotion that I have for my support network is deep. They believe in me and my future. Therefore, it is my obligation to live up to this belief. By constantly striving to better myself, I prove this devotion to my network.

184. What incremental action steps can you to take to bring people you do not currently know into your life?

The steps that I can and will take to further my network, are exactly the same that Michael took in his journey. I intend to reach beyond the walls of prison and invite people into my life.

As Michael continues to do now, I intend to correspond with various people. I intend to send letters to many people, inviting them into my support network. If I send twenty letters out I expect to get maybe two back. Thus furthering  and expanding my network by two.

If it worked for Michael, there is not reason why it won’t work for me. As  miner prospects land for gold. I expect to prospect also.

185. What thoughts do you have about people who would be most influential to your possibilities for success upon release?

People that would be most influential to me are people that are influential to others. Building a support network with influential people will further my network. This influence can open many opportunities. That will ultimately lead to success.

186. Who are they?

The people that I would like to join my support network are everyone and anyone who have mutual interests with me. These people value and live the way that I want to live. These people will act as role models, that I can emulate and learn from in order to better myself.

187. What interests do they have?

Everyone in my support network have various interests. To generally state a few interests for the entire group would not be fair. Although they all have various distinct interests, I believe that they all share the common interest of overcoming adversity and achieveing success.

Everyone loves to hear a rags to riches story. This is because everyone can relate to the adversity in the story, whatever it may be. Every person on earth has encountered some sort of adversity. People like to relate to the stories where the person facing adversity –”rags” succeeds –”riches”.  This is because everyone wants to succeed through adversity. I believe that this is an interest that everyone shares, especially the people who believe in me.

Everyone that is in my support network have distinct interests. These interests are personal to them. But I believe that they still share one common interest. That interest is compassion and empathy for people who are struggling through adversity, constantly fighting for success.

188. How can you make them aware of your aspirations?

Daily, I give my support network the opportunity to see into my life; through the Straight A Guide. I write daily and post my aspirations for the world to see. By simply doing this, anyone is able to see my aspirations.  Thus sharing them with a vast audience.

189. What impression would your adjustment through prison thus far make upon them?

By presenting my prison adjustment to others, I have already made an impact on them. Multiple people have commented on my profile. The comments show that my profile has made a difference.

Many people who have wrote me about it, told me that they have read my profile. The most common response is, ” I never knew that you were so smart” This proves that others are impressed and shocked by the thought and foresight contained in the Straight A Guide responses. Overall, Generally speaking, The people that comment are impressed, one way or another. Seeing this makes writing all worth the while. This is what The SAG is designed to do. This feedback shows that my profile is making a difference, in people’s perception of me.

190. In what ways are you working to cultivate mentors?

As of now I am building myself up to be worthy of a mentor. I believe the first step to gaining a mentor is proving to be worthy of one.

The last thing that a mentor want to do is sponsor someone who is a waste of time, or a failure. A mentor is giving up their, time, energy, and experience. A person must prove to potential mentors that they are worth that time and energy. Otherwise, a mentor will not give it to them.

I intend to show that I am deserving of a mentor, by showing my dedication to success. By working daily, I expect to show that I am serious about the future and devoted to it. Revealing these positive qualities should show any potential mentor that I am worth investing in.

Like a person investing in a security, a mentor must weigh the risk verse reward. If an investor or mentor sees risk with little or no reward, they are not going to invest. A mentor and investor alike must be certain that their investment will generate something, not just simply waste time.

191. In what ways does your behavior or activities within prison boundaries influence your relationships?

I believe that relationships are formed by shared interests. People that don’t have the same interests will inevitably fail. Therefore behaviors and activities will always affect a relationship.

Being in a relationship is like walking down two parallel roads. As long as the roads stay completely parallel, they will end in the same as they started, right next to each other. But as soon as one of the roads begin to go in another direction the roads will eventually diverge, further and further apart. Likewise, in a relationship as long as the people in the relationship have identical interests and stay parallel, they will run the same as they started. But as soon as one changes direction, even the slightest, they will ultimately diverge.

For a prisoner, this means earning support of their relationships. All to often relationships are taken for granted and expected to work without effort. A relationship take conscious effort. A prisoner must prove worthy of the relationship. Nobody wants to be in a relationship with a loser, or degenerate. Therefore a prisoner must be the opposite of that, and prove worthy of every relationship. Proving this starts with behaviors and activities.

Behaviors and activities are the backbone of every relationship. For a prisoner this means behaving and doing activities that are worthy of a relationship.

192. How would you assess the preparations and commitment your closest acquaintances make to a law-abiding, successful life upon release?

All of the people that I communicate with are law abiding. Even the few people that I associate with in prison abide by the ruled of prison, and also they prepare to live by the laws of society upon release.

I’ve learned the true meaning of guilty by association. Therefore, I must only associate myself with people who will help me, not hurt me. I must only associate myself with people who do not break the law, and are focused on success.

193. If you were to receive a disciplinary infraction, in what way would that influence the support network you’re striving to cultivate?

A disciplinary infraction, also know as a “shot” means many things for a prisoner. When a prisoner receives a shot, depending on the severity, they are further restricted inside of prison. There are a number of punishments the prison can inflict on a prisoner. All of these punishments further restrict a prisoner’s life.

Receiving a shot can create a world of trouble and discomfort for a prisoner. The most severe punishment that can be imposed is confinement into disciplinary segregation inside of the special housing unit,or the the SHU. Once a prisoner is sent to the SHU they are immediately cut off from the entire prison population. While in the SHU they are restricted to one phone call every 30 days, restricted visits, and no E-mail. Therefore, being in the SHU completely cuts a prisoner off from the outside world.

The next severe punishment a prisoner can receive is a transfer. A federal prisoner can be transferred to any facility in the country. That could mean that they are transferred hundreds even thousands of miles away from home. This can greatly hinder a prisoners contact with the outside world.

The next punishment based on severity, is the revocation of visiting privileges. The prison is allowed to restrict or even revoke a prisoners’ rights to have visits. These limitations can last for many months, thus distancing themselves from their network.

The prison can also revoke or restrict phone or email privileges. These restrictions can also last for months. These restrictions make it very difficult for a prisoner to communicate.

The prison can invoke any of these or all of them at once. These further restrictions would completely cut a prisoner off from their support network. During the lack of communication will inevitably weaken or may even break the relationship.

Along with the severity of the punishment, receiving a shot would minimize trust within the support network. Getting a shot proves to the network that the prisoner is not what they are proclaiming to be. It is like a persons favorite baseball player. If the player struck out every game. They would slowly lose every fan. They player must prove to be deserving of support.

Disciplinary infractions affect not only the prisoner but the people in the prisoners’ support network. Receiving a shot almost most definitely means a punishment. The punishment imposed usually involves a restriction of communication. This restriction will distance a prisoner from their support network. Along with all of this, receiving a shot will ultimately reduce a support networks faith. Overall, receiving a disciplinary infraction will weaken a support network, may even ruin it.

194. What relevance does the phrase “It’s not what you know but who you know” have to you?

The common maxim, “it is now what you know, it is who you know” is the battle cry of networkers. To me I believe that it is true, albeit a little one sided. I believe that knowing people is influential, thus important. But what you know and who you know move in tandem.

The majority of the time what you know becomes who you know. The more that you know, the more opportunities to meet people will open. Therefore it would be foolish to say that what you know is not a factor. Because it doesn’t matter how many people you know, if they know nothing. They will ultimately be unsuccessful.

I believe that who you know is very important. But I also believe that what you know is equally important.

195. To what extent would your actions show that you’re conscious of the influence others have on your prospects for success upon release?

Actions are the only proof that is available. Words are simply just letters places in an arrangement. Words are meaningless without action. Words should be used to draw attention to action, not be the action.

Actions are the only form of undeniable proof of anything. Action is the factor that gives words life. Action is very influential. For a prisoner, it proves to any possible supporter, whether or not a prisoner is serious. Positive action proves that they are conscious of their future, negative actions prove the opposite.

Without actual action words are meaningless. Action is a requisite for success. Action proves that a person is serious about something. For a prisoner, action can prove that a prisoner is or is not ready for success.

196. How can a prisoner open more opportunities to broaden his network of support?

Michael teaches that there are many ways to reach beyond the confinement of prison and into the outside world. Writing letters is only the tip of the iceberg.

Writing letters is only the beginning of many opportunities. After gaining a small network it is time to make that network wider. Reaching out to mass markets is the most effective way. A prisoner can reach this audience through publishing. A prisoner can publish material through a number of mediums. They can write, books magazine articles, internet material, are only a few examples. Publishing material in this fashion, reaches a much broader audience. This will increase the chances of expanding an network.

Michael teaches that there are many ways to expand one’s network. Even though a prisoner is secluded from society, They are not powerless.

197. How would your transition to society change if you had a job offer in place before your release?

One of the first and most important things that a prisoner must do, upon release, is find employment. I believe that this is the first step in the right direction.

If a prisoner obtained employment prior to release they would be one step closer to success. Having a job would provide a great head start.

Also having a job waiting upon release could also appease the administration, and allow for further privileges. The majority of federal prisoners are released from prison and are sent to a halfway house. A halfway house requires a prisoner to obtain a job. Once a prisoner obtains a stable job they are released from the halfway house, to home confinement. Having a predetermined job in place would speed this process, and a prisoner would be sent to home confinement sooner. This can make a considerable difference.

An awaiting job in society can make the leap into society a smaller jump. It can greatly ease the transition, and reduce the chances of failure. It is a step in the right direction, and provides a great head start.

198. What steps will you begin taking now to broaden, nurture, and protect your support network each week that you remain in prison?

I have stated throughout this lesson how I intend to nurture, protect, and broaden my support network.

I intend to nurture and protect it through constant and consistent correspondence.

I intend to broaden it by first, finishing the SAG. Then using the SAG to show people that I am worth supporting. Then by reaching out to various people and directing them to my profile.

My intentions are to broaden, nurture, and protect my support network daily. Every day for the rest of my life.

199. How will you hold yourself accountable?

I hold myself accountable by setting and achieving goals. Then by documenting them and releasing them to anyone. By doing this an documenting the steps along the way I hold myself accountable.

I know where I am now, point A. I also know where I want to go, point B. In order to get from point A to point B, I must hold myself accountable, and check my progress along the way. Otherwise, I will get lost.

Through meticulous documentation and self assessment, I will always hold myself accountable for my actions.

by Colin Walsh

105. How would you define your life management skills?

I would define life management skills, as the skills required to manage one’s life. Just as business management skills are how to manage a business and financial management skills are how to manage one’s finances. Life management skills are how to manage one’s life.

Life management skills encompass a panoply of skills. These skills range from how to manage one’s time to how to manage one’s money and including everything in between. Gaining, sharpening, and growing these skills will create an endless well of skills that one can draw from and use in their lives. Drawing from these skills will continuously lead one to the highest degree of a successful fulfilling life.

106. What types of decisions influence how you will emerge from prison?

From now until the day that I die; every decision I make will influence my life. That is the definition of being an adult. I am now responsible for every decision I make, there is no one to blame. Therefore every infinitesimal decision that I make from now until I leave prison will somehow someway influence my future. Therefore, I must plan accordingly and choose to make decisions that will lead me to success, not failure.  This guiding principle leads me to make every decision I make. It governs the time I wake up, go to sleep, eat, and how I spend each second of my day.

When faced with a decision –even if it is trivial—such as whether or not to go outside and walk; on a nice sunny day, or to stay inside and study. I ask myself, how will this decision lead me closer to my goal? In the example case, considering I don’t want to be a profession walker, I decide to stay in and study.

I believe living a life like this will lead to my overall goal and help me become the person I aspire to be upon release.

107. In what ways does your daily schedule determine your potential for success upon release?

My daily schedule is derived from my monthly schedule, which is derived from my yearly schedule which created based on my goals. Therefore, each schedule down to my daily schedule is based on my goals.

My daily schedule is like a GPS. I enter the final destination, which is my goal, then the GPS leads me to my next checkpoint, then the next, eventually leading me to my final destination. Without showing these incremental steps a GPS would be useless. Just as well a goal is useless without incremental steps. My incremental steps are taken daily through my daily schedule.

I believe that daily schedules are the most important tool to utilize in one’s life. One wouldn’t build a house without a plan, or travel without a map, so why would one try to build their life and travel through it without a plan.

For me, my daily schedules, when completed, will lead to daily goals, my weekly schedules will lead to weekly goals, and my yearly schedules will lead to yearly goals. Yearly goals will lead to success.

108. How do personal relationships influence our prospects for success?

I believe that you cannot put a price on a good relationship. Human beings are interdependent beings. Everyone depends on someone for something. No one is fully independent. People depend on others for food, clothing, and shelter. How many people in the world form farm their own food, make their own clothing, and build their own house, all using only material and tools to build their own house  and build their own house, all using only material and tools that they made themselves? Then, if we pay for services we must depend on the government to back that money up, and the government must depend on other governments to back them up. The chain never ends. It is not possible to be fully independent. Therefore we must form strong relationships and build them as one would build a bank account so then the relationship will create mutually beneficial results.

On the same token, I know and have experienced the effects of having a relationship with the wrong people. That is the number one thing I have learned through this experience.  Guilty by association– for me– has gained a new, and very serious meaning to me now.  Therefore, I will only form relationships with people who share the same drive for success. Accepting anything less will only hinder, not help my advancement. One wouldn’t invest money into a product that will ruin their lives, so why would one invest time into a relationship that does the same thing.

A relationship can be a person’s greatest asset or their worst liability. For me, I only form relationships that work for me not against me. I plan that the many relationships that I form will open doors that I wouldn’t have ever known existed without the relationship. I expect that relationships will help lead me to success.

109. How can we cultivate and nurture personal relationships that may prove helpful through our prison journey and beyond?

While in prison, it is difficult to build relationships outside of these walls. A prisoner is restricted to 300 phone minutes, is charged for email, and is only allowed four visits per month. So the only possible hope of maintaining a relationship, is to spend the limited allotted time effectively. Otherwise, they will inevitably lose all relationships.

From prison, there are only four different types of communication. Phone, email, visit, and mail. For each of these methods a prisoner is restricted.

Every prisoner is limited to 300 minutes per month. This is less than ten minutes a day. That is less that the shortest dinner conversation. Also each minutes costs 23 cents. That amounts to nearly $70 per month. Per minute, that is more expensive than any phone plan.

A prisoner is also limited to four, six hour visits per month. If all of these visits are used, that only equals one entire day with family and friends. Broken down into hours per days, 24 hours in 31 days, that is less than an hour per day. Also the majority of prisoners’ families live more than an hour away from prison. Therefore travel expense and lodging become an important factor.

As for e-mail, it is unlimited for most prisoners. But it costs 5 cents per minute. For an hour of conversation it costs $3. I a person uses just one hour a day is is $21 a week and $84 a month. Also another restriction of e-mail is that because of “security reasons” it takes an hour to send a message and an hour to receive a message. Therefore it takes two hours to complete one conversation. That is at the greatest efficiency.

As for postal mail, it doesn’t have the nickname “snail mail” for nothing. Postal mail takes three days to travel a mere 300 miles and four days to come back. That is one week to have one conversation, and that is only if the person responds immediately. Also postage is becoming increasingly expensive. Now at 45 cents per ounce. Sending letters is becoming a significant expense. If a person sends one letter to 10 people per week that is 40 letters per month. That is an extra $20 per month.

If I add up all of the cost of communication it is a frightening number. $70 for the phone, About $400 per month for visit expense, $84 for email, $20 for postage, that equals $584 per month just for communication. Over years this adds up.

Not only is it expensive, but time is very limited. Using all of the available resources available only adds up to: 5 hours on the phone, 28 hours on email, 24 hours of visits, and only a potential of 4 letter per month. This only adds up to 57 hours per month, which sadly is only 2 and a half days with family and friends, per 31 days, which is only 8% of the time. Furthermore is a person spreads this time amongst more people the communication becomes even more thin. If you spread it amongst only three people, it cuts everything by a third. This equals about only 20 hours a month, which is less than one day, and equals only 2% of time each month. If a person adds more people the time only becomes less.

Revealing all of this illustrates three very important points about cultivating relationships in prison. The first is that time is very restricted. Judging by the month is a person only tries to maintain one relationship they only have about 60 hours out of 720 to do so. Therefore prisoners must use each second building relationships not destroying them. All to often I hear other prisoners on the phone denouncing, and censuring their family and friends. I have to admit that I am guilty of this sometimes also. But in order to maintain and build relationships one must use this time not waste it.

The second important point is that based on my rough calculations, is costs almost $600 per month for communication. That is $7400 per year, in three years it amounts to $22,000. That is a meaningful amount of money. Therefore a prisoner must this investment building their relationships. That is far to much money to waste on fighting, arguing, and destroying oneself or others. A prisoner must decide who they want to build relationships with and use their resources to do so.

The third and final point is that when a person starts adding people to their circle there is less room in the circle. Considering the circle is already small to begin with, a prisoner must choose wisely who they want to communicate with, and also why they want to. If a prisoner begins to fill the circle with people who aren’t worth talking to. The people who are important are going to automatically receive less time and attention. It is important to choose people that are worth the time.

In order to maintain any relationship, it is essential that a prisoner uses all of their resources to the highest efficiency  and effectiveness.

It is a harsh reality that in order to survive in the outside world; a prisoner my prove themselves different from an assumed prejudice.

110. In what ways did Michael’s decisions at the beginning of his term lead to the opportunities that opened for him through the decades he served?

During the onset of Michael’s sentence, he determined what society expected out of him as a felon.  He then set a goal to live the exact opposite life of what society expected. Instead of joining gangs and prison cliques; he gained college and earned degrees. Instead of watching TV for hours or playing games; he read books for hours. Instead of forming dead end relationships inside of prison; he formed useful ones outside and inside of prison.  Instead of leisure; he chose hard work. Michael spent every hour, and made every decision that led him towards his overall goal and ignored all else.

Michael’s decisions throughout his prison term opened many doors, doors that he had never seen before his incarceration. His decisions led to achievements and these achievements, I know, will lead him to a successful life.

111. In what ways have the decisions you made from the day of your arrest influenced your life today?

112. How would you compare and contrast the initial adjustment decisions of two prisoners who offered their profiles?

The book “Triumph!” contains the personal profiles of many individuals serving various prison terms. The   two that stick in my mind the most are Severine Stone and “Redneck Rick.” These two are complete opposites in comparison. They also define two very distinct characteristics of prisoners. 
Mr. Stone dedicated himself to personal growth. Although he was faced with a prison sentence that is incomprehensible to me, he didn’t give up. He devoted himself fully into a personal routine that has earned him impressive credentials, knowledge, relationships, and personal growth, all of which will help him and aid him at his time of release. This focus and dedication will play a critical role in his future success.

In contrast, Redneck Rick is the night to Mr. Stone’s day. Redneck Rick lived his life as does the majority of prisoners. He indulged and relied on prison. He spent his days working an unskilled position sewing mail bags and spent his nights hiding from the pain and suffering of prison by playing cards and drinking hooch. Rick made himself comfortable in prison. Rick didn’t look past the present day. All he wanted was to “do his time” and go home. Eventually Redneck Rick did go home, after 10 years of indulgence. Only months later, as many prisoners do, he violated his supervised release prohibitions and returned to prison. Along with a violation he earned himself a new 30 year sentence. Rick was not prepared for success. In comparison, Rick and Severin are only similar because they are both prisoners serving lengthy terms. Other than that they are complete opposites.

Redneck Rick just wanted to do his time and go home. He did his time, and probably enjoyed it too. But he only focused on a day to day basis. He relied and indulged in prison. Eventually, he was released and failed, because he was ineptly prepared. Mr. Stone on the other hand has his sights on the future. He is preparing every day for his future. Severin is less likely to fail because of this preparation.

113. In what ways does your prison adjustment compare or contrast with the individuals profiled?

Comparatively, my prison adjustment resembles Severin Stone’s. Even before the inception of my prison sentence I made a commitment to personal growth. I knew that based on my past, I would have to work harder than anyone my age, and would have to prepare for success. Now, like Severin, I am earning college credits, and building numerous skills that will prove to be helpful in my future.

Also, I strive to live in complete contrast of Redneck Rick’s style. I don’t indulge in a prison lifestyle. I focus on the future not the present day. I stay away from useless activities and strive for success.

114. In what ways does your prison adjustment compare or contrast with the type of career trajectory That Greg Reyes or some of the other successful businessmen described?

Currently the only think that compares between Mr. Reyes and me is our commitment to success.

Judging by what little I know about Mr. Reyes, I know that he lived his life chasing a major goal. Instead of being engulfed by the enormity of the goal, he broke it down into bite sized pieces. These pieces became stepping stones that led him to his overall goal. I know he didn’t try to hit his target blindfolded. He made a plan. He set his plan and took step by step toward his goal. Finally after years of taking the right steps in the right direction he reached his final destination.

Similarly, I have set my goals. Also I set my plan. Each day I take steps toward my goal. Eventually I know, without a doubt, that I will reach that goal as did Mr. Reyes. And in that way we are alike.

115. What steps can you take in the time that spans between now and your release date to prepare for a law-abiding, fulfilling life?

The time between now and the date of my release consists of 37 months and can be as little as 31. I have completed 30% of my sentence currently and have 70% to go. I have set a plan for this time frame to lead me to success.

116. In what ways are your interactions with others in prison and beyond purposeful?117. How do your interactions with others relate to the individual you aspire to become?

Interactions are the heart of any relationship. Without them having any relationship wouldn’t be possible. Therefore, I use interactions to build relationships, not to merely waste time.

In prison, it is easy to fall into useless and meaningless interactions. Many fellow prisoners are bored, lonely, and are looking for some sort of stimuli.

Therefore, many spend their time sitting around telling stories of their past. Although some are interesting, many are fallacious. I try to stay away from these types of interactions.

Along with vaunting about the past, many prisoners like to argue and debate trivial topics. Although I agree that some amount of debate is useful, but many of these debates escalate into arguments, to screaming matched, to fist fights. I stay away from this type of interaction also.

A small percentage of prisoners have useful and interesting interactions. These prisoners talk about their future aspirations, what they are doing to better themselves and they have intellectual conversations on pertinent topics. These are the only people I will interact with in prison.  These interactions help me learn and build relationships with good people.

Outside of prison, I use interactions as a tool to build my relationships. I use the implements that the prison offers, to talk to family and friends. These interactions build a network of people that will help me now and upon mu release on my road to success.

Relationships require interaction that is a fact. Therefore all of my interactions are purposeful because I use them discretionally and intentionally for the purpose of building relationships.

117. How do your interactions with others relate to the individual you aspire to become?

I aspire to become an overall better person. My goals and actions are always directly in line with this aspiration. As well as my actions, my interactions are in line with this aspiration also.

The small amount of interaction I have in prison, are chosen not impromptu. It is very easy to fall into the endless pit of needless conversation. Many inmates are looking for a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen. Although, I try to be kind to everyone, I tend to avoid this type of interaction, because participating in it will not lead anywhere.

Even though I avoid many interactions, I do take part in some. Every day I interact with my class. We discuss and debate pertinent topics. These interactions extend my point of view and enhance my learning experience.  Also, I interact with my professors about the subject we are learning. This interaction helps me learn more than I could have on my own. Along with these I interact with one other person. He was a successful businessman and a self-made millionaire. He is an Ivy League school graduate, he has his MBA, PHD and 50 years of business experience. Speaking with him is like having my own personal tutor and life coach. Interacting with him taught and teaches me things I would have never known without him.

Beyond the prison boundaries, I interact with other people. Friends, family, and acquaintances. Through phone, email, and letters, I reach out to people daily. This interaction forms a web of people who support and believe in me. This web of support does many things for me. It motivates me, guides me, and helps me toward my future aspirations.

Within prison and beyond, my actions and interactions are directly in line with my goals and aspirations.  Therefore, each and every one will help me become the person I want to be.

118. What types of activities, interests, and discussions motivate or inspire your closest acquaintances?

The limited acquaintances that I have in prison are motivated by the same types of things that I am. Otherwise they wouldn’t be acquaintances of mine.

The acquaintance that I have from my college courses, are motivated by the strive for education and self-improvement. This mutual motivation is what drew us to these courses.

The only other acquaintance is still — even at the age of 72–is still motivated and inspired by education, business and self-improvement. The inspirations and motives of my acquaintances are the same as the ones I possess. This commonality between us helps us stay motivated.

119. In what ways will the relationships you cultivate help or hinder your aspirations?

I know that the relationships that I create and cultivate, with the right people, can prove to be helpful in the future. But just as the right relationships with the right people can be helpful, the wrong relationships with the wrong people can be a great impedance.

Human beings are interdependent. Everyone relies on someone else on some level. Therefore, essentially the more relationships one has the more capable they are. This doesn’t mean just forming relationships with anyone. One must choose wisely who they want to associate with.

Everyone person inevitable becomes who they associate themselves with. That is a fact of human nature. If a person spends enough time with someone else, they will start acting like them. Therefore one must choose to associate themselves with people who will help them better themselves. Otherwise, that goal will not be attained, and the relationship will not be beneficial.

Ten relationships with the wrong people aren’t worth one relationship with the right person. To often so much time is wasted spending time with people that are making us worse people. Taking us further away from the best that we can be. The right relationship can greatly advance one’s life, but the wrong one can steer it into a ditch.

120. If Red had a stable job with opportunities for growth, what do you suppose would have tempted him to revert to crime?

Although Red took a few steps in the right direction, he eventually became errant. This is because Red didn’t seem to be prepared for the life that awaited him upon release.

If I had to guess why Red did what he did, I would guess that Red became annoyed by the fact that earning a living wasn’t as easy as he once knew it. Red lacked the discipline necessary, and thus reverted the attaining instant gratification. Red lived his prison life indulging in pleasurable activities. He thrived on instant gratification. He didn’t know how to plan and work toward the future, and glean. So when Red was released, it was like being thrown into an ice bath. Yes he staggered and made a few right steps in the right direction, but eventually he failed and reverted back to the life he knew in prison.

I can’t speak for Red. I don’t even know him. Red fits a very general stereotype of prison. I know people just like Red. People who thrive on pleasurable frivolity and indulgence. Unfortunately, I expect the people that I know to also return to prison.

Although Red may have been on the right street, he was at the wrong house. He didn’t build the skill necessary to overcome the shock of release. Therefore, as most do, he returned.

121. In what ways could a prisoner manage his life to persuade prospective employers that he lives by different values from men like Red?

A prisoner would be prudent to live in complete contrast of the life that Red lived. Taking Red as the quintessential example of the stereotypical prisoner, a prisoner should not only live a life opposite to his, but should also prove it.

Society doesn’t have a clue about what happens in prison. They glean bits and pieces over 100 years, and assemble some sort of piecemeal, general, perception. A prisoner must constantly fight this mixed perception.

Most of society believes that everyone in prison is like Red. They would be astounded to know that people actually went to college. The only way to change this perception, is to offer proof to the contrary.

The greatest form of proof that I use, is the Straight A Guide. Writing responses to various of questions on an array of topics, evinces my life to everyone and anyone. I remove the shroud of prejudice and show the people who read that I am not like Red. The Straight A Guide offers proof that I didn’t waste my time here. Without even considering the content, the sheer comprehensiveness of the guide show discipline and endless other characteristics. Anyone who answers 300 questions of introspection, has something to be proud of.

It is a harsh reality that in order to survive in the outside world; a prisoner my prove themselves different from an assumed prejudice.

122. How does an individual’s diction influence perceptions?

Dale Carnegie–who I consider to be the master of diction– stated in a few of his books, that people are judged by three ways: How we look, what we do, and how we speak. He continues to elaborate on this point with this story. There was a man who was dirty, dowdy, and showed all of the signs of a person who was down on their luck. He was standing on the steps of the biggest bank in the country. He was waiting to speak with the CEO about a job. At first glance the CEO barely wanted to talk with this man on his bank’s steps, but he allowed this man an interview–half out of pity and half to get him off of the steps. An hour later, the squalid man walks out of the bank with a high level job. Why? Because even though the man’s appearance wasn’t up to par, he was such an eloquent speaker and he possessed great diction. Therefore he was able to explain himself, and get, not just a job, but a great job. This short anecdote shows the power of diction. It shows that diction is more important than appearance and position.

I believe that people are judge by the way they speak. You can tell a lot about a person by just the words they use and the inflection of their voice. You can discern where someone is from, their education level, background, etc. Poor diction forces a perception of low class, low education, low sophistication and character. Good diction shows the opposite.

Just as the man in the story, great diction and eloquence can make a tremendous difference in one’s life.

123. How does an individual’s personal grooming and presentation influence opportunities?

As expressed in the previous response, Dale Carnegie states that people are judged by three things: How they look, what they do, and how they speak. I believe that a person’s appearance is second in importance out of these three characteristics.

Some people say that a first impression is made within the first seven second of meeting. There isn’t much that can be said in seven seconds. Therefore, this impression is made based on one’s appearance. Some may say that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I say you probably shouldn’t judge it but you can make a good guess as to what type of book it is.  You can tell the topic of the book, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, if it is new or old, maybe even where it has been. Likewise, I believe someone shouldn’t judge people based solely on appearance, but they can make a good guess as to what type of person they are, based on their façade.

Another maxim is: Looks can be deceiving. I believe that that is true, but it works both ways. Some ne can be the biggest idiot in the world, but if he dresses up, is clean cut and well kept, he will be taken more seriously than a genius dressed in rags with disheveled hair and a slovenly kept beard. They can be lined up side by side, then a group of 10 or 100 people could be asked which one is smarter, and more successful. I bet 100% of people will pick the man that is well kept and groomed.

In today’s society, more than ever, people are very quick to judge and assume. Dale Carnegie expressed this back in 1930’s; the situation has only gotten worse. If it is true that a first impression is made in seven seconds there isn’t much time to talk in that short time. Also, if it is true that you can still tell a lot about a book’s cover, and if looks are truly deceiving, no matter which way you look at it, then I am convinced that appearance and personal grooming are very important in one’s life.

124. With regard to the attitude attribute of the Straight-A Guide, what does it mean to make a 100 percent commitment?

100% commitment is more than just words. It is a lifestyle. It means living each and every day chasing whatever it is one is committed to. 100% is absolute; there is no margin for error. That means working toward the goal, seven out of seven days of the week, not five out of the seven, that would only 70% commitment. 100% is 25/7/365.

For me, the goal is success. Therefore with my 100% commitment to that goal, I work 100% of the time here chasing that goal. This level of commitment keeps me focused and impedes anything from getting in the way.

125. How would you assess your acquaintances with regard to the attitude attribute of the Straight-A Guide?

I assess future acquaintances by asking myself a pivotal question. Does this person have the same commitment to success? Do they have the same interests? By answering these questions I can make a competent decision.

Everyone on some level is committed to something, whether it is friends, family, or simply watching a TV series, everyone is committed to something. Therefore if I don’t possess the same type of commitment as someone else. Why would I spend time with them. Doing this will only lead down a path that I don’t want to go down. Spending time with someone with the same type of commitment will help me work in tandem with that person ultimately reaching the ultimate goal.

by Colin Walsh

Blog: May 17, 2012

Yesterday, as I was sitting in my cube studying, a bald headed man came storming in proclaiming. “Yo, guess what. I took the pre GED test and the teacher told me, in front of the entire class, that the essay I wrote was the best in the class.” I wasn’t surprised. This man’s name is David.

David approached me a few months ago and asked me, “Hey I hear your pretty good at writing. Can you help me write my GED essay?” Without hesitation, I said sure, meet me here tomorrow at noon. Tomorrow came and noon passed, he didn’t show. I hunted him down and asked, “David, what happened?” He told me he was playing ping pong. I told him, “Listen, if you want to pass this essay, you have to practice, not play ping pong. I gave him another chance.

The next day David showed up pen and paper in hand. I wanted to see where we were starting from so I gave him a prompt and let him write. Almost two hours later David was finished with a single page, three paragraph essay. The thesis was non- existent, the points weren’t pertinent, the supporting paragraphs were in-coherent. Spelling and grammr errors were vast and plentiful, and the conclusion ran on and on. I told David, “I don’t want to be mean, but you have a lot of work to do, you are going to have to practice every day.”  I could see the disappointment in his face. David left with his essay that had more red ink than blue.

The next day David didn’t show up, nor the next. I assumed David gave up. But months later, David approached me again. He said “Listen, I have the pre test coming up in a month, I need to practice, I am serious now.” I explained that he would have to practice every day. He agreed. We started to practice again, I gave him another prompt to write. Two hours later he finished. His writing didn’t improve. I took my red pen and critiqued every trivial mistake. Again he was discouraged. I looked him in his eyes and said,” David, no one ever became the best at something without practice.” I know David likes street bikes, so I asked him, “When you first got on a bike, were you good at it?” He said, “No.” I asked, “Then after months of practice you were doing wheelies, going 100 mpg right?” He smiles and said, “yeah.” So I asked,”What is the difference?” He didn’t answer but I could tell he got it. I said,” Here take this and rewrite this, correct the errors and bring it back to me.” The next day he brought it back, it was better but not good. We discussed it sentence by sentence, word by word, I explained everything to him. After that I gave him another prompt. He wrote another essay, I critiqued it, and told him to correct it. Next day, he brought it back corrected, and we discussed it. Day after day we completed this process. And slowly his writing improved. Then the day of the test game. He went in with confidence and wrote the best essay in the class.

I didn’t write this story to brag. I wrote it to show on a very small scale what a prisoner can accomplish with a little effort. David wasn’t any different than anyone else in the class. If anything, he was further behind. But with a little effort and against the odds he became the best of his peers.

David was very proud. He told twenty other people after me. It feels good to be the best at something, and he earned the right to brag.

by Colin Walsh

97. Describe your thoughts on whether accountability logs would help, hinder, or provide indifferent to your opportunities for success upon release.

I don’t only believe accountability logs will help, I know they will.

Prison is a dark, mysterious, and hidden place. Where all prisoners are hidden behind a think black curtain. This curtain hides to everyone and anyone the truth of prison. Therefore society is left to assume that prison and all prisoners are like the ones they see on TV. This isn’t true, and the only way to prove that it isn’t is through documentation. The only way for a prisoner to prove that they are different is through detailed logs showing the truth.

Accountability logs prove a small hole in the black curtain that obfuscates prison.  This hole provides society with a new perspective and concrete evidence that a prisoner is different than what is expected.

98. In what ways will probation officers respond to efforts you’ve made at documenting your values, goals, and commitment to preparing for a law-abiding life upon release?

Unfortunately, I’ve met and dealt with many types of probation officers over time. Juvenile, county, state, and federal. Over time, I have built some level of trust with all of them. But I didn’t create this trust overnight without any effort. I had to overcome a great deal of bias. I believe having accountability logs can significantly expedite that trust building progress.

Every probation officer that I have met, always will initially begin with some kind of questionnaire. A lot of the questions that they ask are contained in the Straight-A -Guide. The questions may not be exactly the same but they do always ask about goals, values, accountability, life skills, etc. Probation officers ask these questions to assure themselves whether or not this person can sustain a law abiding life. Based on that they decide how extensively they need to monitor this person. If one—through the Straight A Guide—could show their probation officer that they will be able to sustain a law abiding life. I believe this will enhance trust and ease pressure on this person.

I’ll never forget the first time the probation officer came to my house. He parked an entire block away from my house to try and sneak up on me. Then he came to my door wearing a bullet proof vest with his right hand gripped on his side arm. He made me lock my friendly Rottweiler in the other room. He would address me as Mr. Walsh and showed no sign of any expression. Then months later he would drive up to the front door of my house, driving his personal car, no bullet proof vest or his gun, he became friendly with my dog and began to address me by my first name. This level of comfort took time but I believe leaving prison with proof –through accountability logs—will greatly speed this process.

Through my experience with probation officers, I know their tendencies. I know what they like to see and what they don’t like to see. I know one thing that they do like to see is effort. I believe showing them one’s accomplishments in prison will greatly enhance one’s standing with them.

99. Elaborate on ways that full transparency with regard to your prison adjustment through accountability logs can influence potential employers or support networks.

Providing full transparency through accountability logs, provides society a clear window to look directly into one’s life. This window, for a prisoner, gives society an entirely new perspective.

As for me, I believe accountability logs provide tangible evidence that refutes society’s predetermined prejudice. They provide proof and documentation of accomplishments. And clearly show my journey along the way. I believe I know what society will expect from me as a “felon.” Therefore, I must prove that I am better than what they expect. One can say they are different but without some sort of documented proof, their life is still a mystery. Accountability logs solve that mystery and offer documented proof, for society, to see one’s accomplishments and prove them better.

100. Describe the role accountability logs played in their success:

I believe that accountability logs are imperative to success. These logs serve us the gauges of one’s life. Without these gauges, one cannot tell how fast or slow they are going, how far they went, how far they have left to go, or what direction they are headed. Without accountability logs, one cannot see where they are going or where they are coming from. Therefore, in order to have success one must need some form of accountability log.

101. How do universities evaluate which students to admit?

Based on my understanding all universities use some form of accountability log to evaluate potential students.

Whether it is one’s high school transcripts, SAT, ACT scores, honors and accolades, sport awards, letters of recommendation, community service, a glance at one’s social media profile, or any other record. Universities rely heavily on these types of accountability to try and gauge a person’s character.

These logs help the college discern an applicant’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Then ultimately accept or decline the application based on this information.

102. What information do creditors consider when deliberating on whether to extend loans?

Creditors of any type search for some type of credibility. They want to decrease their risk of losing money and want to be assured that there is a good chance of being paid back.

Creditors usually find this credibility through accountability logs. These logs include credit reports, payment history, various ratios, and any other history they can find.

All of these logs provide proof to creditors of one’s character. A bank will rarely extend a loan based on someone’s word. They need documented proof—through accountability logs—which proves one’s integrity and character.

103. What governs investment decisions that people make?

Any decent investor relies heavily on accountability logs. Investing in general is taking a bet on the future. An investor is always trying to guess what will happen in the future.  Since one cannot predict the future, they must rely on the past logs in order to make an intelligent investment decision.

In investing there are various types of accountability logs. Publications such as Investor’s Business Daily and The Wall Street Journal publish thousands of accountability logs daily. There are also company financials which one can use to find various ratios. Also publically traded companies must file quarterly “accountability logs.”

The list of accountability logs available to investors is vast.

Good investors then use these logs to create their own logs then use these to make investing decisions. 
As I write this now, a man is sitting next to me. He is here every day for hours reading the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily, reading the accountability logs, taking notes, making his own logs to help his investment decisions.

Investors aren’t fortune tellers, although some may seem to be. They study the logs and find trends. These trends govern their investing decisions.

104. How do your responses to the above questions support or refute the value of accountability logs?

The previous four questions prove the necessity for accountability logs. It proves they are imperative in the making of intelligent decisions. 
Personal accountability logs give documented proof. This proof provides anyone with the necessary information on that person to aid in the making of a decision.

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