Colin Walsh/ Class 8: Relationship Training

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.

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