Colin Walsh/ Class 4: Life Management Skills

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.

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