Craig Payton/ Class 4: Life Management Skills

by Craig Payton

105. How would you define your life management skills?

I define life management skills as those tools which help one to achieve success in life.  How one defines success is crucial to it’s pursuit.  I suppose a foundational question then is “How do you define success?”.  Success can be very different from one person to the next.  A key element in experiencing success is to have key markers to show the way.  I believe understanding your core values allow you to understand what success truly means for you.  Setting and reaching goals in alignment with those core values will inform you whether you are moving towards the success you seek.  Therefore a key life management tool is doing the introspective work to determine those core values which inform your goals and aspirations.  Another important tool which is a subset of the above is to learn the skill of taking an aspiration and breaking it down into action steps and incremental goals which will lead you to the eventual achievement of that aspiration.  

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

In prison, as in any life situation, your everyday decisions determine your outcomes and achievement or lack thereof.  I can decide to watch television instead of reading something educational.  That can happen inside any 4 walls.  In prison, these types of decisions which will have the greatest impact on how you emerge from prison would be those that might lead you to risk sanctions, higher security levels and even lengthened sentence.  Beyond that relatively obvious point, one can decide to just sit around, watch TV, play games and have idle conversation.  These activities are benign enough but they do nothing to help your situation once you emerge from prison.

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

In order to be productive in the outside world, it is necessary to be disciplined whatever your pursuit may be you must spend focused time in doing it if you expect to achieve anything of value.  Even if you are an entrepreneur working for yourself, you still must adhere to a schedule to create progress on a regular basis.  Of course if you are an employee, it is important to adhere to the schedule determined by your employer.  Creating and adhering to a schedule in prison is relatively simple as it is provided.  Making achievements beyond getting 3 meals a day and “working” 5 hours a day (or in many cases much less) at a B.O.P make work job, is  possible only if you set standards and schedules for yourself.

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

Personal relationships can be very beneficial in our pursuit of success.  On the other hand, they may also serve as a distraction.  Relationships with those outside the prison system can help inspire us and lead us to new opportunities.  Also, personal relationship inside prison may also provide us with new perspectives and ideas.  It is important to view relationships clearly.  I believe it is also important to maintain a healthy approach to relationship.  If you focus overly much on your personal goals in all things it can be detrimental to your interpersonal skills.  I believe it is important not to look at every interaction with the idea of what benefit can be derived. Although it is necessary to filter who we interact with closely in prison it is important to remain open to all people to a certain extent.  I feel this is a fundamental aspect of interpersonal communication and relating which can be lost when taking on the “prison mindset”.  Therefore, I am aware of the value of gaining ideas and advice from those with relevant experience in the business and other fields of interest.  I also allow myself to just be with people and “hang out” and just be one of the guys.  This is an important part of life and opens you up to people.  It is important to develop the skill to interact with and even work with all types of people, even those you wouldn’t ordinarily consider.  This is very important in business when one is managing others and in general.  Not all people you may have to interact with on a daily basis will be those with whom you would choose to have relations.

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

By being aware of our environment we have the opportunity to see that many of our fellow prisoners may be less than constructive in our personal development.  On the other hand, I believe it is important to maintain awareness that there may be those with whom a mutually beneficial constructive relationship may be had.  Beyond this we must be aware that the most potentially beneficial connections are those which we may make with people outside of prison society. While it is possible to gain the benefit of knowledge and wisdom from a fellow inmate, generally they are much weaker position to help you on your own path to success outside of prison.

In order to cultivate personal relationships we must become aware of how to make such connections.  We must seize any opportunity to develop such relationships.  It is very important to gain the trust of those with whom you might form a relationship.  Being transparent is essential to this process.  Being clear about what you did to become incarcerated, especially your acknowledgement of personal responsibility and desire to now contribute positively to society are keys to overcoming the barriers between you and potential allies in the broader society.  I find it difficult to contemplate developing allies such as Michael has over his 25 years.  I have allowed the failures which have landed me here to create self-doubt.  This doubt perhaps contributes to my lack of confidence in finding allies for myself to assist in my re-integration to society in the approximately year and half I have left.  Finding a way to overcome this self-doubt is for me an important first step in reaching out further to ask for help, a second chance.

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?

Michael’s decisions at the beginning of his term provided him with direction.  He knew what he wanted to do and he immediately set about taking steps towards his goal.  Having well established values and automatically referring to them to inform every decision, every action you take keeps you moving in the direction of your goals.  Knowing what you are after allows you to expand your awareness and not to miss opportunities when they present themselves.  Taking action towards your goals prepares you to be ready and able to make the best opportunities which may arise.

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

Decisions I made since the time of my arrest have contributed inevitably to my current life situation.  I had 22 months between my initial arrest and release pre-trial and my eventual self-surrender.  There were many actions I did not make during that time which may have improved my situation and my family’s situation.  I did make choices and tried to prioritize that which was most important in my life but the biggest choice I made prior to my eventual self-surrender was not to take action, to accept defeat, disengagement and paralysis due to the overwhelming circumstances.  I did not take the good advice of my pre-trial supervisor to be as transparent as possible with friends and family until almost directly before my self-surrender.  I did not for the most part seek to strengthen or maintain the connections to friends and allies.

Since surrendering to prison I have seen more clearly.  I understand it is crucial not to give up and just let my time in prison pass without making the utmost of this time.  I immediately made the decision to take better care of myself physically.  I decided to walk, exercise and practice the various movement arts I am trained in, as are allowed.

I realized the importance of exercising my mind and began to read regularly.  From the moment I arrived in prison I was already determined to maintain steady contact with my family and I expected to enjoy regular visits and I was designated to be only an hour away from my residence.  This changed when I was inexplicably sent to Atwater after 3 weeks stay as Sheridan Detention Center while, I thought awaiting transfer to the camp.

These decisions arose without much prompting.  When I arrived at Atwater, I soon encountered Michael Santos and was led to read some of his books.  I soon realized that I could easily fall into a comfort zone of just trying to “get through” without doing anything with myself.  I realized I must do more, I must maintain a sense of urgency.  I must push myself to achieve.  I must seek out greater aspirations for myself.  I must more closely examine my core values and by doing so automatically I know what the best use of my time would be from moment to moment.

From that time to this, I have been striving to set and achieve goals.  I have improved in many areas.  Urgency and purpose accompany my every moment.  Understanding myself and reaching my aspirations are my job every day.  Determining how to improve myself, help my family and re-join with society in a beneficial way to all is my goal.  Maintaining this vision will continue to influence my life, as I move towards eventual freedom and success.

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

Answers to 112-114:  Triumph!  Is currently not available to me and I read is so many months ago I don’t recall what profiles are asked about here in this workbook.

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

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?

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?

As far as “law abiding”, I do not believe I have a need to take any steps to remain law abiding.  I argue the circumstances leading to my criminal activities are not repeatable.  I certainly would not seek to re-create those circumstance even were I to believe that was possible.  Although the financial motive exists for everyone, I know deeply that I would never gage in any criminal activity again.  I believe the step I have already taken to be crystal clear with myself what my values are provides me with automatic guidance not to take such foolish decisions in the future.

In order to lead a fulfilling life, I believe it is necessary to live with purpose, every day and every moment.  If you perceive that you have a purpose and you feel that you are moving forward and advancing that purpose every moment, every day, every year then you must be living a fulfilling life.

Less broadly there are steps I must take vocationally to lead a fulfilling life.  At the moment, I am working primarily to study inspiring and informative books while honing my writing skills and demonstrating my communication skills on the Straight A Guide.  I am every day remaining open to possibilities and opportunities while seeking to understand what more I can do to prepare myself.

116. In what ways are your interactions with others in prison and beyond purposeful?

Interacting with others in prison I realize the importance of my values daily.  I value real communication.  I do not value speaking negatively of others, prisoners or staff.  I values seeing other people in the best possible light.  I value being spontaneous in my interactions with others by seeking always to not label them, their behavior, attitude or demeanor.  By not being attached to a label about who they are, I seek to interact with anyone more authentically, recognizing them as a fellow human being on a journey similar to mine, trying to find their way through challenging and confusing times.  This is a purposeful way of being open to anyone’s possibility of integrity and authenticity in the moment in order to remove the limitations of labels and prejudices.  At the same time, I recognize that I make choices.  I do not seek out many social interactions but allow those that happen to arise without resistance.  I do intentionally cultivate relationship with a few fellow inmates with whom I’ve found some resonance, but I do not seek them out as solace or to escape from what I see as my greater responsibilities the work I have set for myself.  I consciously choose to socialize from time to time in a natural way, for to entirely avoid that would not be natural and thus not accordance with my values and nature as a human being.

My interactions beyond prison are purposeful in that I desire to first of all maintain my family and friendship connections to the best of my ability.  In addition I seek to make my activity known to others outside of prison that I may demonstrate my desire to be a productive member of society and also to demonstrate my value to any potential allies, partners or even employers in the future.

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

I aspire to live a valued based, purpose driven life.  Nowadays I see this aspiration not so much as changing but rather as a returning to who I have always been.  Circumstance and poor choices have obscured my true nature and taken me down twisting paths which concealed my ability to find my way back to a path with Heart.  Finding that path is still my aspiration.  Fleshing out that vision is my current task.  Through my interactions with others, I intend to show how I already am the person who I aspire to be.

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

In prison, my deepest conversations with acquaintances center around politics, economics and especially spirituality and alternative or complementary healing.  I only have a small handful of people with whom I go into such subjects to any degree.  During the course of the day, I could engage anyone in talk about sports.  I often read and write in the dormitory common area where the televisions are.  From time to time, I will engage with some or several people, just to be sociable but this is not really something I spend a lot of time thinking about.  Mostly the half dozen people I spend time with watch little or no television.  Therefore my closest acquaintances and I often talk about books we have read and related subject and often we exchange books between us.

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

As with any activity you can mention being in a relationship with another can be beneficial to you, mutually beneficial, or not beneficial to you.  Maintaining relationships is beneficial to my aspirations as I see the communication and connection with others are vital to leading a fulfilling life.

Prison relationships could be detrimental to my aspirations to the extent that I might allow them to distract from activities which I have set as a higher priority.  Being aware from moment to moment what my goals are and where I stand with regard to their achievement lets me know what I should do with my time.  Finally it is possible that relationship formed with certain individuals could lead to ongoing mutually beneficial friendships once out of prison.  I am open to that possibility, however I stay aware that to limit my circle of acquaintances to inmates is probably a bad result.  To cultivate relationships outside of prison while still incarcerated is potential much more beneficial though difficult.  Friends and people newly aware of me may help me make connections to further my goals down the road.  Also I simply want to maintain better connections with old friends because that’s what friends do.

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

I find it difficult to relate to Red as far as what would make him want to revert to the crime he committed.  I can only imagine if someone offered me a job directly out of prison how tremendously motivated I would be to do everything to prove worthy of the trust which had been extended.  Red must have been tremendously tempted by the prospect of easy money.  If he had a steady accounting of what was valuable to him constantly in his mind, perhaps he would not have made such a disastrous choice.

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 who wishes to persuade others of his values and integrity must demonstrate that others, e.g. prospective employers by his actions.  In the case of one currently incarcerated one should foremost stay out of trouble.  Next, one can strive to show what he is doing.  Say what you are doing and planning to do and show that you have followed though.  Although limited by ones environment there are always ways to demonstrate ones values.

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

The manner in which an individual is able to communicate is vitally important.  This applies not only to in person interactions but on the phone, video conference or email as well.  Having excellent pronunciation as well as a rich vocabulary indicate intelligence and education to others.  How one speaks and presents oneself are strong indicators of how one things and functions mentally.  Unfortunately, it is not always true that a strong regional accent or use of idiomatic expressions are indicators of lack of intelligence, but I believe many people are negatively received and perhaps judged according to these speech markers.

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

People are visual animals.  If something in a person’s appearance is aesthetically unpleasant, people will in general not respond as well, whether conscious of it or not.  Also taking the effort to present oneself at their best is a way of demonstrating respect for others in addition to respect for oneself.

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

100% commitment to the proper attitude means that you know your aspirations and values and goals and you intend to continue to move step by step towards those goals according to your principled purposeful approach, letting nothing deter you from carrying on.

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

I believe the majority of my acquaintances demonstrate excellent attitude.  They all have different situations but they all seem very clear on their goals and values.  As far as I can determine, they are all working to make the best of their time and pursue their own varied aspirations while preparing for release.  One friend is writing songs and has completed 3 books over 40 songs.  Another friend is preparing to go home to his wife and counsels her daily on the preparations necessary.  He will be on social security when he returns to his home, therefore his aspirations and goals are quite different.

Another friend also plans to return to a semi-retired life but he spends many hours every week studying economics and business to stay connected to what is happening in the world.  I rate my acquaintances highly for proper attitude.  Generally, if they don’t demonstrate a positive attitude and purposefulness, I am not excited to spend any time interacting with them.

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