Oliver Johnson/ Class 3: Accountability

by Oliver Johnson

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

They will definitely help, but first allow me to tap into your imagination for this one.

Start.  Imagine one, like many prisoners, owns a high mileage “car” (ourselves), which maintaining in excellent condition is not a priority.  This individual gets a final interview for a position of a lifetime.  The job prospect is located several miles away.  So smartly, the plan is to leave early to better the chance of success.  Unfortunately, en route the car’s speedometer malfunctions.  Guessing the car’s speed becomes the only way to gauge progress and “Oh No!,” says the driver, before being pulled over for speeding.  The job applicant is late for the interview and of course, not offered the job.  Stop.

Okay, now let’s rewind the above scenario.  Start.  Now imagine one owns a dependable “car”, like MGSF Straight-A-Guide participants, one with a navigation system he relies on.  This individual gets a final interview for a position of a lifetime.  For his interview, he prepares dutifully and leaves home early as planned.  The employer is impressed and immediately offers the applicant their dream job.  Life is good.  Stop.

The way I see it, if used by prisoners traveling the road to success, accountability logs are analogous to having a dependable car with a navigation system.  Like other Straight-A-Guide participants I imagine, I am thankful I discovered Michael’s’ system and am now reaping the benefits of holding myself, and appealing to others to hold me, accountable.  With our logs, I believe we are better situated to reach our destinations of becoming law-abiding, productive members of society, as well as the kind of sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, and even for some of us grandfathers, our families, support network, potential employers, and society as a whole hope we will become.

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?

Since I am documenting my values, goals and level of commitment to them, I hope to position myself able to demonstrate to any probation officer that not only have I set high expectations, but I also began paving my road to redemption well before my anticipated release date.  For example, I plan to invite my probation officer to review my MGSF profile and even ask him or her for feedback on whether I am achieving the goals I have set forth herein in their opinion.

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

Before discovering the MGSF Straight-A-Guide program, I admit I had yet to conceive of a methodical solution on how to actually prepare for reentry to society, although this was naturally a troubling concern of mine.  One of the most challenging aspects of this question for me was finding a manner, in which I was comfortable, to communicate my personal history, criminal record especially, to potential employers and my support network.

With such thoughts bottled up inside me, often flooding my conscious with shame, doubt and pity during the early part of my imprisonment, I never imagined that the it would be through the power of full transparency that I would gain peace and the sense of being free while imprisoned, stealing away my fears and relieving me of all negative thoughts of who I am.  Now here I am, standing on the shoulders of Michael Santos and Justin Paperny, inviting the world to embrace me, faults and all, and to hopefully one day support my quest for redemption.  Lastly, but certainly not least important, I too believe full transparency benefits not only me, but potential employers and my support group as well, as I feel they deserve a thorough explanation from me of who am I and who do I intend to be, especially coming from a prisoner who seeks their confidence.

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

In Michael’s book, Triumph!, the success stories of three men were chronicled, whose achievements I found most inspiring.  Namely, the lives of Lee Nobmann, the CEO  of a lumber company, Brad Fulmer, a professional baseball player and Justin Paperny, an executive director of a non-profit foundation were revealed.  For each of these men, all from diverse fields of endeavor, accountability logs played a vital role in their success.  As utilized, such tools enabled Mr. Nobmann to grow a privately-held company he managed into a business generating billions of dollars in revenue, allowed Mr. Fulmer to measure and improve his performance over time as a pro baseball player via gauging his performance on the field statistically and are what Mr. Paperny credited as the tools he uses to measure not only his success as a foundation director but also the success of those, like myself, who participate in the MGSF Straight-A-Guide program under his direction.  Accountability logs, for these men, were a precise tool and method for tracking progress.

101. How do universities evaluate which students to admit?

Universities rely on several accountability factors when deciding which applicants will be offered admission. Some very important factors considered include standardized test scores, the rigor of one’s secondary school record, character/personal qualities, extracurricular activities, and the level of an applicant’s interest in attending the particular university.  Other factors considered include class rank, academic GPA, recommendation(s), alumni/ae relations, interview, talent/ability, volunteer work and work experience.  For transfer admission for those who’ve previously attended another university, factors such as one’s college transcript, an essay or personal statement, statement of good standing from one’s prior institution (normally requiring a minimum GPA of 2.0 with only A-C grades being transferable) are factors relevant to a university’s admission decisions for transfer students.  Such accountability factors are essential for universities to be able to select highly talented and diverse student bodies for admission.

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

Accountability logs to creditors, better known as “credit reports,” are the backbone of the credit industry as such reflect an individual’s or company’s “credit rating.”  A credit rating establishes the extent to which a person or business can buy on credit or borrow money.  Factors that contribute to a credit rating include one’s income, financial reliability, and records of previous credit transactions.  Organizations called “credit bureaus” compile credit ratings, in essence accountability logs, and provide this information to stores, business firms, and lending institutions which rely on them to determine whether or not to extend credit to its customers.

103. What governs investment decisions that people make?

Before making an investment, people must first decide what type of investment to make, as there are two main kinds:  (1) direct investments and (2)  indirect investments.  Direct investments involve investing in a business or real estate.  Indirect investments involve putting money in savings accounts or buying stocks or bonds.. However, regardless of the kind of investment, investment decisions should never, ever, be made on a whim, like the thrill from being entertained by a TV commercial convinced that even a talking baby is smart enough to make wise investment decisions.  Smart investors rely on accountability tools, not feelings.  Egos and emotions are the enemy of an investor and when applied to investment decisions have resulted in the loss of substantial sums of money for many, and regrettably, entire life savings for others.  To become a successful investor, one must be disciplined, able to identify patterns, while studying both how financial markets work and have performed historically.  As well, one should master applying either a fundamental or technical analysis, or both, to their decision-making process before risking the loss of hard-earned money.  Relevant articles and charts (indicators) are available to anyone interested in investing, which provide key facts and hints about any investment worth considering.  The Securities Exchange Commission’s website (SEC.gov) is a good start for anyone interested in investing.

Today, while answering this question, I happily discovered “IBD’s 20 Rules For Your Investment Success.”  I’m so thrilled about my find as these rules are consistent with what Michael teaches.   So I thought, “why not end my answer with Rule 20?”  Here goes:  “Do a post-analysis of all our buys and sells.  Post on charts where you bought and sold.  Evaluate and develop rules to correct your major mistakes.  It’s what you learn after you think you know what you’re doing that’s vital.  That’s shown to improve your results.” – Investors Business Daily (August 7, 2012)

One more thing.  To me, as Michael finally embraces freedom this month after 26 years of imprisonment, his proven track record of holding himself ACCOUNTABLE evidences the value of accountability logs as the great equalizer for prisoners who strive to overcome the harsh reality of a prison sentence designed to crush the self-worth and inspiration of one’s human spirit.

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

My responses to the above questions support the value of accountability logs.   Accountability, in my opinion, is the cornerstone of success in every aspect of life, from business to sports to social impact projects to education, as my responses above reveal.  Since prisoners are most often stereotyped by society as incapable of impacting the world in a positive way and the prison industrial complex, as it exist today, treats all prisoners as threats to public safety (even non-violent offenders) thereby restricting the extent to which we can improve our lot in life, accountability logs are our best weapon to “beat the system,” so to say.  They allow the prisoner to memorialize his or her rehabilitative steps.  They empower prisoners to become visionaries, to focus on definite goals, to record daily completed tasks in furtherance thereof and to build a support network of family, friends and potential employers who share a common bond of dedication to the prisoner’s universal right to redemption.  As having benefited Michael and the others mentioned above, I am convinced that all prisoners who use accountability logs will too succeed.

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