Shawn Piper/ Class 5: Self-Improvement Training

by Shawn-Piper

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

By surrounding yourself with like-minded people, let those around you that may be able to help you, see your effort and determination to succeed. Take advantage of any knowledge you can obtain that will be beneficial. Build a relationship with those who you see being where you want to go.

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

Too much idle time leads to an idle mind, which can turn into the devil’s playground. You must always have some “you time” to relax and unwind, but it’s how you do these two that counts.

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

I wake up and pray before I get on my knees to pray again. I’m out the door at 5:45am to workout. Then my day is filled mostly with growth in my physical, spiritual, mental and financial knowledge. I take time to study, read, and be mentored in some, or all, of the four areas I mentioned above. I also go out after lunch and train two other inmates, while helping another rehab his shoulder. I spend time doing these things to be able and better assist others upon my release. The guys I help approach me due to the fact they see my work ethic and like it.

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?

It was Sunday, my day off from working out, so I slept in till 8:30am, woke and prayed. Then I went and answered a couple of questions in this book. I then cleaned my cube. I watched about 30 minutes of football before lunch count. After lunch I called my grandma, which I have done every Sunday since I’ve been imprisoned (except for when I was lockdown at my previous place of imprisonment). I then proceeded to cut onions for the weekend meal that my workout partner and I do every Sunday.

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

Exercise, school, building a good rapport, with successful men that have knowledge and possibly an opportunity to assist me in my future endeavors. Spending time with financial mentor or other like-minded people such as myself that are preparing for re-entry into society.

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

Hanging in the tv room all of the time, playing board games, worried about the next man and what he’s doing. Worrying about the outside world. Letting the COs or staff get to you with their ever-changing rules and ways of abusing their power.

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

It depends on the prison, they are cutting a lot of the programs that were available. Here at Taft they started a CDL program that’s only available for those with 18 months or less to serve. They have college courses, but the costs can be too high for a lot of people, depending on your resources and support. The opportunity I’ve run into is networking, obtaining knowledge from those that you are around, and trying to build relationships with me that may be willing to give you leads to opportunities in the outside world.

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

I occupy my time mostly with positive activities. I’m in the quiet room most of the time, so my exposure to risky activities is minimal.

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

By being seen as one that wakes early to work out, then studies two to three times a day, even on weekends, going out to train two or three others after lunch – people are attracting to you and are willing to help you. Now it is also good for you to start working on a good work practice. I am focused, determined and disciplined. I can continue to position myself to obtain the things I aspire to be and have. It’s not going to be easy in society. You won’t be able to play cards all day, so it’s best to start a good work habit now, than to wait until it’s too late.

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

I have a routine that I follow for the most part that has kept me good so far. I speak to most everyone, no matter what race, age or crime. I give everyone a fair shake and let all know where I stand and it’s clear for everyone to see what I want to accomplish. I deal with those who can better me and not bring me down. By knowing my weaknesses and threats to my freedom, helps me to stay clear of danger. I strive to better myself in all areas of my life.

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

My weakness was being too trustworthy to people and in doing what I did, that wasn’t good, but that’s a thing of the past. The threats fall into the same category, people taking my kindness for weakness, and feel that I’m soft, but that’s overwith too. I am no longer worried because I’m more open and the way I walk now only attracts like-minded people. Also, those who may want to harm me stay far away because of the aura I emit.

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

I can use my strengths to empower my weakness and take them away. I can know when opportunities are available and be prepared to take full advantage of them. By using my strengths to overpower and eliminate my weaknesses, while being ready to take full advantage of any opportunities that come my way, I will be able to detect threats before it is too late.

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

Mental, physical, spiritual and financial enrichment. Obtain all the knowledge you can in these areas and apply them to your every day life while in prison. Education, making plans for your re-entry into society. Self time or meditation.

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

Self-gratification, such as smoking, gambling, hustling, bullying, or anything that can get you put in the SHU, or transferred to a higher level institution.

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

Hanging out in the game room or tv room all day, not thinking or preparing for life after release. Even though you’re out of the way, you’ll end up in your own way.

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

Fast money schemes, up in everybody’s business, doing this will make other prisoners or staff mad, or maybe even both. Trying to be seen or heard all of the time.

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

Like I said, I have a routine that is rarely, if ever, broken. I apy great attention to my surroundings and the people in them. I strive to position myself to be great when I’m released. Here and now I’m going to always make myself available for good things to happen to me. Being ready for opportunities when they present themselves and showing my self worth is very important. I have little to nothing waiting for me upon release, so failure for me is definitely not an option. I know humility now so if I have to start at the bottom, that’s what I will have to do, but I will not stay there.

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

I’m a firm believer in A.A. and A.A. is a program for positive change. I’ve taken a 15 hour drug abuse program twice, because that’s one of the things I would like to help others with when I get out. There’s criminal and addictive thinking and relapse prevention – thoe are just a couple of the things I have done. There’s a whole lot more. I feel anything that is going to benefit your chances for success upon release, you should focus on. You have to take advantage of any program that will make you a better person than what you were before your imprisonment.

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

I’ve given a whole lot of thought and from what I’ve been doing to better understand myself with all of the pysche classes at the last institution. The courses that I have taken and am currently involved in here will allow me to offer my services to many people. I focus on learning and applying spiritual, physical, mental (drug abuse) and financial principles to my everyday life. Now think about these four things. I personally feel people will always need consulting or counseling in these areas. If not, even when cars start flying, they will need to be cleaned, and I still have the auto detailing to fall back on.

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

I’ve learned anything that you have vast knowledge of, you can consult in that area. But all you need are associate degrees and experience. If you offer a service and people see what you have and want it, they will pay you for it. I’m a people person and I aim to help others become better and live better so they can avoid prison and/or never return to it.

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

I think I’ve answered this in so many words in the last couple of questions. My goals, aspirations and life mission statement all tie together.

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

I have positioned myself to be the co-facilitator of the substance abuse program and/or chairman of the A.A. program here. The substance abuse courses that they offer here I’ve already taken prior to my arrival, but I’m taking them again to get a better understanding of myself and my addiction as well how addiction works in others.

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

It shows that the person had the drive and ambition to want a better education. It shows how that person made a commitment to come out a better person and have something to offer society. Knowledge is power.

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

It depends on what job you’re applying for. I think they gauge it high due to the drop out rates and how it can be to get education nowadays. And like I said in the last question: Knowledge is power.

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

Physical fitness, spirituality, emotional stability, recovery and relapse prevention, business planning, a better understanding of one’s self and how to better deal with those he encounters. Being able to overcome adverse situations.



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