Monday, March 7, 2011
I am excited to get back to work after a weekend of relaxing. I will admit there is not much time to relax while working as executive director of The Michael G. Santos Foundation. I’m also managing my speaking and consulting career. I’m busy, but love it. I wake daily with a drive, a passion to improve. My mind is constantly challenged, and perhaps, more importantly, I am enjoying the process, the struggle of trying to become a better, more complete man. It is not easy, but nothing that I have achieved in life has been easy. It has only been a result of years of deliberate practice. That deliberateness, I think, helps ensure I life a balanced life. Hence, my taking most of the weekend off.
So what did I do? Besides attending a non-profit class at LMU, I played 9 holes of golf (for the first time since November); I hiked with a friend; and I caught up on my running. I logged nearly 28 miles from Friday to Sunday—compared to my time at Taft Camp my pace is 11 minutes slower for a 10 mile run. That sucks.
While relaxing, I stumbled across an interesting article from Maxim Magazine. Of course, I have to write about it! The article described an individual who served time at Taft Federal Prison Camp (my home for 388 days) for a fraud conviction. While he was confined, he befriended another man convicted of computer hacking. Soon after their release, the two launched a new criminal enterprise involving cyber crime.
The two men brought their problems upon themselves. Nevertheless, I see a lesson in their story from which others may learn. It’s not the type of lesson that others don’t already know. But it’s one we need to reflect on at times. Namely: an individual must be careful with whom he associates. That lesson is especially true when the atmosphere is a federal prison.
I have devoted a considerable amount of time in my career providing guidance to others. When they approach me, they frequently are at the lowest points in their lives. They’ve suffered through the ringers of the criminal justice system and feel vulnerable about entering into an environment they don’t know much about. It can be traumatic.
One piece of advice I like to provide, however, is that surviving the ordeal requires a perspective. It’s easy to lose a sense of self when a man is serving a federal prison system. He must prepare himself for a systematic dehumanization. If he can push through his sentence without yielding to the influences of the atmosphere—understanding that it’s his responsibility to pursue activities and relationships that build character and strength—he has a better chance of emerging with balance. It is that lack of balance that keeps the problems flowing.
Prison is very much a microcosm of the world. An individual may fall under bad influences easily because while in prison he lives kind of immersed inside an environment with people who embrace a kind of twisted value system.
My advice is quite simple. Individuals who move through the prison system with a 100 percent commitment to emerge stronger than when they went in may do so. They simply must exercise discipline. They find a strategy that will, to the extent that it is followed, deliver results. Then they must make incremental steps toward success. It’s crucial to have accountability tools and to use them every day. The strategy isn’t anything I can take credit for having developed. It’s the same strategy that leads to success in any venture. In prison, however, following such a plan is especially important.
As I wrote in my books Ethics in Motion and Lessons From Prison, it’s a pattern I’ve followed. It made all the difference in preparing me to emerge stronger than when I went in. If you’re facing struggles with the criminal justice system, contact me. I know the system inside and out and I can help.