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Michael Santos

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While climbing through challenging situations, we’ve got to keep our heads in the game and stay intentional. Opportunities might open. We need to pass if they don’t align with what matters most to us. We have to weigh the opportunity costs that accompany every decision. This article reveals how those thoughts helped me focus on the end game, even while crossing through decades in prison.

Many people spend time in prison gambling. The monotony pushes them into activities that might bring some short-lived excitement. 

To escape boredom, they immerse themselves in sports, card games, or other activities that ease the pain of confinement. 

But making things more relaxed while in prison isn’t always the best adjustment pattern. 

I listened to people that returned to prison after being released. One person, Red, approached the end of a 10-year sentence when I started serving my term. 

Red told me that the best way to serve time would be to forget about the world outside and focus on the easiest routine possible.

Since we lived on the same tier, I became familiar with Red’s simple routine. He worked in the prison factory sowing mailbags. After work, he played poker and drank hooch. 

Red told me that he started serving time in his early 20s and looked forward to getting out. 

Within 24 months of being released after serving a 10-year sentence, authorities charged Red with armed robbery. He returned to prison with a 20-year sentence. 

I asked Red what went wrong.

Red complained about the challenges he faced. No one would call him back, regardless of how many applications he put in for employment. The probation officer that supervised him, he said, kept harassing him because he didn’t have a job.

After several months, Red said he got a gun and set out to rob a bank. From his perspective, robbing a bank offered a viable option. He would get enough money to get his life together or return to prison. 

Living in prison felt easier for Red than trying to make it in society with a criminal record.

People with stories like Red’s story fill our nation’s prisons. The longer people stay in “corrections,” the more they get accustomed to the prison setting. People learn skills and adjustment patterns that don’t always prepare them for the challenges that will complicate their life upon release.

Many homeless shelters stand ready to welcome people after prison. If a person wants a better life after prison, the person should spend time preparing for the obstacles that will come.

To overcome the indignities of imprisonment, a person needs to develop critical thinking skills. We must weigh the opportunity costs of every decision. 

The more intentional we are, the stronger we will be in resisting activities that don’t relate to our success. 

In Red’s case, he was “intentional” about serving an easy time in prison. He made it harder to adjust to society by making it comfortable in prison. 

A person must define success.

If we measure success as an “easy” prison term, we’ll make decisions accordingly. If we want to prepare for the challenges that Red endured, we’ll pursue an adjustment strategy that strengthens our prospects for success upon release.

  • In what ways do the decisions you’re making today show that you’re intentional about pursuing success?
  • How can you build a more substantial record of accomplishments to show that you’re intentional?
  • In what ways would a strong record of being intentional influence prospective employers who may consider you a viable candidate?
  • How would an “intentional” adjustment pattern influence your prospects for success?
  • In what ways do national politics influence your preparations for success?

Word of the day: indignity / Define indignity:

Use indignity in a sentence:

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