Awareness requires us to live in the world as it exists rather than as we want it to be. In order to succeed, we must always know where we stand. Then, we must make decisions that will lead us toward what we aspire to become. Through that deliberate process, we make others aware of our commitment. Those people become vested in our commitment, helping us along the way.
There is an old saying we attribute to President Abraham Lincoln. The former US president said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.
That message tells us the importance of preparation.
Regardless of how strong a person may be, if he doesn’t grind his ax, he will not succeed in chopping down the tree.
We have to prepare if we want to succeed. And our preparations will change at different stages of the journey. The early preparations should put us on a pathway to new opportunities and higher levels of success.
When I started serving in 1987, I knew I wanted to emerge successfully. The preparations along the way would change as the years passed.
For example, during the first decade, I focused on developing my academic credentials. I believed that by earning university degrees and publishing papers, I would have an easier time bringing new people into my life. I hoped to bring societal leaders into my life, people who could help me open new opportunities.
I had to think about what type of people would most likely support a person in prison. I like to use the analogy of being the CEO of my life. As the CEO, I would need a Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors I chose would be in a position to help me succeed. It would be my responsibility to provide the board with tools and resources they could use to open such opportunities.
I had to be intentional about the people I would invite to be a part of my Board. I anticipated that people from academia might be more willing to become a part of my life than others.
In the first decade, I nurtured relationships with leading academics while working to earn my university degrees. If I found a professor that wrote about prison, I reached out, offering to provide the scholars with insight. By giving them value that might contribute to their erudition, I hoped to build a reciprocal relationship.
Such efforts opened friendships with some of America’s leading penologists. They would visit me in prison. They would advocate for me when I had to overcome challenges with prison officials. That strategy served me well during the first decade.
During the second decade of my confinement, my focus changed.
Administrators blocked access to a doctoral program that I had begun at the University of Connecticut. Since administrators prevented me from earning a doctorate, I transitioned to preparing for other challenges I would face upon release.
I began writing for publication. Then I started building businesses that would lead to financial resources.
The more resources I developed, the stronger I became.
Opportunities opened during the third decade that would not have opened had I not engineered a strategy during the first months and years of captivity.
We’ve got to stay aware of opportunities to create and seize. That strategy will make others aware of our commitment to excellence and accelerate new growth opportunities.
- What perception would a stranger have of you today?
- What seeds are you sowing to influence how others perceive you?
- What opportunities exist for you to influence prospects for your success?
- How are you assessing the value of the activities you’re pursuing today?
- In what ways will the decisions you made last week influence the leaders who come into your life?
Word of the day: erudition / Define erudition:
Use erudition in a sentence: