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Michael Santos

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Reading Benjamin Franklin’s Almanac inspired me. He quoted a proverb: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the message was lost. For want of a message, the battle was lost. For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” Reading that quote helped me appreciate time’s significance and the peril of procrastination.

On my first day in prison, I went to the library. If everything stayed the same, decades would pass before my release. I hoped for a change. But hope wouldn’t be a good strategy. I needed to begin planting seeds for a better and more productive life.

I found a book in the library that offered information about colleges and universities. I graduated from high school, earning a less-than-mediocre C- average. Between my 1982 graduation and my arrest in 1987, I hadn’t read a single book.

Wanting to earn educational credentials, I began writing to colleges and universities. Those letters explained my quandary. Despite being an undisciplined student in high school, my criminal conviction, and decades to serve, I didn’t have any money. 

Still, wanting to earn a university degree. I asked for help.

When asking for support, we should strive to prove worthy of the help we want to receive. The letters to colleges and universities expressed my hopes of being able to study toward a degree. 

Many colleges ignored the letters I sent, or perhaps they didn’t reach the right person. Some people wrote back and told me that I could not study without funding. But Ohio University, and Mercer University, allowed me to begin a program that would lead to my first university degree.

Receiving the coursework and accompanying books liberated me in a sense. In an instant, I wasn’t only a prisoner. I became a student. 

As a student, I would take advantage of the opportunity, intending to apply myself in ways I’d never done before. The schoolwork gave me a reason to wake early. I wanted to earn my degree at the soonest possible time and earn grades that would distinguish me.

Some people considered me nuts. They asked why I would devote so much time to studying when I had to serve a 45-year sentence. They thought I should take it slow and stretch the studies over time. Accelerating my graduation wouldn’t make sense if I had decades to serve.

I disagreed.

The sooner I could earn my first university degree, the more skills I would develop. I could leverage those skills and academic credentials to open new opportunities. The new opportunities would only open if I completed the college degree. 

If I lost those opportunities, the fault would be mine.

We’ve got to sow seeds today for the success we want to become in the days, weeks, months, years, and decades ahead.

  • What does procrastination mean to you?
  • In what ways does procrastination influence prospects for success?
  • In what ways would procrastination influence your ability to reach your highest potential?
  • As you reflect on your life, in what ways have you succumbed to procrastination or conquered it?
  • What opportunities may open in the future if you work toward specific goals now?

Word of the day: quandary / Define quandary:

Use quandary in a sentence:

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