Journal Entry 

 Building Your Cathedral 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Many years ago, Frank Sinatra performed a popular song called “New York, New York.” One line from that song always resonated with me: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” This idea inspired me to develop a similar perspective during my time in prison: If a person could make it in prison, they could make it anywhere.

But what does it mean to “make it in prison”?

Each person must answer that question independently. That is what it means to be the CEO of your life. While I can’t tell you the exact steps to take, I can share the valuable lessons I’ve learned from leaders and how those lessons shaped my journey. If you despise prison as much as I did, you can decide whether to use this time to prepare for success outside or to waste it away.

One leader I’ve been learning from recently used an analogy to emphasize the importance of preparation. He spoke about mindset using the example of a bricklayer. Many people go through life with resentment, hating the monotony of tasks like laying bricks. They always complained, or had excuses about why they could not achieve much. 

Successful people, on the other hand, view their tasks differently. They understand that every decision has monumental implications because they aren’t just laying bricks; they’re building a cathedral. To succeed, they recognize that every step counts.

While I was in prison, I found this analogy particularly relevant. Prison administrators controlled my external environment, but I controlled how I responded to the obstacles in my way. Each day, I focused on what steps I could take to improve my prospects for success. Since I intended to “build a cathedral,” I made sure every step I took counted.

To build a cathedral, however, we must know what it will look like. Constructing a cathedral can take many years or even decades. Therefore, we must set clear milestones for different stages of the journey.

– What will be different in your life in one year?

– What will be different in your life in three years?

– What will be different in your life in five years?

By asking such questions, I could create a plan and establish accountability metrics to assess my progress. When interruptions like lockdowns, obstructive staff, or other disappointments occurred, I adjusted my approach.

What I could not do, ever, was make excuses. No one cares about excuses; people care about results.

What results are you striving to deliver?

This question always motivated me to work harder. I also remembered that “the perfect is the enemy of the done.” In other words, I kept pushing forward, knowing that I could make adjustments later, perhaps when I had more tools available to me.

This strategy of preparing every day helped me succeed in prison, according to my definition of success. Success may look different for others, but as Sinatra sang in another song, “My Way,” I was not competing against others. I was competing against myself, striving to do my best and doing it my way.

Wishing you strength and success on your journey,

Today’s Question:

  • How can you transform your mindset to see every task as a meaningful step toward your larger goals–like building your cathedral?

Steps to Build Your Profile:

1. Send an invite to [email protected]

2. Once accepted, send an email to the interns with the following information:

   – Your name

   – Your number

   – Your location

   – Your sentence length

3. Respond to any questions presented in the newsletter by sending your answers to the email above.

By taking these steps, you can start memorializing your journey and demonstrating your commitment to a better future.

Keep striving for greatness. Your efforts today will pave the way for your success tomorrow.

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