Journal Entry 

 Journaling, Liberty, Income 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Journals open opportunities to collaborate. In today’s entry, I’ll offer insight that I hope our community can use. 

  1. Journaling opened opportunities that empowered me while I served my sentence. 
  2. They allowed me to build relationships that helped me overcome complications. 
  3. Once I got out, the journals influenced my liberty and income.

As a critical-thinking exercise, readers may want to venture a guess as to how. Or, they can read today’s journal to learn more.

Opening Opportunities:

Those who read Earning Freedom may recall that I devised a plan to guide me through my first decade in prison. By the time I served ten years, I wanted:

  1. To earn a university degree, 
  2. Publish at least one article, chapter, or book, and
  3. Ten people who would advocate on my behalf.

Those three prongs became a compass for me. I would consult my compass when taking a step or making a choice. Every decision came with an opportunity cost, and I always tried to work toward what I thought would help me prepare for success upon release. 

Since I knew what I wanted within ten years, I could reverse engineer the progress I should make. The daily journals became my accountability metrics. I could see whether I was on track and making progress or whether I needed to adjust my activities.

In December, I set goals I wanted to achieve the following year. The daily journals would keep me on track. I’d write a quarterly report at the end of March, June, and September. At the end of the year, I’d write an annual report.

I learned that strategy by watching CNBC. Business leaders devised accountability tools to help them measure progress. Their progress helped them stay on track and create value. My daily journals would help me do the same thing. They empowered me. Instead of dwelling over how I would get through ten years (or a 45-year sentence), I grew stronger by seeing the progress I could make each day.

Building Relationships:

I built credibility by documenting the daily progress and showing how each step related to a greater goal. The journal became a tool or a tactic. I could use the journal to persuade others to see me differently. Although I could not change my conviction or sentence length, I could influence how others perceived me. Since I didn’t want my criminal conviction to define my life, I devised the journaling strategy to show how I could master and grow through crisis.

When I encountered people I wanted to bring into my network, I could show them copies of my daily journal, quarterly reports, or annual report. Those resources became an opportunity to reframe perceptions. People like Professor Joan Petersilia of Stanford Law School invited me to publish with her. Had I not written the daily journals or shared my reports with her, I would not have developed that relationship while I served my sentence.

A relationship with a distinguished professor from Stanford Law School helped me overcome many complications. It also helped me to open relationships with other influential people. 

Liberty and Income:

As a result of the journals, San Francisco’s major newspaper, The Chronicle, showed an interest in me when I got out. The editor reached out and asked if the newspaper could profile my story. People in San Francisco, he said, would find interest in what it was like to return to society after multiple decades in prison. 

Had it not been for the daily journals, the editor of a major newspaper would not have known me. Had he not known me, the newspaper would not have published a story about how I prepared for success after prison on the front page.

Because of that front-page article in a major newspaper, many more opportunities opened. It influenced San Francisco State University to invite me to become a professor, it opened opportunities for me to invest in real estate, and it helped my probation officer to grant me a high level of liberty—including the ability to travel domestically without permission, the ability to work as an entrepreneur, and the ability to advocate for reforms and work with other justice-impacted people.

Journaling helped me prepare for success upon release. It’s the reason I continue journaling today. To create opportunities out of nothing, we must show how our success results from daily commitment.

In what ways are you memorializing your daily commitment to a pursuit of excellence?

Our community at opens opportunities to memorialize your preparations. If you’d like to publish your profile, email our team:

[email protected].

Prison Professors Charitable Corporation
32565 Golden Lantern Street, B-1019
Dana Point, CA 92629

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