If we measure productivity daily, we can better turn our aspirations into reality. While serving 9,500 days, I journaled as a tactic to stay on course. Writing out my thoughts and recording how I’m working toward my aspirations gives me clarity and creates a record. I use the journals to persuade others that my success doesn’t happen by accident. Instead, I follow the same principles that I used to prepare for success after prison and that I teach through our course: PSAP. Those principles follow:
- Define success as the best possible outcome,
- Create a plan,
- Identify priorities,
- Build tools, tactics, and resources,
- Create accountability tools to measure progress,
- Adjust the plan as necessary, and
- Execute the plan daily.
As I approached the end of my prison term, I had thousands of pages of journals. They recorded my goals at the start of the year, my daily progress, the books I read, the systematic ways I worked to build a supportive network, and detailed progress on the tools, tactics, and resources I created. The journal itself became one of those assets that I would leverage.
I used the journal to advocate for the highest level of liberty as soon as possible. When I served my sentence, between 1987 and 2013, we had different laws and policies. Mechanisms did not exist for people to advance release dates. For that reason, I set goals to advocate for change.
There were a lot of strategies I could have used to advocate for change, some more effective than others. One method would be to complain a lot. I could whine about unfairness in the system or argue that a judge shouldn’t have given me so much time or that the prison system didn’t do anything to rehabilitate me.
That method seemed to be very popular in prison. I wanted to try a more effective strategy.
To succeed, I needed a plan. I would have to build coalitions of influential people. If I could persuade those people to believe in me, they could join my advocacy efforts.
I couldn’t “wish” influential people into my strategy. Instead, I needed to prioritize my actions. Those who’ve read my book, Earning Freedom, know the priorities I set would include:
- Working to earn academic credentials. If I committed to personal development and education, others would know I didn’t want to be a criminal. Those credentials would help me convert my aspiration into reality.
- Finding ways to contribute to society in meaningful, measurable ways. If I learned to write more persuasively, I would create publishing opportunities. If I published, I could communicate at scale, reaching thousands of people with a few hours of work.
- Building a supportive network of influential people. By striving to bring other people into my life, I increased the likelihood of opening opportunities.
Journaling helped me to stay on track as I prepared for success after prison, and it’s one of the reasons that our course Preparing for Success after Prison emphasizes this tactic. We encourage people to memorialize their commitment to pursuing excellence.
Since I never ask anyone to do anything that I don’t do and that I’m not doing today, I began distributing these daily journals to members of our community. I publish the journals live on my PrisonProfessorsTalent.com.
We built PrisonProfessorsTalent.com to teach people in jails and prisons how to teach themselves. It’s part of our advocacy strategy of persuading administrators, business owners, citizens, and others to expand programs that will allow people in prison to earn increasing levels of liberty through merit. We’re building campaigns that will persuade administrators to support:
- Work-release programs for people in federal prison,
- Furloughs for people in federal prison,
- Meaningful access to compassionate release and commutations, and
- Reinstatement of the US Parole Commission.
We hope more imprisoned people will join our efforts by memorializing their preparations for success after prison. They build their profile on PrisonProfessorsTalent.com by sending an invite to:
We accept all invites, and our fabulous intern, Aleyah, director of advocacy and a senior at American University, will follow up with the next steps. We hope participants will start by journaling.