Journal Entry 

 Using the Straight-A Guide to Build an Extraordinary and Compelling Strategy 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

I’m Michael Santos. In today’s blog, I’d like to share with you the story of how the Straight-A Guide came into being. You can use the Straight-A Guide to craft an extraordinary and compelling adjustment strategy while in prison.

My journey through the criminal justice system began in 1987. While inside, I learned how to change the way that I think. 

I started in solitary confinement. Then, after a year of judicial proceedings, a judge sentenced me to 45 years and US Marshals transferred me to a high security penitentiary on the East Coast. 

I hated being in prison. For that reason, I looked for every opportunity to prepare myself for success upon release.

Leaders inspired me to work toward developing skills. I felt determined not to let my circumstances define my future. This determination gave birth to the Straight-A Guide – a blueprint for personal growth and success. I’d like to say that I created it, but that wouldn’t be true. I learned from leaders. Then, I took what I learned from them and modified those lessons into a course specifically for people who wanted to emerge successfully after a crisis.

The Straight-A Guide requires a person to begin by defining success. Then, a person must set SMART goals that align with how the person defines success. After completing those two prerequisite courses, the person advances through eight additional lessons. I title those lessons:  Attitude, Aspiration, Action, Accountability, Awareness, Authenticity, Achievement, and Appreciation. 

Each lesson played a pivotal role in my journey and can be a powerful tool for anyone seeking to overcome adversity and build a meaningful life, even within the constraints of prison.

  1. Attitude: It all starts with the right mindset. Having a positive attitude amidst the challenges of prison life is crucial. It’s about seeing beyond the bars and focusing on the opportunities for growth and learning. We define the right attitude as making a 100 percent commitment to success, as you defined it.
  2. Aspiration: You’ve got to aspire to something bigger and more meaningful than what you’re going through right now. While in prison, I aspired to educate myself, contribute to society, and prepare for a successful life post-release. Your aspirations are the roadmap to your future.
  3. Action: Dreams and goals are nothing without action. In prison, every step I took was aligned with my aspirations – from pursuing education to writing and staying fit. Your actions in prison should reflect your commitment to your goals.
  4. Accountability: Taking responsibility for your life and choices is essential. In prison, I held myself accountable for my past and my future, understanding that my decisions would shape my journey.
  5. Awareness: Being aware of your environment and how it impacts you is crucial. In prison, staying aware helped me navigate the system wisely and make decisions that aligned with my goals.
  6. Authenticity: Stay true to who you are and your values. In prison, maintaining my authenticity meant not getting swayed by the prison culture but staying focused on my personal growth.
  7. Achievement: Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Each achievement in prison, be it completing a course or helping a fellow inmate, was a step towards my larger goals.
  8. Appreciation: To reach your highest potential, always live in gratitude. In prison, I learned to appreciate the small wins, the lessons learned, and the support from others.
  9. By embracing the principles of the Straight-A Guide, you can start building a strategy for an extraordinary and compelling adjustment in prison. This approach is not just about surviving your sentence; it’s about thriving during it and laying a solid foundation for success after release.

If you are in prison or know someone who is, I encourage you to explore the Straight-A Guide. It’s a tool that can transform your life, just as it did mine. Remember, it’s not the situation that defines you, but how you respond to it.

You can memorialize your journey, too, by sending an invite to [email protected]. Through that website, you can build a personal profile that shows why you’re extraordinary. You’ve got to memorialize the steps you’re taking to put yourself in the position for new opportunities. 

Critical Thinking:

Once you open a profile, respond to the daily critical-thinking questions:

  • How do you define success? What goals have you set that shows your commitment to success, as you defined it?

With respect and hope,

Michael Santos,

Founder, Prison Professors

[To learn more about the Straight-A Guide and Prison Professors, please visit the Prison Professors website](

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