Blog Article 

 Mental Discipline is Key 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

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I find the message about excellence and success in the attached video empowering, and I hope it will empower others too.

People sentenced to serve time in prison often focus on all the negatives associated with that fate. And there are many negatives to such a loss of personal freedom. For example,  being away from friends and family can be excruciating. I have been there. I served three years in federal prison. Not as long as Larry Hartman’s 7.5 years or Michael Santos’ 26+ years. But meaningful enough to leave a substantial mark on my life. 

Like other people sentenced to prison, I sometimes forget that my prison sentence does not have to be the defining feature of my life. I forget that I can define my own future. It’s up to me. Because I struggle with negative thoughts and awfulizing, I can always use powerful reminders of what is possible now that I am on supervised release after prison. The way I remember what the future can hold for me is by listening to the stories of people like Larry and Michael, who have been through the gauntlet and come out stronger on the other side.

Excellence is still possible despite serving time in federal prison. I believe that success and excellence can still be mine, but only if I am willing to do the work. That’s why I work hard every day to define what success looks like to me, make a plan to achieve my vision, and hold myself.

Staying in that mindset takes a lot of mental strength and discipline. Frankly, some days it is easier to give up. That’s why I need to hear what Larry shares in this video about how he developed strong mental discipline while serving a 10-year sentence. 

To get through the challenge of his lengthy sentence, Larry had to become honest with himself. He had to accept responsibility for his actions. He had to recognize the emotional pain and financial difficulties he alone caused his loved ones by his actions. 

From there, Larry decided that he would not allow the prison system to weaken his mind or his resolve. He realized that his family still needed him and that he could not return from prison as a weakened man who was of no use to those he loved. He knew that he had to keep his mind sharp and his body healthy. 

For all those reasons, Larry made decisions each day that he would stay focused and productive while in prison. He would try to preserve his health and pursue physical fitness. He would apply himself each day to his mission of returning from prison stronger than ever. Larry fought back against despair and depression, and he did not let feelings of regret and shame take root in his psyche.

In the aftermath of a five-year prison sentence, I strive to think like Larry in my  day-to-day. I strive to look at my situation with the honesty that Larry showed, and hold myself accountable for anything I can contro. 

In addition, I am going to read the book Michael mentions in the video: “10-10-10: 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years: A Life Transforming Idea,” by Suzie Welch. To hear Michael tell it, this book was transformational for him,  and I’m curious. I already went on Amazon to learn more about 10-10-10, and here is what I read: “A transformative new approach to decision making, 10-10-10 is a tool for reclaiming your life at home, in love, and at work. The process is clear, straightforward, and transparent. In fact, when you’re facing a dilemma, all it takes to begin are three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years? Sound simple? Not quite. 

Recounting poignant stories from her own life and the lives of many other dedicated 10-10-10 users, Suzy Welch reveals how exploring the impact of our decisions in multiple time frames invariably surfaces our unconscious agendas, fears, needs, and desires — and ultimately helps us identify and live according to our deepest values.”

The book sounds incredible, and I will download it tonight. Prison Professors teach us about the value of listening to leaders like Jack and Suzie Welch when discussing how they navigated their way to excellence and success. Every decision has consequences, and I have to internalize that every day. Life is about how we respond, and our response has collateral consequences. I may not be in control of others, but I am in control of how I choose to respond to what happens around me. So in that sense, I have a lot of power over my life and the mental discipline I develop.

For people about to embark on, or in the middle of, a prison journey, remember that it’s possible to become strengthened by this process rather than weakened. Enough people get through the process with their dignity intact, and I can choose to be one of them. I can also help others get out with their dignity intact.

In the end, I remember that I am the CEO of my own life. Each person can be their life’s CEO. As such, like CEO’s do with their companies, I have to know what my  long-term prospects are and what I can do to improve my chances.

The stories from Michael and Larry in this video include people like Shon Hopwood who became a lawyer after serving time for a felony. Other formerly incarcerated people have become doctors, engineers, and scholars. These stories are inspiring reminders of all that we can achieve if we do the work in prison to become more resilient and have more mental discipline.

 Many people in the Prison Professors community have achieved great success after prison. As for me, listening to this message reinforces my belief that success is possible if I’m willing to put in the work, reject negativity in my life and stay motivated to do better. I just have to look at all the felons who became lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers, and so much more after serving time in prison to remind myself that one of them could be me.

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