Achievement and Appreciation: Part 1 

Need Answers to Your Questions?

Lesson 5-Achievement and Appreciation

Celebrate Success

Annotation: Achievement and Appreciation

 To stay motivated as days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months turn into years, we must learn to celebrate the small achievements. Daily achievements put us into a position of new opportunities that we can seize or create. Simultaneously, we must learn to appreciate the blessings that come our way. Even after a lengthy prison term, we can appreciate opportunities to contribute to society. 

Purple Cow:

Seth Godin authors books for people who want to market goods and services to consumers. One of his books encourages people to think different—and to think differently—about how they message. 

Incidentally, since developing communication skills is an integral component of this self-directed course, write the phrase “thinking different” and “thinking differently” in two separate sentences.

He used an analogy of cows in a pasture

People don’t pay much attention when they drive down the road and see cows grazing in a pasture. Yet they would pause for a second look if they saw a purple cow in the field. The purple cow might captivate their attention.

Marketing, according to Seth Godin, is about grabbing people’s attention.

That book gave me a new perspective on how I fit into a prison setting from the perspective of many staff members. Like everyone serving time in the penitentiary, I wore khaki clothing. In their eyes, every person in prison merited about as much thought as a cow in a pasture. 

Instead of recognizing our common humanity, many staff members viewed me as registration number 16377-004. Unless I did something to differentiate myself, my past bad decisions would always define my life. 

I may have considered myself an individual, but to stakeholders, there wasn’t anything remarkable about me or my predicament. People in my inner circle may have cared about the sentence I served, but people tasked with carrying out my sentence wouldn’t care about my future. To them, I was a cog in a bureaucratic machine that they had to keep going.

The transfer from detention centers in Seattle took me through a transit center in Oklahoma, followed by a few weeks as a holdover in an Alabama federal prison. 

When I got to the penitentiary where I would serve my sentence, I heard dubious advice from hundreds of people who had served time. From coast to coast, people with experience living in jails and prisons told me that forgetting about the world outside and focusing on time inside would be the best adjustment strategy.

After a month in the penitentiary, a Case Manager scheduled me for my Initial Classification—also known as a team meeting. The staff members reviewed my file and advised that my projected release date would be August 2013, so long as I did not lose any credit for disciplinary infractions. I would have to serve another 25 years before the system would release me.

When the Unit Manager asked if I had any questions, I inquired whether it would be possible to transfer to one of the lower-security Federal Correctional Institutions that I had heard about from others. 

“You have a greatest-severity drug offense, and a 45-year sentence,” he said. “You should expect to serve your entire term inside high-security penitentiaries.”

To members of my Unit Team, the bad decisions that put me in prison defined me. Similarly, other people in prison had their views on how a person should serve a sentence. Fortunately, Socrates, Frederick Douglass, and Nelson Mandela inspired me to engineer a personal release plan. They convinced me to emulate the adjustment strategies of people that transformed their lives while living in struggle.

detested every part of living in prison. Reading about leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi taught me that I should “strive to be the change that I want to see in the world.” In his commitment to liberating India from tyranny, he pledged to keep everything he said, thought, and did in harmony. That guidance seemed far more prudent than the messages I received inside the penitentiary.

If I wanted others to look beyond my criminal past and perceive me as being different from the herd, I needed to adjust differently. I would need to become the change that I wanted to see in the world. I could find a path by reading about leaders from all segments in society. Since those leaders taught me, I feel responsible for passing that message to others.

Some participants may have read the biography of Elon Musk, a remarkable businessman who has created jobs for more than 100,000 people. People know him as the founder of successful companies, including Tesla, PayPal, Space X, and many others. 

Yet Elon Musk didn’t begin his life as a titan of industry. 

As a young and impoverished college student, Mr. Musk immigrated to North America from South Africa. Wanting to accelerate his pathway to success, he wrote unsolicited letters to leaders from whom he believed he could learn. That tactic of writing opened opportunities for him to build relationships with business leaders, including the CEO of one of the largest banks in the world. The banker became so impressed with the teenage Musk that he offered him a summer internship.

That same strategy of writing unsolicited letters helped me transcend prison boundaries to build relationships with leaders who would become mentors that catapulted my journey to advocacy.


Write responses to the following questions in approximately ten minutes. If participating in a class setting, discuss verbally.

5-1: In what ways would staff view you differently from other people in prison?

5-2: How can you bring mentors into your orbit?

5-3: In what way would finding mentors lead to greater achievements in your life?

Need Answers to Your Questions?

We Have Updated Our Terms And Conditions

We have updated our Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Terms of Service page. To review the latest version, please click on Terms of Use. If at any time you choose not to accept these terms, please do not use this site.