Celebrating Achievements 

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Sequence 53

42-Celebrating Achievements

Great achievement is born of great sacrifice. Happiness comes from the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.

—Napoleon Hill

Routinely, I revise the lessons and modules that constitute our Preparing for Success after Prison series. The more I create outside, the more I can show the authenticity of this message. To succeed, we must adhere to a disciplined, deliberate path. With the Straight-A Guide, I’ve tried to outline the compass I used to navigate the labyrinthine world of confinement. 

  • It starts with defining success,
  • Create a plan that will take you from where you are to where you want to go,
  • Put your priorities in place,
  • Develop your tools, tactics, and resources,
  • Execute your plan and hold yourself accountable.

These principled steps show our authenticity. To stay on the plan for extended lengths of time, we’ve got to train ourselves to celebrate every achievement, no matter how small.

That’s a concept that remains clear to me each time I revise. I wrote the original version of this course on February 22, 2017—several years ago, during my fourth year of liberty. 

After my release, I began working to advance ideas on prison and sentence reform. Specifically, I wanted to persuade judges, prosecutors, and prison administrators to unite in a call for reforms. I worked with law schools and published in law reviews, arguing that we could improve outcomes of America’s criminal justice system if we incentivized people serving sentences. Those incentives should encourage people to participate in programs that would help them:

  • Prepare self-directed pathways to success,
  • Build release plans, and
  • Obliterate the toxic message that “the best way to serve time was to forget about the world outside and focus on time inside.”

Through those efforts, speaking opportunities opened. After I gave a keynote speech at a judicial conference that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sponsored, opportunities opened to build relationships with prison systems, the federal courts, and even with the Department of Justice. 

The seeds we sow early can lead to new opportunities many years later.

Being able to contribute to prison systems feels like a real achievement. Yet had I not set a release plan at the start of my journey, and worked toward incremental achievements along the way, I would not have opened so many opportunities after release.

A great deal has transpired since I wrote the first version of the Preparing for Success after Prison series. In revising this edition, I still recall the monumental importance of February 22, 2017, the day I wrote the first version of this lesson. I celebrated a significant achievement that day, and in this module, we emphasize the importance of celebrating our incremental achievements. I had to work through several decades to make the achievement possible. More than anyone else, I wanted to share the achievement with people in prison—I thought it might help illustrate the importance of celebrating incremental achievements.

We all make daily decisions that influence prospects for success. By developing the mindset of success, we avoid bad choices, such as those I made as a young man. Through this series, I’ve tried to show how all decisions influence the future we create. The Straight-A Guide may lead people to better decisions than I made during that reckless transition between adolescence and adulthood.

People in prison need hope, and I’ve aspired to provide them with hope. People who work through these courses have months, years, or decades to serve. We can build safer communities if more people in prison find pathways to success. To convert that vision into a reality, we need to plant, nurture, and work to help the seeds we sow mature into strong trees that bear fruit.

A person’s daily decisions influences life and opportunities that open. Sometimes the monotony of prison makes it difficult to make that connection. For that reason, I produce content daily, and I publish it on our various websites. I hope to spread that information into as many prisons as possible. I want people to see this connection between today’s choices and tomorrow’s success. They should connect their responsibility to prepare for success, regardless of what’s happening in the institution—every decision matters.

To stay motivated, celebrate every small success along the way. Each success builds upon previous success, bringing higher levels of achievement. Like a snowball gathers size when it rolls downhill, success grows in geometric proportions. Start with small achievements. Keep feeding those achievements, and they will grow into more significant achievements.


What opportunities do you anticipate opening in the years to come because of decisions you’re making today?

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