Mindset of Success 

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Sequence 31

42-Mindset of Success

To build strength in times of difficulty, I rely upon the Straight-A Guide as a sailor depends upon a compass. A compass can help a sailor navigate treacherous seas, and we can use the compass to stay on our course toward reaching the goals we’ve set for our life.

We sometimes need self-motivation to act when times are tough. Those action steps require the mindset of success. Without self-discipline, we leave ourselves vulnerable to influences from others. 

I remember Wayne, a person I met in prison. Wayne told me about growing up in a community rife with crime, substance abuse, and gang prevalence. In that community, he said, people adjusted as if they were crabs in a bucket. 

I asked Wayne to help me understand the crabs-in-a-bucket analogy. He said if you put a batch of crabs in a bucket, one would try to scale the wall and climb out. Before the escaping crab progresses, the other crabs would gather and try to pull the aspiring crab back inside. 

People that lived in his community, Wayne told me, were the same way. They didn’t want to act in ways that would help them succeed—but neither did they want others from their neighborhood to prepare for success. If every person in the community failed, people wouldn’t feel so bad about their inability to get their life together. On the other hand, if a person from the same community succeeded in making it out to a better life, he said, everyone else would realize the colossal disappointment of life—and failure stings.

People that want to conquer their environment must start by defining success. Then they should set clear goals and pursue them with a 100 percent commitment. It’s one way to show they have the right attitude. We can always take small action steps to advance toward the aspirations we want to pursue. 

This disciplined, deliberate strategy fundamentally differs from Wayne’s crabs-in-the-bucket theory. Instead, it aligns with someone who commits to building a strong mindset.

In 2017, when I wrote the original version of this module, I was launching a health-care business with my wife. From my perspective, the health-care industry offered promising prospects to accomplish many goals. With an aging population, I surmised demand for homes with 24-hour caregivers would grow. 

My wife’s credentials as a registered nurse gave us a strategic advantage to succeed in this business; she could oversee staff while I would oversee operations. The business would generate revenues we could use to service debt on the real estate we would acquire. The end goal would become possible with a series of incremental action steps.

Consider the infinite number of incremental action steps that would have been necessary to reach the goal:

  • Write a plan to get a good understanding of how much capital the business would require.
  • Identify potential partners that could provide financial resources to build the business.
  • Make enough presentations to advance prospects for funding.
  • Locate the property and make the acquisition.
  • Complete modifications to the property.
  • Obtain licenses from regulatory agencies.
  • Create marketing campaigns to generate revenues.
  • Hire and train staff.
  • Operate the business.

Regardless of how much we plan, as captains of our ship, we must be flexible. When plans don’t work out, rather than make excuses, we adjust.

Although I set out to build a health-care business with Carole, anticipating the venture would grow, I had to modify the plan. My felony conviction from 1987 proved more burdensome than I expected, complicating my ability to get the license I needed to operate the health-care business.

Fortunately, prison conditioned me to face resistance with equanimity. To overcome this hurdle, I could reflect on the action steps I had to take when I served my sentence. Those action steps did not seem relevant to other people around me in prison, but they put me on a pathway to develop business opportunities upon release. 

When we connect the dots from yesterday’s decisions, we can see how incremental action steps opened opportunities. That strategy leads to the mental fortitude necessary to overcome new challenges. Those challenges arise continually while serving a prison term or on the other side of the sentence.

We advance prospects to succeed over challenges when we take small, incremental action steps. We must prepare to climb hills to get where we want to go. We can develop tools, tactics, and resources to help us jump over gaps. We can wake early and work late into the night. 

Since getting out of prison, I rely upon the same strategies that strengthened my mindset while serving portions of my sentence in special housing units.

When I reflect, I see the power and influence of my early decisions. I read about Socrates for the first time while inside a jail cell during that awkward transition between the day a jury convicted me and the day a judge sentenced me. That story changed the way I thought. 

I began thinking of avatars. The avatars helped me think about values and goals. That process gave me the right attitude, and it gave me an aspiration. Action steps led me to the right programs. By finishing programs, I built my skillset. Each action step helped me get through prison. As a result, I ended my prison term with many opportunities to succeed.

The action steps we take today make a difference in our life. Regardless of what stage in the journey we’re in or what eternal circumstances we endure, we can take small, incremental action steps that will lead to better outcomes. 

For that reason, I encourage people to begin action steps that will advance prospects for success as they pursue their aspirations. This strategy helps to build a stronger mindset.

We can become more than past bad choices and more than tough times of the moment. By reading about leaders, I saw traits that they shared. Consider what you know about:

  • Socrates
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Viktor Frankl
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King
  • Malcolm X
  • Steve Jobs
  • Bill Gates
  • Michael Jordan

They all spent time reflecting on past decisions and using those reflections to make projections on how they could improve. Those masterminds saw how small steps could lead them to their fullest potential. They never stopped acting in ways that aligned with their plan.

By thinking about our past decisions, we strengthen ourselves to climb our way through tough times. Introspection will help us make better decisions, giving us the energy to persist with the next step. 

Leaders leave clues that teach us how to make progress, and we can learn from the clues they leave us:

Leaders know how to state their values.

Leaders set goals.

Leaders live with the right attitude.

Leaders have high aspirations.

Leaders act in ways that harmonize with what they aspire to become.

Leaders change the world by acting. They know how to prepare in ways that will lead to new heights of success. They make life better with every decision, with every thought, and with every action step they take.


What can you learn from those leaders? 

What’s your release plan?

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