Reading / Writing / Liberty 

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Sequence 56

45-Reading, Writing, and Liberty

When I began my self-directed personal development journey, I didn’t know how to use my time effectively. What could I do while locked in a solitary cell to prepare for a better future? I took an inventory of resources that I could get.

  • I could get books.
  • I could get paper.
  • I could get pencils.

What else could I do? 

I could read, write, sleep, run in place, do pushups, leg lifts, and squats in my cell.

I had to use the resources in my cell to prepare for success. By reading about Socrates, I knew what I wanted. I set goals that would lead to success. I would need to stay fit, and I would need to improve my skills. I could improve my fitness. I could build better reading and writing skills and improve my critical thinking to understand every decision’s opportunity costs.

I believed the staff would transfer me into better conditions if I did well. In better conditions, I thought I could do more. Such a mindset inspired me to work toward doing well.

When I began serving my sentence, I did not know how to write a grammatically correct sentence. I would empower myself if I could learn how to write persuasively and confidently. To improve, I put a plan in place of writing 1,000-word essays each day.

What would I write? 

It didn’t matter. I wrote with one purpose in mind, wanting to become more confident in turning words into sentences. From a jail cell, I read books to learn how others wrote. I trained myself to think and write in sentences and paragraphs, believing the skill would help me prepare for success after release. 

I learned to structure writing:

  • I’d write openings to introduce the idea of an essay.
  • I’d write supporting paragraphs in the essay’s body to help make a persuasive case.
  • I’d write a compelling close to present a message with force.

I trained myself to think like a writer. I prepared to earn more support from the types of people who could advance my prospect for success—my avatars.

Each letter, sentence, and paragraph I wrote felt like a small achievement I could celebrate. Like a runner who counts his laps, I calculated the words I wrote, pushing myself to exceed the explicit daily goal to write 10,000 words weekly.

  • What stops you from pursuing a similar goal of writing 1,000 words a day?
  • How would writing 1,000 words each day influence your critical-thinking skills?
  • How would writing 1,000 words each day affect your ability to create a life of meaning and relevance upon release?


Reading represented an essential strategy for my commitment. We all had 24 hours on any given day. Even while we’re incarcerated, to some extent, we could choose how we spent those 24 hours. 

Looking for opportunities to advance my plan, I read books that aligned with my values and goals. The strategy, I hoped, would make favorable impressions on the people I anticipated meeting later. To memorialize the books I read, I wrote book reports that would serve as a kind of accountability log, tracking the systematic preparations for success after prison. Each book report followed a templated pattern:

Author’s name: 

Here, I’d write the author’s name.

Book title: 

Here, I’d write the book’s title.

Date read: 

I’d write the date I finished reading the book.

Why I read (title): 

Here, I’d write why I chose to read this book.

What I learned from reading (title): 

Here I’d write the impressions or takeaways I received from the book.

How reading (title) will contribute to my success upon release: 

Here, I’d write my thoughts on how this book would influence my prospects for success.

Each book report gave me a cause to celebrate, making me feel like I’d created another tool, tactic, or resource to help. Those achievements felt like purposeful steps, leading me out of confinement.


Success is an ongoing journey of incremental achievements. Our mindset shows our commitment to success every day. When we make choices, those choices lead to our next opportunity. 

Never forget how the decisions you make today will influence your future. Regardless of where you are in your journey, you can start sowing seeds that will lead to a better outcome. There is an old saying that I frequently quote. You may read the quote in some of my other work. 

The question: When is the best time to plant an oak tree?

The answer: 20 years ago. 

The second-best time is today!

None of us can change the past. But all of us can sow sees that will lead to a better future. Develop the mindset to success and start planting seeds that will allow you to build a better life.


Describe a book that influenced your life.

What prompted you to read that book?

What lessons did you learn from reading that book?

In what ways will reading that book influence your prospects for success upon release?

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