Ten Year Visions 

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What do you think will follow if you adjust to the prison culture and dismiss a personal responsibility to prepare for success upon release? 

I can give you an example. Think of a shot caller in prison. The choice to live as a shot caller brings consequences. The shot caller may control the television. He may direct where people sit in common areas. 

What would you say follows for someone that pursues such an adjustment? 

From my recollection of living in prison, a shot caller can expect the following:

  • They face problems with staff.
  • They spend time in SHU.
  • SHU time can also mean a more extended stay in prison.
  • SHU time means less access to opportunities to prepare for success.
  • Lower preparations for success can mean fewer opportunities for employment after release.
  • Fewer opportunities for jobs may translate into a more difficult time generating resources.
  • Without resources, it’s harder to gain traction in society.
  • Without traction, it’s harder to resume stability.
  • Without stability, more problems with the law follow.
  • Problems can lead to more time in prison.
  • The cycle of failure would continue.

Without a doubt, I wanted a different outcome. I set values and goals to define success. My attitude showed a 100 percent commitment to staying out of prison. My aspiration kept me on course.

Aspirations:

Masterminds teach that we always aspire to success. When we see success, we begin to build. Pursue the deliberate path, even if you’re locked in a cell. 

Leaders like Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Viktor Frankl, and Martin Luther King aspired to end social injustice. They took clear steps to succeed. Even while living in a struggle, they knew what steps to take. Leaders like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch aspired to build businesses that would ease life for millions of people. They knew what they wanted. They set a path to success, and they inspired others to follow their path.

Participants in our course can choose to prepare for the careers they want to lead, or they can make choices without a disciplined plan. Either way, they make a choice. And the choices we make have consequences, as recidivism rates show. We may develop the power to make better decisions when considering likely outcomes.

Aspirations Mean Looking Ahead

At the start of my sentence, I thought about the best possible outcome. I had to look far ahead, decades ahead. Unless I made changes, my return to society would bring many struggles:

  • I would not have a work history.
  • I would not have financial resources.
  • I would not know anyone other than those serving time with me in prison.
  • I would not have any credit.
  • I would not have any clothes.
  • I would not have a place to live.
  • I would not have resources saved for retirement.
  • I would not have a car.

Those thoughts could weigh me down. Fortunately, I found courage and hope in stories like Theseus in the labyrinth. All I needed was a string. A string could guide me from the depths of my labyrinth to the brightness of a better world. 

I wish I had found that string at a younger age—but I didn’t. Nevertheless, stoics like Marcus Aurelius taught me that it’s never too early and never too late to start making better decisions.

My values, goals, and attitude would become my string. By following that string, I could reach the aspirations I wanted for the new life I would lead. 

Ten-Year Aspirations:

Another Greek myth, the story of Homer’s Odyssey, inspired me. The tale describes Odysseus, a man separated from his family and home after fighting a war. Despite his separation, he never lost sight of home or his aspiration to return. Odysseus spent ten years fighting battle after battle. His aspiration sustained him, and he made a 100% commitment to succeed. Knowing what he wanted, Odysseus had the right attitude! That attitude brought him closer to his aspiration. After ten years, he reached his aspiration, returning home in victory.

Homer’s Odyssey inspired me to set a ten-year plan. I didn’t expect to return home in ten years, but if I stayed true to my values and goals, I would be farther ahead. New opportunities would open. I knew that every decision I made during the first ten years in prison would influence my life.

I learned about aspirations during the nascent stages of my journey. Back then, I couldn’t think of 26 years in prison. I hadn’t even lived that long. To put the term in perspective, project into the future by 26 years. A person needs an aspiration to maintain a high level of discipline and energy throughout the decades. My strategy followed the path of Theseus and Odysseus—using aspirations to help me see the reasons for the decisions I would make. I set my initial aspiration for ten years. 

During that first decade, I knew what I would need to achieve. I could see success.

And what would success look like for me?

  • Within ten years, I would have at least one university degree.
  • I would find someplace to publish an article, chapter, or book I wrote within ten years.
  • Within ten years, I would start my support network by bringing ten new people into my life.

Those aspirations strengthened me, helping me to see success and empowering me to measure progress on the journey. I didn’t perseverate over matters beyond my control, like my sentence length. Instead, I aspired to a better life and worked to prepare. Advancing along the path led me to restore the strength and confidence that the prison system and my sentence had once obliterated.

Questions:

Where will you be in 10 years? 

How will your decisions today lead you closer to your aspiration? 

Will you be closer to the aspirations you set?

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