The Blank Slate 

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Sequence 46

35-The Blank Slate

As I studied, I read the work of John Locke, a philosopher. John Locke lived during the late 1600s. In his epoch, the world was coming out of the Dark Ages and into an era of hope. People referred to the new era as The Enlightenment. People were learning more. 

Locke wrote that all humans came into the world with “a blank slate.” He said that human beings were neither good nor bad. We saw things and heard noises. Those things we saw and noises we heard made an impression on our minds. Some people had positive role models all around them, and they learned to make good decisions. Others lived in environments that taught them destructive habits. We became the product of what we learned. 

Many of us can appreciate the wisdom in the saying: “But for the grace of God, there go I.” That mindset may make us more critical of our decisions and more tolerant of the choices that others make.

John Locke said that even if we made bad decisions in the past, we could learn new concepts. We could start at any time to make good decisions. Leaders know we must hold ourselves accountable to make changes and better decisions.

From the writings of John Lock, I learned a great deal. Early “learning” led me into a criminal lifestyle. Reading John Locke’s work taught me that what I “learned” could also be “unlearned.” I could build a better life by following clues from successful people.

With certainty, people who achieve high levels of success hold themselves accountable. They don’t wait for others to tell them whether they’re on the right path. They know where they’re going. They engineer success, and they don’t make excuses. Accountability metrics inform them about making acceptable progress to succeed or whether they need to adjust.

Successful people taught me how to create my tools and measure progress. To build an accountability metric, I had to:

  • define success,
  • set a timeline, and
  • measure progress on the timeline I set. 

It’s the same as what we see in others:

  • Like a parent who uses a report card to hold his child accountable, I could hold myself accountable.
  • Like a coach who uses statistics to measure athletic performance, I could create an accountability metric to grow from one goal to the next.
  • Like an investor assesses the pace of a stock’s growth, I could measure if I were on track to succeed.

In what ways can accountability tools help you emulate the habits and performance of successful people?

Why Use Accountability Metrics?

My avatars spoke the language of accountability. They understood that “we get what we measure.” 

My actions would influence whether avatars would believe in me or move on. By holding myself accountable, I anticipated that I could earn their trust, despite the bad decisions of my youth.

At the start of my sentence, I thought of how I could use my time in ways to persuade people to believe in me, even though my past included the following record:

  • I sold cocaine. 
  • A jury convicted me.
  • A judge sentenced me to 45 years.
  • I would complete my sentence in 26 years if I didn’t lose credits for statutory good time.

Accountability metrics could help me overcome challenges. I simply had to begin with a clear understanding of what I wanted, and then create a plan. Setting clear values and goals was essential to my personal growth and development plan that would guide me to release. I needed to be clear about how my decisions would influence the opportunities I could open in prison and when I came to the end of my sentence.

I thought about my avatars to set my strategy and the growth I would make. 

Questions: Develop critical thinking with your responses

  • In what ways does your past record or decisions influence the way that others perceive you?
  • How will your life change when you finish serving your sentence?
  • What could I do in prison to ease my path to success after I got out? 

All people serving time should ask similar questions. Then they should build accountability metrics that will help them stay on track. In my case, I considered how my avatars: 

  • would consider me worthy of their trust if I earned a degree from prison,
  • would find it easier to employ me or extend me credit if I could show that I gave back to society while I was in prison,
  • may be willing to invest in me if they saw that others believed in me.

With accountability logs, I could measure daily progress and work toward the goals I set daily.

Since I went to jail at age 23, I didn’t know how to grasp 26 years inside. Instead, I thought about what I could accomplish in the first ten years. When I hit the ten-year mark, I wanted a record of accomplishments that would speak louder than words: 

  • I wanted a university degree.
  • I wanted to publish something.
  • I wanted a support network of at least ten people.

I had to hold myself accountable to achieve those goals and not blame anything on my environment. I could succeed or fail based on the chart I set out for myself, and everything would matter. From leaders, I learned that I should:

  • Visualize success,
  • Create a plan,
  • Prioritize goals,
  • Develop tools, tactics, and resources, and
  • Execute the plan.

The accountability logs I created could show whether I was making sufficient progress or whether I had to adjust.

If I could define success at ten years, I could reverse engineer and figure out how far along I should be in five years. If I knew where my progress should be at five years, I could reverse engineer my progress at two and three years. An accountability log would show where I should be when I hit my first year. With that insight, I could figure out where I had to be in six months. I could extend that process back to the next month, the next week, and the next day.

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