When I was locked up, my aspiration served as a light. I had a long way to go, but I could always see the light at the end. The light guided my decisions. I didn’t see that light as a student in school, and during those first days after my arrest, I didn’t know how to find a light that could guide my future decisions.
Leaders helped me to see the world differently. They helped me learn how to project the future I wanted to build, and they helped me understand why I would have to make decisions differently from how I spent my teens.
Although I didn’t start selling cocaine until I was 20, I started making bad decisions during my troubled adolescence. Those decisions led me into a dark pit or a labyrinth. Aspirations could provide the light I could follow to lead me out.
I learned about labyrinths (pronounced lab-i-rinth) when I began reading the work of masterminds. While locked in my cell at the Pierce County Jail (before my sentencing date), I escaped the monotony by reading. One book I read included a story about a labyrinth.
Some readers may not grasp the definition of a labyrinth. I didn’t. But the concept of finding my way out of the labyrinth inspired me. This concept could empower anyone who is in prison. We need stories of self-mastery and discipline to help us make better decisions.
Just as Socrates influenced me to change the way I thought, other authors from ancient Greece gave me a lot to consider. I especially liked to read from the stoic philosophers—who taught a great deal about being self-reliant and self-directed. Those virtues could help anyone commit to making better decisions.
From the many stories of Greek mythology, I learned lessons. One story described Theseus, a mythological king who offered hope and an example of self-mastery. That story introduced me to the concept of a “labyrinth,” an intricate maze buried deep underground.
Theseus had to save his community from a beast known as a minotaur. The minotaur resided in the labyrinth buried deep in the ground. It had a pattern of killing the youth in the Greek community. To resolve the problem, someone needed to kill the beast—but no one that descended into the minotaur’s labyrinth ever made it out alive. Either the beast devoured those that entered, or the individual got lost within the maze and died.
Theseus valued his community and aspired to save its youth. To kill the beast, Theseus made a plan. Before entering the labyrinth, armed with a sword, he tied one end of a string around his ankle and the other around a tree at the maze’s entrance. After killing the beast, Theseus used the line to find his way through the labyrinth and back out to safety.
Identifying with the Labyrinth
That analogy gave me hope. Although I could reflect on my youth’s influences and bad decisions, I could also project a better life. Like Theseus had to kill the beast to build the future he wanted for his community, I would have to develop the discipline to reject or resist triggers that could lead me to further problems. I would need a plan that would lead me out of the labyrinth of confinement and into the future I aspired to build.
In my youth, I hated getting up in the morning for school and couldn’t relate to how learning would lead to a better life. Since I didn’t have any aspirations, I didn’t have a reason to learn. Going to school didn’t inspire me because I didn’t connect reading and studying with success. Without an aspiration for something better, I made decisions that led me into prison—a labyrinth that keeps many people locked in struggle.
Statistics show that most people struggle when they leave prison. For this reason, a person must live like the stoics—becoming self-reliant and self-directed.
I wanted a fulfilling life in prison and beyond. To succeed, I would need a release plan.
Develop your critical thinking by responding to the following questions:
- What do you want?
- When will you start pursuing what you want?
- How much effort are you willing to invest in getting what you want?
- What preparations are you making to build a better life?
- In what ways are your decisions influencing your community?
- Who bears responsibility for the success that you want to achieve?
Those questions helped me accept that if I wanted a better future, I would have to prepare. To start preparing, I needed a plan.
Without an effective release plan, the avatars I tried to bring into my life would dismiss me as a person prone to “happy talk,” offering words without backing things up. Or a person with “happy ears,” prone to believing others who would define my future. To move closer to my aspirations of a fulfilling life, I had to make the right choices.
Every person bears responsibility for the choices we make.