48-Walk The Way:
Anyone that adheres to the Straight-A Guide can go from struggle to success. But, it’s one thing to know the way. It’s quite another thing to walk the way.
While in prison, neither Shon Hopwood nor the people I profiled in earlier lessons knew what challenges they would face after release. They needed to prepare, to get ready to overcome challenges. They needed to define success with values and set clear goals.
Time in prison taught many lessons to people like Halim Flowers, Tommy Walker, Shon Hopwood, and others. All of us can learn from those lessons. By sharing lessons, we hope to inspire others. To overcome the challenges of our life, we must walk the way of masterminds.
Not for Everyone:
As I write these lessons, I remember reading about an interview with James Patterson. Mr. Patterson has authored dozens of novels and sold millions of books. During an interview, a journalist asked Patterson to respond to critics. Some of those critics accused Patterson of not being a very good literary stylist. The journalist asked Patterson how he would respond:
- “I’m not a very good literary stylist. There are millions of people that don’t like how I write. Fortunately, a few million do.”
As one of the best-selling authors of all time, Patterson didn’t need other people to define his success. Sales made his success self-evident. But there would always be people who disagreed with his approach. Those disagreements didn’t matter because he defined success and pursued it with a 100% commitment.
Similarly, not everyone will agree with the Straight-A Guide’s message of hope and self-reliance. Likewise, not everyone agrees with the efforts we make to advance more pathways for people in prison to earn freedom through merit. That’s okay. We all must carve our own path.
We want our participants to define their path to success, and we’re confident that anyone can reach a higher potential by following a principled approach.
Getting Out of Prison:
I will never forget the day my wife drove me from the prison in Atwater to the halfway house in San Francisco. With 25 years of prison behind me, I had to serve six more months in a halfway house, followed by six months of home confinement. After 9,500 days, I would conclude my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons. Then I would start my term of Supervised Release. My wife and I talked about the career I wanted to build. I told her a message that I’ve lived by since I first read about Frederick Douglass:
I want to make an impact on the world by helping people who live in struggle. Leaders taught me how to create meaning and relevance, and I want to share those lessons. It doesn’t matter if they’re in school, in prison, or struggling in other areas of their lives. We can reform systems to create better outcomes for people.
To earn trust from people, I needed proof. People had to believe the strategies would lead to their success. I told my wife I committed to building assets worth at least $1 million within five years of release. By achieving that goal, I believed people would be more inclined to accept my message’s potency. They would accept that they could become more successful if they pursued this path. I’ve been on this path—with a mindset of success—since I began my prison term. I’m still on it today.
I connect with participants through words, photographs, and videos. Through those efforts, I strive to show my authenticity. But neither the digital assets nor the live presentations show how many hours I must devote to this daily effort. No one can see the incremental progress—or investment I must make to create courses. I could not complete any of this work if I did not begin in prison and follow the Straight-A Guide path daily.
Think it through.
On the day that I left prison, I was behind with technology. When I went to jail, the internet didn’t exist. I never sent or received an email. I did not know how to create a video or publish it online. I didn’t know how to use technology that would allow me to develop products. I had to purchase computer equipment and software. Once I had the equipment, I needed to invest thousands of hours learning how to use it. Each day I had to invest time to learn; a deliberate adjustment in prison prepared me to accelerate progress.
I create products. Then I must find a market for those products. Judges, US Attorneys, and Prison leaders are not so willing to purchase products from a man that served multiple decades in prison. After all, until February 23, 2017, I was still on Special Parole.
Participants who have access to the books I wrote will see that I did not begin this path on a whim. I’ve been committed to sharing this message for decades. If you do not have access to the books, your family members can easily find them at PrisonProfessors.com. Those books will show my decisions through prison. They also will show strategies I used to overcome challenges since my release.
I hope you will see that by adhering to the Straight-A Guide principles, I’m authentic.
How do you anticipate earning a living upon your release?
In what ways are you working to persuade stakeholders to support your efforts?