Maintaining a positive attitude requires mental strength. If a person faces challenges with the criminal justice system, that person may value by learning from others who kept a positive attitude through struggle.
Our team at Prison Professors likes to say that success begins with attitude. If a person doesn’t have the right attitude, the person can never reach his or her fullest potential.
I learned this lesson early in my journey through prison. I still remember the day that a federal judge sentenced me to serve a 45-year prison term. I didn’t know what it meant. All I knew was that I hated being in custody. I hated being separated from the people I loved, and the people who loved me.
To grow stronger, I remember going to the library when I got to prison. Prior to my incarceration, I didn’t read much. While in high school, I had been a mediocre student—always doing the minimum to get by. I didn’t have the right attitude. My attitude led to a series of bad decisions.
When I walked through the barren shelves of the penitentiary’s library, didn’t know what to read. Wanting to do better, I turned to a set of encyclopedias. I began reading about depression and how people overcame it. Those readings led me to stories about World War II and the Holocaust.
When I read about the many people who overcame challenges that were far bigger than the challenges I faced, I learned many lessons. Those people had a great attitude. They understood how to define the best outcomes. They learned to focus on the incremental steps that they could take to open new opportunities.
- If Viktor Frankl could build a life of meaning from inside of a Nazi concentration camp that murdered his family, I knew that I could maintain a positive attitude.
- If Nelson Mandela could stay positive and want to contribute to the making of a better world even though he had to serve 27 years in prison, I knew that I could maintain a positive attitude.
- If Mahatma Gandhi could stay strong despite being persecuted by government, I knew that I could maintain a positive attitude.
But what does it mean to have a positive attitude?
In our course, we urge people to define success and set goals. Then, a person’s attitude should align with those values and goals with a 100% commitment.
Consider reading our book to learn more about the strategies that leaders teach on overcoming challenges.
The following lesson shows how other members of our team responded to our Straight-A Guide lesson on attitude.
Attitude Lesson with Taylor: 3-Attitude
My name is Taylor Evans and I work on the team with Prison Professors.
This is the third video in the Straight-A Guide and it focuses on having the ability to adapt and develop the right attitude as you progress through your battle against the criminal justice system.
For me personally, developing the right attitude was the hardest step for me to accomplish. I was not and still am not proud of the crime I committed.
I grew up in a great area with a fantastic family with strong morals and values. I was a division one college athlete who accomplished great things professionally and personally. Then one day I was labeled a convicted felon, a label that still follows me to this day.
If you are in a fight against the criminal justice system, I can understand the type of fears you could be facing, fear of incarceration, fear of being separated from your family, fear of losing finances or licenses, and many more.
As difficult as it may seem developing the right attitude is critical in your journey to freedom. I bet you are asking what does developing the right attitude mean?
In the previous videos, we discussed defining success for yourself as creating personal values, then we progressed to creating S.M.A.R.T goals, and now developing the right attitude means committing 100% to accomplish the goals that align with your values.
I understand that you are going to have bad days or days where you feel like giving up, but you have to remember the bigger picture, any sort of inaction could potentially hurt your chances of receiving the outcome you desire.
If your goal is to reduce your sentence to the least amount of possible time, then your attitude needs to reinforce that commitment. Put yourself in a desirable position by forming a strong support system. Of course, rely and lean on your family and friends, but understand they may be just as scared or fearful as you are.
Create a team or network for you to help navigate through this journey. A personal recommendation would be to seek out a therapist. You are facing the biggest challenge of your life and speaking to someone who will not judge you and is there to offer a solution, helped me remember what my main mission was and what I needed to do next to continue my path.
Utilize the resources that we offer at Prison Professors. I highly recommend reading Michael Santos’s novel Earning Freedom as it shows how developing the right attitude helped Michael thrive during a 26-year prison sentence and come out on the other side of prison generating six figures worth of income and a happily married man.
Use the power of the internet to research people who had similar cases to yours and reach out through social media or email to connect with these people to ask for advice or just to share your experience and what you are going through.
As I mentioned earlier, developing that attitude with 100% commitment to accomplishing your goals is not easy. But if you can do this you are putting yourself in a better position to achieve the outcome you desire.
Attitude Lesson with Wayne: 3-Attitude
3-Attitude-Wayne-2.23.22 99th 7th Grade 998
Specifics of SAG – what does attitude mean to you?
How to maintain the right attitude during this time of turmoil is a powerful tool to achieve your best possible outcome.
If you are facing a challenge with the CJS or part of our team, I want you to know what attitude means and how I use that concept to advance prospects for the outcome I want.
For me, the challenge of prison was daunting. I’d never been or knew anyone who had been to prison. I had to start from the base I already had. Given I had lived in both Argentina and South Korea, I knew what it was to be a fish out of water (in prison, first-time inmates are called ‘fish”). The attitude I used in prison was, “I’m in another country and need to learn the norms of these people.” This attitude worked for me, and I said a mantra I had used overseas when faced with a frustrating situation. I said, “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.” This is the line that Dorothy used in The Wizard of Oz.
Yes, I had to say this mantra often in prison. By doing so, I could control my impulses (usually anger or fear). Using this attitude, I reduced my all-too-common state of hyper-vigilance in prison, which interferes with thinking and learning.
For PP, success is expressing your values in action.
For Paperny, family is his highest value, meaning he must knock off early for his family as that is his highest priority.
Santos is 58 and doesn’t have children. He defines success differently. He seeks to create a venture that has the most impact on the most people. The venture can change lives, build a successful business, and show people how to do it systemically. My goals align with my definition of success (set by my values), and I have the attitude to make 100% commitment to success as I define success.
A 100 percent commitment to success is not easy. If the team member doesn’t understand how to pull it out of the people that are looking for help, then PP hopes this video will help.
If you’re watching this video on YouTube and you’re thinking, “I’m going into a system, I’ve got to start by understanding the perspective of the people that have power over me. I’ve got to set goals that are going to help me influence the outcome that I want.”
The challenge of this course is to change the perspective of the participant. Just because somebody is going into the prison system doesn’t mean other people will see them as normal. It’s hard to say, “What do you mean you’re looking at me as if I’m a criminal.” Remember, this is how people inside the criminal justice system consider you.
When I first arrived in prison, I had a dental check-up. I explained that I had a preexisting condition of clenching my teeth while sleeping. My mouthguard had been confiscated as it was made of hard plastic and considered a potential weapon. The dental assistant instantly assumed I was a meth addict; therefore, if I stopped taking meth, I wouldn’t need a mouthguard. She did not believe me when I explained I had a preexisting condition and still required a mouthguard.
While it sounds like something that only someone with a Navy Seal’s level of discipline can do, this course can show you the tools for getting your best possible outcome.
For PP team members, we want you to help people who are at the lowest point in their lives. They are wondering if it’s going to wipe them out financially. They’re curious whether they’re ever going to earn a living again. Some commit suicide. It’s our job to help people get the best possible outcome.
If a participant wants to get through this challenge and make a hundred percent commitment to getting through it, you have to, first of all, define success as the best possible outcome.
It is not like a judge will find that he made a mistake, and the court sets me free – that’s not possible.
For example, the best possible outcome is saying, let me look at the guidelines let me consider what prosecutors are going to say and anticipate what a probation officer is going to say, and let me engineer a pathway (with specific goals), then perhaps I could change my outcome. It is then a question of how much commitment you are willing to make how badly you want it (best possible outcome).
For Santos, Paperny, and the PP team, we want to help as many people become successful as possible to project an attitude that could sway the courts. You’re going to have to address a judge, and you want to be able to say as part of your mitigation strategy,
“Your Honor, I made some terrible decisions that hurt a lot of people, and I want you to know that ever since I’ve introspected and thought about where I am and how I got here. I’ve tried to emulate leadership and figure out a plan on how I could make things right. Your Honor, I want you to know that I did that with a hundred percent commitment. I don’t want you to take my words for it. I’d like you to see what I’ve done and I had to define it, and that was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do because when it started, I wanted to believe that they got it wrong they just didn’t understand me that there were no victims that that’s what I wanted to do. Still, I realized I was wrong, and that’s what I’ve learned from this process….”
As part of the PP team, your job is to help people get there and help people do it in a manner that restores their confidence, gives them strength, and makes them feel whole.