Blog Article 


Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Need Answers to Your Questions?

We can create accountability logs to keep us on track. If we’re not making the progress we want, we can adjust. How are you holding yourself accountable?

Straight-A Guide: SAG-6-Accountability

If we use the Straight-A Guide as a tool, in my experience, we’ll find more opportunities to overcome the challenges in our life. Like everyone else, I had a lot of challenges. I wouldn’t want to minimize the challenges that others face. Any challenge can lead us into a whirlpool of despondency. Yet if we can see what we’re striving to become, we can come up with a plan. That plan will require us to set priorities, and to stay on track.

When I began serving my sentence in federal prison, I was 23. I didn’t have much in the way of educational credentials. I couldn’t read a page in a book without finding numerous words that I didn’t know how to define. I couldn’t understand the nuances of grammar.

To prepare for success, I would have to work through many incremental goals. My accountability logs helped me to stay on track. They led to my using time in prison to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and to become a published author. Those little goals led to bigger opportunities. Had I not developed accountability tools, I would not have made so much progress in prison.

In what ways are you holding yourself accountable?

Respond to this question and you will start to restore confidence. Rather than waiting for time to pass, you will begin making incremental progress.

Our team member, Wayne, worked through this lesson and offered his response to some of the questions. You may learn something from his response below.

Accountability Lessons with Wayne

6-ACCOUNTABILITY-WAYNE 1,395 99th 8th Grade

(Notes plus my thoughts italicized)

As evidence of our team’s accountability commitment, I can’t remember how many times Santos has asked me over the last 13 years. He asks because it’s essential. We can’t lead and grow unless we’re holding ourselves accountable.

Accountability metrics help people prepare for sentencing and deal with any challenging time.

According to Santos, anybody that’s working with the PP team should understand what it means and how to use that when working with other people, building our own career, or when helping other people who are dealing with a struggle to figure out how they can get ready for the journey ahead.

It is common when living with a crisis to want to just lie on the bed, put the pillow over our face, and go into this self-pity mode.

I can identify with it, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. To get to where we want to go, we’ve got to take systematic steps. Leaders have taught us for generations how to do it.

A leader, to me, is someone that is changing the way things are seen or done. To learn from leaders, I must go to the source if possible. If not, I will watch a leader’s podcasts, interviews, articles, and books.

If we can incorporate accountability into facing our greatest struggle, we can incorporate these new habits into other areas of our lives.

The key is to take action and then measure that action with accountability metrics, NOT wait until you’ve got a PERFECT plan. I have worked with dozens of start-ups in Silicon Valley. With each management team, I would always start with Bezos strongly recommends using the following phrase to do good work in his 1997 letter to Amazon shareholders:

“Disagree and commit.” Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have a conviction in a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this, but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes.

I disagree and commit all the time. We recently greenlit a particular Amazon Studios original. I told the team my view: debatable whether it would be interesting enough, complicated to produce, the business terms aren’t that good, and we have lots of other opportunities. They had a completely different opinion and wanted to go ahead. I wrote back right away with, “I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we’ve ever made.” Consider how much slower this decision cycle would have been if the team had actually had to convince me rather than simply get my commitment.

As Bezos explains, disagreeing and committing doesn’t mean ‘thinking your team is wrong and missing the point,’ which will prevent you from offering genuine support.

Instead, Bezos writes, “it’s a genuine disagreement of opinion, a candid expression of my view, a chance for the team to weigh my view, and a quick, sincere commitment to go their way.”

Brilliant. 24 Lessons from Jeff Bezos’ Annual Letters to Shareholders

If you’re working with a client, you’re to help them understand what accountability looks like to you.

With our clients, you know the following:

  • meet with a probation officer (pre-sentencing report)
  • meet with a judge
  • The timeline before events/prison

Remember to Ask:

  • What does success look like at various stages on that timeline?
  • How do you know if you are on that timeline?
  • how do you know if you’ve got the things done in time?


Your 20-year reunion is coming, and you don’t want to be the person who is going to be 40 pounds overweight. The month before, you say, “okay, I’m going to go on a diet!”

It doesn’t work that way with sentencing. Happy talk doesn’t work. First, go and watch a number of our videos. I learned to get more into the specifics of accountability.

The question that I ask anybody going through this course is are you asking questions about the client’s best possible outcome. Then, architect a plan and hold yourself accountable for hitting the specific goals in those plans.

If you’re getting ready for sentencing, there are going to require some precise accountability metrics to prepare for the presentence investigation report in anticipation of the sentencing hearing.

In Earning Freedom, I wrote about how I wanted to emerge from prison and developed a ten-year plan. I was 23 when I went to jail, and I didn’t get out until I was 49. At the time, I didn’t even know how to process what 26 years meant because I hadn’t been alive that long.

But even at 23, I knew ten years, and so I said, “in 10 years, I’m going to hold myself accountable to do these things. I’m going to have a university degree, I’m going to be a published author, and I’m going to have ten people in my network supporting my efforts. These ten are going to be my advocates and big supporters of mine.”

You can use this concept of accountability in your life regardless of where you are today to achieve a higher outcome.

  • How are you holding yourself accountable for getting ready for sentencing?
  • What does success look like?
  • What are the steps that you took?
  • Have you done it, and you might fall down and get back up (that’s okay; it’s why we use accountability logs)?

Santos knew that he wanted this pathway in prison. As a process, Santos knew he had better take some very specific steps to get him there. That helped him survive in that bastion of hopelessness. It helped him create his own hope.

At PP, we know that accountability metrics will help you grow stronger. They will help you restore confidence because you can’t fake it. You’re either doing it, or you’re not doing it right.

EXAMPLE (from a participant letter): I’m facing sentencing in a year. I’ve been on pre-trial for a year and put on 50 pounds. I’m drinking, and you know my wife wants me to leave. I’m just losing every single day.

  • How do I get back on how do I get back on track?
  • I feel like I’m already in custody. I haven’t even been sentenced yet!

PP knows that that accountability metrics (even if it’s just walking a mile), to have that tough conversation with your lawyer saying the things you want to say.

With the use of accountability metrics and an Accountability Log, you can’t fake it; you’re either doing it, or you’re not doing it.

It has been my experience that criminal justice authority figures are much more into verifying than over-trusting. Since my crime, conviction, and imprisonment, I have gone to great lengths to make sure everything I say, print, or promise can be independently verified. Personally, I use LinkedIn and my Medium posts for most of my evidence of accountability. Further, I have connected with several such authority figures on Facebook so that they can see in real-time my rehabilitation efforts.

How to create an Accountability Log

  • What timelines did you put in place?
  • In what ways have you been able to stay consistent with those timelines?
  • What have you learned from the work that you’ve been doing?

My community sees me very differently. I committed no verifiable acts of violence in prison. I have learned liberty is to be valued, but virtue, to govern oneself, is my goal.

I’ve gained a bitterly cured wisdom in prison. It has made me different, not cruel, but hard. Hardness is no longer a quality much admired in men. It is rarely seen except in the old. When hardness surfaces in the very old, we tend to transform it into “eccentricity” to be indulged at a distance.

I’ve worked for eight non-profits since returning. The projects have left me at a bit of a loss. I have not been in political alignment with any of the organizations yet took the work as I needed to be self-sufficient.

I’ve learned that my former friends are willing to hire me to do research, copy work, house sit, cat sit, etc. but not to invite me to their weddings or birthdays. What I will accomplish I will have to do on my own.

Need Answers to Your Questions?

We Have Updated Our Terms And Conditions

We have updated our Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Terms of Service page. To review the latest version, please click on Terms of Use. If at any time you choose not to accept these terms, please do not use this site.