Most people, at some point in their lives, wish they could have a second chance or "do-over" in a game, job, or relationship. I was granted that "second chance in life" on April 14, 2017, when I walked out of prison after serving 22 years. I entered prison when I was 17 years old. During my incarceration, I dreamt and prayed about the day that I'd be able to walk out of prison. I was excited and looking forward to the transition that was ahead.
I thought that it might take quite a while for me to adjust to all of the changes (especially in technology) that took place in society, but the transition has been much smoother than I expected. I attribute this to years of dedicated preparation, and a focus on eight primary principles. I truly believe that these principles are the foundation for anyone pursuing their dreams of becoming successful and achieving your goals.
1. Visualize success.
While incarcerated, I never viewed myself as an inmate or convict, I was always a citizen in my heart and mind, who just happened to be separated from the rest of society. I refused to allow the culture of prison to warp my thinking.
2. Focus on education.
I educated myself and prepared for the day that I always knew was coming. I received my Associates of Arts degree and became an ordained minister. I am currently pursuing my bachelor's degree, only possible with the preparation and training I began in prison.
3. Maintain a positive self-image.
I envisioned myself free. I saw myself driving around, having a job and going to school, being a good father and husband all before now. I thought about my life outside of the walls of prison so much that now that I'm actually here and doing it, it feels a lot like deja vu.
4. Build your support network.
I would not be where I am today had I not had the support of my wife, family and friends. My wife, who is my best friend and loudest cheerleader, gives me just enough space to learn things on my own while simultaneously making sure she is close enough to catch me if I fall. I am also carefully building a business and community network that will help me achieve my personal goals.
5. Keep your eyes wide open.
Even though it's been a relatively smooth transition, I won't let myself get overly confident about the brief successes I've experienced thus far. Things are going great, but there are going to be many more small things along my transitional journey that will confuse me--things that I did not think about while I was in prison.
6. Always keep things real.
Here I am, four-plus months removed from prison, and seemingly doing very well in my transition. But there are some things that trouble me.
I still think about my victims and the harm that I caused. Self-forgiveness is still something that I'm working on. No matter how well I do in the future, I won't forget what it cost, and what was lost in order for me to have what I have today.
7. Appreciate today.
In spite of that, I see every day as a new opportunity. I'm learning that in life you must see a new reason to move forward, regardless of the woes of yesterday.
You must see a reason to understand and appreciate the real gift of life, knowing that you have yet another chance to prove your existence on earth worthy or not. You must see a new reason to choose positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts. You must see the real reason to rejoice, breathe a sigh of purposefulness and be poised to do something unique.
8. Pursue your passion.
This sounds a little crazy, finding passion and purpose in prison, but it's possible. I began writing spoken word poems, then performing them in small groups, at religious services, and eventually to large groups of invited guests. The ultimate experience was performing with John Legend (by video) on the TED stage.
My release from prison was just the beginning. Now it's time to build a successful future with that gift of freedom. I hope these principles can help you achieve your goals for the future. Good luck!