Straight-A Guide Program:
During my imprisonment, we developed the literature for this program. It all began under the theory that people in prison would be more receptive to learning from individuals who had transformed their lives while they experienced the prison system. Prisoners sometimes rejected a message when that message came from people who didn’t know the pain of being separated from the people they loved, or from the people who loved them. We wanted to reach prisoners. We wanted to convince those people that it was never too early, and it was never too late to begin preparing for a better life.
I wrote three books to share lessons that empowered me through the multiple decades that I served. They weren’t my lessons, but lessons I learned from people I called masterminds. In truth, we all faced struggle during the course of our life. Many people overcame struggles that were far more significant than a lengthy prison sentence. I learned from those people and I convinced that other people can learn from those lessons as well.
With continued funding from The California Wellness Foundation, The Sierra Health Foundation, The Cornerstone Project, and other philanthropic groups, we were able to create a comprehensive series of lesson plans and accompanying videos. Our 10 separate learning modules included five lessons in each module, for a total of 50 lessons. Funding allowed us to retain the team at Landini Media, SRV Studios, and Open Advance. Together we created more than 12 hours of high-quality video footage to complete our Straight-A Guide training program. Tulio Cardozo assisted me in designing the lesson-plan layouts.
Through the Straight-A Guide, we aspired to teach actionable strategies for self-empowerment. People in prison or in at-risk populations could use those strategies to transform their lives in the same way that others have done. The program worked as follows:
Transformation begins when we identify and articulate values by which we profess to live. In the Straight-A Guide, I taught that message through the context of my own journey. First, I needed to accept responsibility and let the world know that I wanted to become something more than what I was at present. Rather than allowing my past bad decisions to define me, I thought about my avatars. By asking Socratic questions about what they would expect of me, I could define the values by which I professed to live. My avatars would expect me to educate myself, to contribute to society, and to build a support network. Those three principles became the values by which I professed to live. Through the lessons plans I created in Module 1, I encouraged participants to identify values by which they professed to live.
Once I identified my values, I needed to create a definition of success for each value category. My own definition of success didn’t matter. Instead, I needed to resume my question-approach to learning. How would my avatars define whether I succeeded in my pursuit of education? I anticipated that they would measure an education by a college degree. How would my avatars define whether I succeeded with regard to my contributions to society? I anticipated that if I were to publish, they would consider that I had worked to make a quantifiable contribution. How would my avatars define whether I had built a support network? I anticipated that if I persuaded 10 people to believe in me, and vouch for me, my avatars would find it easier to accept me. Accordingly, I set goals of earning a university degree, of publishing, and of finding 10 people to believe in me within my first decade of confinement. In Module 2, the lessons encouraged participants to articulate their goals, and to make them consistent with their values.
Identifying values and goals was the prerequisite to embarking upon the Straight-A Guide. The next Module encouraged participants to move forward with the “right” attitude. What was the right attitude? In the Straight-A Guide we identified the right attitude as a 100% commitment to success—as the individual’s values and goals defined success.
Individuals who moved forward with the right attitude could articulate their aspiration. In Module 4, we taught participants how to see themselves as something more than their past bad decisions or their current circumstances. Instead, we wanted them to project into the future, to see themselves as the success they wanted to build. In essence, we taught them to become the CEOs of their own lives. If they knew what they wanted to become, then they could craft more effective plans that would help them reach the end result.
To become something more, or to reach their highest potential, participants learned that they needed to take incremental action steps. In Module 5, we showed that every person who achieved a high level of success followed this path. People had to execute their plans in order to reach a higher potential. Regardless of where an individual was at a given time, that person could begin taking action steps that would lead to a new and better reality.
In Module 6, we showed participants the importance of creating their own accountability metrics. They would need to figure out ways to measure their incremental progress. Even if they anticipated having to pass through decades before their release, or if they didn’t have a release date, this module taught participants ways to hold themselves accountable, making adjustments as necessary.
With Module 7, participants learned the cumulative influences of living a deliberated, values-based, goal-oriented adjustment. By living in accordance with the Straight-A Guide, participants would become aware of opportunities. Those opportunities were available to everyone else, but only those who committed to the deliberate path would find them and seize such opportunities. Simultaneously, others would become aware of their commitment to success. Accordingly, they would find people who would have a vested interest in their success—people who would invest in them to advance their success with new opportunities.
Module 8 taught about the importance of celebrating incremental achievements. By celebrating each achievement, no matter how small, participants could sustain their growth patterns as months turned into years. They would know and understand how success in one area of life would lead to further successes.
The penultimate module taught participants that they could increase their successes by expressing appreciation for the blessings that came their way. It’s a version of a theory known as “The Law of Attraction,” showing that we could will more success and abundance into our life so long as we reciprocated, bringing more success and abundance to others.
Finally, the Straight-A Guide taught participants that by living in accordance with this values-based, goal-oriented strategy, they could empower themselves. They would rely on authorities or others to tell them they were free. Instead, they could create higher levels of liberty in their life by embarking upon their own path, living their own visions.
Once we filmed all of the lessons and finalized all of the lesson plans, Justin and I reached into the marketplace so we could start spreading our work.