I have some mountains in front of me that I must climb. They’re figurative mountains, of course, but they’re mountains nonetheless. We all have our challenges and each of us must decide how we’re going to respond to those challenges. The way we respond may define who and what we become in the months, years, and decades of our life.
A series of situations resulted in a significant setback. I won’t cast blame on anyone other than the person I see in the mirror. Through this blog that I intend to develop, I’m inviting readers to follow along on the journey. I hope that through this contribution, others will find hope. They’ll see that regardless of what difficulties we’re in during a given moment, we can always take steps to grow stronger.
Through a deliberate plan, I intend to come out of this struggle more vibrant, more aware, and better prepared to succeed. For this reason, I’ve developed this two-year plan.
Any person striving to summit a mountain would need a similar strategy.
In all honesty, I’m not too fond of the stage of life I’m in. In fact, I lament the predicament I’ve put myself into. Complaining about my challenge won’t do anyone any good. A friend of mine told me about the book Flow by a psychologist. According to my friend, the author wrote that successful people find their peace when they’re in the moment, intentional about what they are going to do. The steps they are taking always lead them closer to what they aspire to become – but they realize that life is a journey, with both ups and downs. All of us will go through ups and downs in life, but we can make better progress toward becoming more like the people we admire if we plan well. This plan will reveal how I aspire to evolve over the following years – by June of 2023. This document will serve as a compass, a tool that will guide me to the other side of this journey.
For those that haven’t read other parts of ScottLaney.com, I’m on my way to the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota. While I serve my sentence there, the following questions will guide my decisions:
- What will I achieve during my time away?
- How will my life change while I serve this sentence?
- What’s the best that can come from this experience?
Those types of questions keep me awake at night. I know that obstacles await me. It is my responsibility to figure how to succeed, despite the challenges that I will face. From Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I remember one habit: Begin with the end in mind.
At some point, I know that I’ll sit across the table from stakeholders. Those stakeholders will include:
- Case managers in prison
- Case managers in a halfway house
- Federal probation officers
- A Federal judge
- Future employers
- Fellow citizens
Today, as I prepare for the challenge in front of me, I’m thinking about those people that I’ll meet on the other side.
- What will those decision-makers think of me when I sit across the table from them?
Although I can’t know what anyone will think, I know that I can work hard to build a positive string of contributions toward improving our community – both inside and beyond the boundaries that will confine me. If I make good decisions, I may be able to influence people to see me for the positive contributions I’ve made rather than for the decisions that led me to federal prison.
Regardless of what others may or may not be doing while serving a sentence, I will hold myself accountable. While in Yankton, I will set my mind to working on anything that I can control. I look forward to returning to society at the soonest possible time and spending time with the people I love in the places that mean so much to us.
Besides working on personal development projects, I will maintain my commitment to the following goals.
Gaining the physical and mental benefits of exercise
- Weightlifting: I am going to gain, at a minimum, 10 pounds of muscle weight. To me, exercise is about more than simply maintaining health, although that does play a component. Physical activity is also fantastic for my mental health. By setting a tangible goal that involves lifting weights, I intend to win on both fronts.
- Stretching: I used to stretch regularly. Along the lines of the physical benefits, I enjoy the time it allows for a slowed-down and centered mindset of pondering and contemplating. I commit to stretching every day for at least 15 minutes.
- Yoga: Yoga has played a significant role in my life since my early 20’s. It’s surreal to think that I have been practicing for almost 20 years. The practice has changed my psyche, how I see the world, and how I interact with others. I plan to continue practicing yoga while at Yankton and to encourage others to give yoga a chance.
- Perform a 5-minute wall sit, a 5-minute plank, and a walking handstand. These are specific goals that I created after a conversation with someone very close to me. I plan to do these for this person very soon after my release, and I like that they will be a big challenge for me.
I want to learn, at a minimum, three entirely new skill sets to keep my mind engaged. Although I don’t know what opportunities exist, at this stage, I’m hoping to:
- Participate in an electrician apprentice program
- Enroll in a music program that will allow me to learn to play a new instrument
- Pursue a writing program that will improve my communication skills
I may not control whether I can enroll in apprenticeship or music programs, but this website represents an effort to pursue a self-directed writing course. I intend to write every day and coordinate an effort to update this site with new articles that describe my progress each week. Further, I will make a deliberate effort to improve my vocabulary and demonstrate that commitment by creating a list of new words that I learn. I’ll record those words in a section of this website.
Lastly, while serving a sentence, I will do my best to contribute to the lives of others. After all, regardless of how I feel about the court’s verdict, the fact remains that I owe a duty to make amends.
Although I did not give much thought to the prison system before my troubles with the law began, I have started researching and learning more.
Many of the people that encounter the judicial system come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They’ve come from hardship, and statistics show that those people frequently face difficulty upon release. I want to help. With that end in mind, I will design a course that I can teach.
I understand that some of the basic building blocks of success include critical thinking and communication. Since those skills have played a significant role in advancing my career, I will create a project to help others develop the same abilities. Instead of waiting for calendar pages to turn, I’ll find ways to contribute to our community. I will spend time teaching a GED class or tutoring others. I will participate in classes that other people teach. I will strive to live as a helpful person to the community and the people around me.
These goals include doing everything possible to stay relevant to my family, friends in Boise and other places I have lived. Writing letters has become a lost art – replaced by emails and text messages. With time for deep introspection and putting pen to paper, I will write at least two letters per week. At the forefront of my mind is that my time away is challenging for me and those who love me. I’m lucky to have so many people in my life who care for me. By writing letters, being emotionally present during visits, and using the phone, I want to stay in touch with those who care about me while trying to grow our relationship in these otherwise limited circumstances.
What will my preparations entail? In a world where Internet access is at the center of so many professions, one could say that there’s no room for professional growth while imprisoned.
However, through newspapers, magazines, books, and conversations, I plan to continue to broaden my professional horizons and steer myself toward a fulfilling career path.
Over time, I’ve learned that every human being has value, and every person has a story to tell. I’ll develop the art of listening and learning from the people around me. By listening to more people, I hope to find ways to bring value to more people. Then, I will use lessons from those conversations to develop training modules and coursework. I will spend time reading newspapers that broaden my knowledge of business, politics, and the intersections of commerce and government. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune and Newsweek will teach me a great deal. By reading biographies, I will learn about the career paths of others. Through extensive reading, I will identify when others made good and bad decisions that contributed to the growth of their communities.
Reading & Writing Goals:
I am setting a goal of writing a minimum of 100 blog posts over the next two years. Cumulatively, those blog posts will memorialize the journey, helping me show that I did not allow a difficult time to define my life. I’ve read that we test gold through fire, and we test character through the fire of adversity. I’m hopeful that, in the end, others will find that I served a sentence with dignity, developing good character through the choices I made.
In 24 months, I will have read 50 books. For every book I read, I will write a book report. The report will discuss:
- Why I chose to read the book
- What I learned from reading the book
- Why I anticipate lessons from the book will contribute to success
I refuse to be pessimistic about the past. Negativity is wasted energy, and instead, I will devote all of my energy towards being optimistic and preparing for the future.
I have a lot of work and quite the journey ahead, but I am confident that I will make it to the summit of this mountain and come back with my dignity intact, ready to return to society and enjoy the new direction my life has taken.