How to C-A-R-E About Personal Transformation!

I started stealing when I was about six years old, and did something criminal almost every day for 20 consecutive years. None of my crimes made sense because crime is stupid. The more crimes I committed, the more stupid I became and before I confronted my criminality, I stood precariously on the brink of incurable stupidity. You, or someone you love, might, even now, perch close to that dangerous domain--incurable stupidity.

Can a criminal know when he or she approaches that dangerous domain? Absolutely! You are becoming incurably stupid when the lens of your thinking prevent you from "seeing" the realities of life. Consider these realities: 1) Most criminals do not get away with crime. In fact, law enforcement professionals would capture all criminals if society would willingly pay the price, and if law abiding citizens would not become willing or unknowing crime supporters. For example, when crime victims refuse to report offenses, for whatever reason, they support criminals and conspire to help them get away with crime. Worse, still, when so-called law-abiding citizens buy stolen stuff, they support criminals. 2) Once you establish a criminal record, most people no longer presume you to be innocent until proved guilty. Quite the reverse is true. 3) When you firmly believe that crime, over time, produces more profit for you than legitimate work. Believe this way, and you live self-destructively close to that dangerous domain--incurable stupidity.

Let's first crunch the numbers!

 Let's say you rob a bank and steal $250,000, and the police catch you after you've spent about $25,000 and you get 10 years in federal prison without parole. When you're released from prison, after being incarcerated for the 8,736 hours in 10 years, your hourly rate would have been just a tad more than $1. On the other hand, had you worked for those 8,736 hours at just $5 per hour, net pay, you would have earned $43,680. More importantly, you would have been free to take advantage of any opportunities that came your way. So you see, crime surely does not pay!

Well, what about those criminals who seem to live :"high on the hog," so to speak? They drive expensive cars and live in luxury apartments, wear tailored clothes and hang out with beautiful women. They claim, and try to convince anyone who will listen, that crime delivers the good life. These criminals often remind me of an African proverb that exclaims: "When the lion writes history, all antelopes get caught.. The same concept applies to these criminals. They lie incessantly about the so-called "good life" they live between prison sentences.

Okay, enough about how and why crime is stupid. What's the answer? How does a criminal come to C.A.R.E. about becoming transformed? The acronym stands for Comitted Actions [to] Reverse Energy.

One of the very best illustrations of commitment resides in a story about a pig and hen discussing the ramifications of a ham and eggs breakfast. Said the pig: "This scenario requires you to be involved, but it requires me to be committed. Transformation requires life altering commitment. Consistent, long-term actions reveal commitment. For example, transformed thieves not only stop stealing stuff from others. They also stop stealing time by lollygagging, hanging out and skirting productive behavior. They stop stealing talent by learning to develop their talents constructively and productively, even investing them into others to produce synergistic relationships. They stop stealing, as it were, from their temples (physical selves) by living according to a wellness culture, rather than a sickness culture. Certainly they stop stealing treasure. Many thieves never consider this, but the treasure they steal from themselves dwafts, by comparison, what they steal from others. For example, when I would squander money buying loads of useless stuff and the fleeting fulfillment they provided, I stole from myself. That money "seeded" into productive ventures and profitable enterprises would have reaped endless harvests, financial and otherwise.

So how do I get from crime to contribution?  You will live through four phases of transformation. I designate those phases as follows:

  1. Criminal--when you believe it's all right to harm others to gain for yourself.
  2. Former criminal--when you learn to avoid acting on criminal thoughts.
  3. Change activist--when you adopt a comprehensive life strategy to become a community contributor, rather than a community predator.
  4. Change conqueror--when you have aligned with the powerful principles of change and success that reward you with the new life you desire.

In a nutshell, this transformation process requires you to break the crime habit, to earn an  ever-free life, and to achieve your crime and prison records into insignificance. This transformation requires you to master a new  learning and living process.

Fortunately, I learned the process, and I share it with you and others,.

 I learned that my thinking produces my words. My words dictate my actions. My repeated actions form my habits. My habits define my character, and my character develops my destiny. Therefore, early in the transformation process, I defined crime as a way of thinking that attempts to justify harming others to  gain for self. Thus, the vision became clear: change from being a getter to being a giver. Like everything worth doing, this change is easier to say than it is to accomplish. Without going into all the details of how I learned the following lessons, let me summarize the principles that govern this "step" to transformation.

The governing principles are:

1. Adopt new thinking, a principle that begins with rejecting your initial perspectives and perceptions in exchange for a different way of seeing circumstances. For example, instead of being upset when a prospective employer refused to hire me, instead of wondering why, I concluded that the firm's leadership suffered with "potential myopia." Therefore, they could not see the new highly contributive me, because that "person" existed as future potential. Take my first job, for example. I worked as a janitor, but I refused to wear the hotel's uniform off the premises because I began to think of myself, not as a janitor, but as a writer working as a janitor. That's new thinking. To be truly committed to a changed future, you must transform your thinking, because, remember: you say what you think, you do what you say, and your behavior produces your habits, which develop your character and determine your destiny. If you desire a new destiny, you must adopt new thinking.

2. Practice innovative thinking. Here's another example from the early days after my release from prison. I wanted to launch my writing career and I knew I needed a typewriter, but I could not afford one on my $1.25 per hour salary at the hotel. A parttime job would have defeated the purpose because I would not have enough time to write. So I made a deal with my aunt and her son where I lived. I was giving them about $30 per week. I asked them to let me use that money to finance the launch of my writing career and in a year I would give them double the total, about $3,000. It worked. I made that deal with them in 1969 and in the 40 years since, I have averaged more than $20,000 annually from a writing career launched with about a $3,000 investment. That's innovative thinking.

3. Craft creative thinking.  Often boldness characterizes creative thinking, as in this example from an interview with the late James Wilson, then Executive Editor of the Wilmington (NC) Morning Star. Wilson's only hesitant concern about offering me a job as a Morning Star reporter in June 1970 was the fact that I didn't own a car. "Mr. Wilson," I said, "tell your editors to assign me to any story that comes up and the first time I miss a story because I do not own a car, fire me." Subsequently, I wrote for The Morning Star for about two years. That's an example of creative thinking.

4. Display enthuiastic thinking. To continually remind myself of this principle, I taught myself to always answer the question, "How are you doing? with the following: "LIfe is great and improving daily." That's not simply an empty repetitive phrase, but the summary of powerful principles that position you to create a new future, based in your potential, rather than your problems. You see, "Life is!" When you awake daily, life is! It's does not matter by whose decision, or what set of circumstances  you continue living. All that matters is "Life is!" Now you confront the question, what style of life will I live today? This question introduces you to the concept of personal power and responsibility. This question does not delve into why or how I continue to live, but now that I am alive, how am I going to position myself in however much time I have remaining! Please avoid the following concepts like the plague they represent: "Tomorrow is not promised!" and "Yesterday was terrible." All you can do about yesterday is learn, internalize and implement the lessons revealed in that 24 hours of your life. You have no role or responsbility about getting to tomorrow. Your responsibility and the locus of your power rests in what you do today that positions you to do more in other days, if blessed to see them. Thus I determine what word goes in the blank time spot following "Life is!" What I put in that blank dictates my perceptions, perspectives and power to change. So I decided long ago that "Life is great!." However, if I stop there, I am living, but not planning. You see, what if I awake the following day and "Life is!" What are my plans for a life that continues? I decided long ago that I would always plan today for my life to improve daily in however many successive days I have remaining. So how am I doing almost 41 years after I exited prison, and crime? Life is great and improving daily. That's enthusiastic thinking.

So the change process, the change that transforms you from criminal to contributor, begins with becoming N.I.C.E.

Okay, you are on your way!

More next time.

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