The USA is truly an incredible place to live, and yet it is not perfect. One of the things that needs to change is the penal system. We are a country based on freedom, and yet ironically, we are one of the most incarcerated people in the world.
Corrections (which includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole) cost around $74 billion in 2007 according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2016, the Prison Policy Initiative estimated that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 323.1 million.
Jack Nicholson had a memorable line in the movie A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.” We have a problem and it is not going to change without fixing the root issue. We seem to be very efficient in punishing people but not so good at helping rehabilitate them and addressing the cause.
A Bureau of Justice Statistic study found inmates released from state prisons have a five-year re-arrest rate of 76.6%. A USSC study calculated comparable federal prisoners released have a 44.7% re-arrest rate after five years. How is that even possible? Those are grim figures that should wake you up whether you are in prison or you are free. Our prisons have revolving doors.
I don’t have any quick fixes, but simple observations. People in jail or prison need to know that somebody cares about them. Well, if you are reading this, I am that somebody. I care, my wife cares, and God cares. There are many people outside the walls who care for you (even if you don’t know them).
What can we do as a society to change this problem?
- Fix the family. Broken homes often are a statistic associated with incarceration. Having a stable family unit is a step in the right direction.
- Racism has to be addressed. We all bleed red, yet for some reason there are those who look at people different from them as somehow less than them.
- People who are free should never take their freedom for granted. It can be taken away in a heartbeat with one stupid mistake (as I am sure many who are behind bars can attest to).
- Stay in touch with the people you know who have been incarcerated and let them know you love them and are there for them. Do what you can to help them, encourage them, and just be there for them.
- Help those who are released to find meaningful employment. If they can’t find a job, what do you think is likely to happen?
- We all need heart surgery. Everyone has the same issue. Make sure you have a right relationship with God first and foremost, then work on loving others, regardless of how they look or what they have done.
- Forgive everyone. Yes, we have to reap the consequences of our actions, but everyone deserves to be forgiven and given another chance. Forgive everyone, including yourself. Give people the opportunity to succeed. Failure is only fatal if we give up on life itself.
- There is a proverb that says: Evil company corrupts. That holds true whether you are free or not. The people that you hang out with on a regular basis are inevitably a reflection of who you are. Choose your friends wisely.
I hope you don’t just read this and forget about it. We each have to do our part to change society for the better. I am asking everyone who reads this to do what they can…the best that they can to make this country an even better place to live for us and future generations.
“Gimme a break, will ya?” Have you ever felt that way? You just want to get a break and the cards you’ve been dealt are not going to win any games. Breakthroughs are tricky because we never know when they are going to come our way. All we know is that we will only break through if we are willing to push through.
Life is an incredible adventure, but it can be exhausting if you are just constantly focused on a breakthrough. Learn a valuable lesson and you will experience a lot less stress and gain the peace that has eluded you.
The lesson is this: enjoy the journey. Some people are so focused on the destination or goal that they miss all the blessings along the way. When we lose the joy of the journey, we can lose our way and miss our breakthrough altogether.
I had to take a LYFT ride the other day. The driver was a young single mom. She had 3 kids and was struggling to make ends meet. We had a long ride together, so I got to know a lot about her.
As I told her who I was, I shared my faith with her and encouraged her to draw close to God as she looked for her breakthrough. I asked her if I could pray for her and if there was anything specific she needed. Tears welled up in her eyes and she told me she had some health problems and needed healing.
I prayed for her and then left her with this: we had a “divine appointment.” She thought she was picking up someone who needed a ride, and I thought I was just getting from point A to point B. God had different plans. He sent me to her to encourage and pray for her.
She was the one who got the LIFT. God sends us divine appointments every day. We just have to ask for them, and then be ready to go with the flow. You will learn to see the opportunities to help people all along the way to your breakthrough. That is the secret to joy and peace on the journey.
For this blog, SOS has a dual meaning. Of course, everyone knows it is the international signal for “Help,” but there is another meaning that I want you to consider. I call it “Stuck On Stupid.” They kind of go hand in hand, don’t they?
When I ask you if you have ever known anyone that was SOS, you could probably produce a long list fairly quickly. Here is the catch: Is YOUR name on the list? Have you ever been SOS?
I think most of us would have to admit that we have had our moments of insanity and wondered after the fact how we could have been so stupid. They say that “You can’t fix stupid.” I disagree. You may be Stuck On Stupid, but you can get unstuck if you are willing to change.
SOS people tend to have this in common:
- They don’t listen when people with common sense are telling them to change.
- They don’t learn from their mistakes.
- They don’t believe that they CAN change.
- They often are frustrated and angry people.
If you want to know how to get unstuck for that “friend,” it is pretty simple:
- Admit you need help and be willing to consider the advice from those that love and care for you. Just make sure the one giving you advice is not SOS.
- Don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. Figure out how to get a better outcome. It is a lot less painful for you and everyone else. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn.
- Change is possible if you are willing to change. Be willing to take the risk. All change involves an element of risk, but the risk of not changing might very well be your worst nightmare.
- Manage your emotions. It is never OK to go off on others. Get therapy if necessary.
SOS people need help. Perhaps you will be the one to rescue them. Just understand that if they are SOS, they may resist your best efforts. Don’t take it personal. Love them, encourage them, and pray for them. Let God be the one to get their attention.
Air Force Special Operations Combat Controller Jack Fanning is a hero. He survived five tours in Afghanistan. Then the unthinkable happened: his parachute failed and left him paralyzed from the neck down. Here is the amazing thing: he is not bitter. He is not blaming God. His attitude is: There is a reason for everything. He believes it was allowed to happen so he could help other Veterans who are disabled. Since he truly knows their pain, they listen to Jack.
I don’t know how I would react to such a tragedy and I pray I never have to find out, but I do know that when life smacks you in the face you have two choices:
- You can lay there and die, or
- You can get up and try.
Here are some takeaways from his testimony:
- Be thankful for what you have, because it could be taken from you at any moment.
- Faith in God will help you though the darkest hours you face.
- Your faith will sustain you; lack of it will restrain you.
- There is nothing good that comes out of remaining angry over what happened. Bitterness is a deep root that can destroy you if you let it. Get rid of the root.
- Bad things can happen to good people, and good things can happen to bad people. Life is not fair, so don’t be surprised by it.
- Whatever happens to you, find a way to get the focus on others. Regardless of how you feel at the moment, it is never just about you.
- You have to believe in yourself. When the tragedy happens, your true character is revealed. When you get squeezed, what comes out? I have to admit that I am sometimes embarrassed at how I react to things. I am working on responding vs reacting.
- Some storms you know are coming and some you don’t. Prepare for both.
- There is life after a tragedy. Jack still shoots, hunts, scuba dives, and even jumps out of airplanes.
Jack Fanning is the real deal.
If you would like to support his organization or just learn more, go to:
“I am not about caring. I am about winning.” Harvey Specter, Suits TV Show
Be careful who you step on climbing the ladder. You may have to meet them on the way down. Have you ever wondered how some people sleep at night the way they treat others? They seem to have no conscience in how they talk to people and how they interact with them. They see people as objects to use and discard when necessary.
I recall early in my career working with a manager that was known as the hatchet-man. He was hired to clean house. His attitude was: “Better thee than me.” This was in a Fortune 500 company that you would recognize.
We lost a lot of good people that year. It was a lesson that never left me. He did not last long with the company because not only did he clean house, he hacked off everyone he worked with. He was like a bull in a china shop. Sadly, the china he destroyed had faces and families.
If you ever have to work with or for someone like this, here is a piece of advice from a survivor:
- Don’t make any waves to draw attention. Think of it as swimming with a shark. If they smell blood, you are dead in the water.
- Imagine it is election year and you have to choose who you support. If you place your loyalty with the wrong side, you will be replaced. If you are going to work in an organization, you best learn how to play the political game and know who is really in charge.
- Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
- Do your job so well that they will think twice about replacing you. It helps to be a top producer.
- Don’t gripe about your job to anyone at work. The walls have ears. If you are thought of as a complainer, you will be cut at some point. Never complain without offering a solution.
- The more specialized your skill-sets, the harder you are to be replaced.
Be aware of the sharks, swim at your own risk, and remember that sharks get eaten too.
How did we get to the point where there is a pervasive attitude of “You owe me?” As a grandfather I understand the desire to spoil the kids, but I wonder if in the spoiling we have created a monster?
It is an attitude not just with kids, but with adults as well. Everyone seems to have their hand out and expect the government, their parents, or anyone to step up and give them what they want. It does not matter that they did not earn it. They want it, and in their mind, they deserve it (for some reason).
How do we stop the madness? Quit giving people everything they want! When I was growing up we had to earn our allowance and it wasn’t a crazy amount of money either. The chores were not difficult, but it took some of the burden off my parents and gave me a sense of accomplishment in the process. What happened to letting people earn what they get?
I know there are people who are disabled and get welfare. I am not trying to put the ones who truly deserve it in this discussion. I am pointing out that we have countless people on welfare that are milking the system. We have untold numbers of kids who don’t know the value of a dollar. We have adults who never learned to earn money, so they expect someone to ante up for them. They don’t care who does it either.
I wonder how many billions of dollars are wasted every year on people who don’t really need the help but demand that they get it? I know that this is a huge problem for our country and possibly around the world as well. We have to use common sense and admit that the system is broken.
We definitely need to help those who are disabled, but there are too many able-bodied adults and kids who are content collecting their checks and never lift a finger. We can start by setting the proper values in our own families. Let them earn their keep. They will appreciate you for it when they are grandparents. The only way to stop the madness is to change what we are doing.
Rules can be followed, broken, or bent. There is a time to do each of them. Have you ever been pulled over by a policeman for a traffic violation and given a warning? Technically, you should have received a ticket, but he showed mercy. You probably gave a sigh of relief and thanked him for the warning.
Most recently there was a lady who got caught on camera because she was calling the police to report a little girl selling bottled water on a public street corner. She was unbelievably angry that the girl had no permit to sell the water. Wow. The public backlash on social media was immediate. She was not only humiliated, but she actually received death threats! Another big WOW. She definitely overreacted, but threatening her life? Those people could go to jail for making threats like that. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Personally, I thought it was great that the girl was earning the money rather than begging. Kid, if by chance you read this, here is my advice to you:
- Don’t let the haters ruin your day. Just keep doing what you are doing. I love your entrepreneurial spirit.
- Think about charging $5 per bottle with half of the proceeds going to your favorite charity, like The American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society, Feed the Children, etc. That takes your enterprise into another realm of giving back to those less fortunate. Now you are not just selling bottled water, you are giving hope to the hopeless. Just make sure you follow through on giving the money to the charity.
I do believe we need rules or we would live in a world of constant chaos and danger, but some rules need to be bent, and some need to be broken. It is just my humble opinion, but next time I get stopped by a policeman for a traffic infraction, I hope he or she has mercy on me. Let’s cut each other some slack, particularly if they are kids trying to earn some money.
“The hardest person to please may be the man in the mirror.” Dan Skognes
Perhaps you know someone who is a perfectionist. They can be excruciatingly difficult to deal with if you are not one of them. They tend to focus on what was not done vs what was accomplished. You often see them in careers as Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, Chemists, and Scientists.
I personally would prefer to have someone like that working on my behalf if they are dealing with my health or welfare. After all, who wants the guy that says, “Let’s give it a try and see if it works?” Nobody wants to be a Guinea Pig or a sacrificial lamb when their health or finances are at stake.
Here is the challenge for those of us who are not perfectionists: How do you deal with someone like that?
- Keep them in the loop and listen to what they have to say. They just may keep you from making a fatal mistake.
- Put what they say in perspective. Weigh risk vs reward and make an educated decision that mitigates your losses.
- Value them and acknowledge that you need their input. If they feel ignored or under-appreciated they may withhold the very counsel that you need.
If you yourself are a perfectionist, here is my advice for you:
- Cut the rest of us some slack and value our input as well.
- Realize that nobody is perfect. It is great to have high standards, but don’t put on others or yourself a standard that cannot be maintained.
- Sometimes good is good enough.
- Don’t let perfection kill creativity.
I do believe that we should have high standards in regard to all aspects of life, but I also know that life is an imperfect puzzle. Our task is to put the pieces together to make sense of the picture. Make sure you have enough pieces to know what it is going to look like and understand that every choice has consequences. The bottom line is: Can you live with the picture you got, and what is the impact on yourself and others? It is never just about you.
“Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Winston Churchill
“Find where you fit, then commit, don’t quit.” Dan Skognes
One of the biggest gripes I hear about job seekers today is they won’t commit…they quit. I don’t know if it’s fair to make such a broad statement, but it apparently is enough of an issue that many employers have the perception: “It’s so hard to find good people these days.” It’s a common problem that transcends age, gender, race, and geography.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about people actively seeking employment:
- Many have a sense of entitlement. They want the title, benefits, and big salary without proving that they can even do the job. Their expectations are unrealistic.
- They think that because they got a degree they will automatically be hired. What they come to realize very quickly is that the real world is very competitive and not fair.
- Many blue-collar and service jobs are standing vacant because people go the route of getting their degree…mistakenly thinking that a degree is their golden ticket. I do believe in formal education, but many people are better suited for a blue-collar job. They have overlooked the possibility of getting certified as an electrician, plumber, brick layer, etc., as being an education for something where they could make a lot of money and really enjoy doing their work.
- Some have the attitude that they will quit if they hit any resistance. That is a time-bomb waiting to explode because there are no perfect jobs or bosses. There will always be issues with any job, so expect resistance and learn from it. Success and failure are both great teachers, but failure may be the greatest of the two.
- They seem to balk at things asked of them that are not in their job description. That attitude does not bode well in a team environment. Learn to go beyond what is expected.
- A lone-wolf mentality doesn’t gel with teamwork. They need to work on their people skills and quit looking at everyone as their enemy.
If we find what we are truly passionate about we are likely to find our purpose, and that is what we all seek: our purpose in this life.