Success After Prison With Michael Santos



Success After Prison highlights experiences and lessons Michael Santos learned while conquering 26 years of imprisonment. He shares strategies that he learned from leaders like Socrates, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Viktor Frankl, and Martin Luther King. Those leaders taught concepts to overcome struggle and adversity. Michael shows how living in accordance with those strategies opened opportunities for him in prison and prepared him for success upon reentry. He emerged from prison successfully and he explains how others can use these strategies to overcome challenges in their lives.


  • Episode 30: Success After Prison

    Episode 30: Success After Prison

    16/03/2016 Duration: 22min

    Spreading Awareness: Although our growing portfolio of rental properties had become an integral part of our wealth-accumulation strategy, I remained determined to build a digital-products business. With hopes of finding more institutional buyers for the program, I accepted 12 speaking assignments in the fall of 2015, keeping me in different airports every week. I traveled to various cities between Tacoma and Washington DC, striving to create market awareness for Earning Freedom products.   Some of those speaking events provided memorable experiences, and opportunities that I hope to leverage in months to come. Earlier I mentioned that the Washington State Department of Corrections was a client of the Straight-A Guide product that I created. When I made my initial sales call in Washington State, I had an opportunity to build a friendship with Michael Colwell, assistant director of Correctional Industries. He introduced me to his colleagues, including Bernie Warner, Dan Pacholke, and Scott Frakes. At the tim

  • Episode 29: Multiple Income Streams After Journey in Prison

    Episode 29: Multiple Income Streams After Journey in Prison

    15/03/2016 Duration: 20min

    Eric’s testimonial convinced me that through digital programs like Earning Freedom, more people would find hope they needed to overcome struggle and prepare for success. My challenge was finding more purchase orders, as I would need a revenue stream to build a sustainable business.     Multiple Revenue Streams: Throughout this book, I’ve tried to share lessons I learned from masterminds. They taught me that I could advance my prospects for success if I lived in the world of reality rather than the world of fantasy. When authorities took me into custody, back in 1987, I had to live with the reality that I had made many bad decisions as a young man. While locked in the Pierce County Jail, prayers led me to the story of Socrates. From that story, I learned to think about the avatars that would influence my prospects in the future.   Instead of dwelling on challenges that my bad decisions created, I had to think about the best possible outcome. With that vision, I could engineer a path that would take me from

  • Episode 28: Podcasting About Prison

    Episode 28: Podcasting About Prison

    14/03/2016 Duration: 22min

    Podcasting: The more research I did, the more I realized how podcasting could serve as a wonderful tool to build authenticity. After watching a webinar on Podcaster’s Paradise, I pulled out my credit card and paid $1,000 to enroll in the podcasting course. Through that course, I learned everything I needed to launch Earning Freedom, which would become my new podcast. I purchased microphones and software to get started. Then I retained Scott Houston, an audio engineer to set up my podcasting studio. I retained Brent Boates, a graphic designer to create my logos. I retained Zach Swinehart to redesign so it could more easily accommodate podcasts. And on March 15, 2015, I launched the Earning Freedom podcast on iTunes.   When I began Earning Freedom, I envisioned the podcast as part of my overall strategy to create digital products and services. I set a goal of creating new content for an ongoing show that would follow a coherent structure. Each episode would last roughly 30 minutes and adhere t

  • Episode 27: Earning Freedom Mastermind Course

    Episode 27: Earning Freedom Mastermind Course

    13/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    Earning Freedom Mastermind Course: Mike Tausek came across the Straight-A Guide course that I created for Justin’s nonprofit foundation. We had distributed the course to several jails, schools, and prisons. Mike contacted me to learn more about what it would take to bring the Straight-A Guide to Maine’s prison system.   The Straight-A Guide was a comprehensive course, with ten modules of five lessons each. The course included workbooks, videodisks, and softcover books. Further, facilitators needed to proceed through a full day of training to learn the concepts. I created the course with intentions to sell the Straight-A Guide to institutions across the United States, yet as I described earlier, we lacked capital to fully implement our plan.   Since I had accepted the fulltime position with Tim’s organization, I didn’t have liberty to travel to Maine so easily, I told Mike. I explained to him that I was working to create new, digital products, and suggested that he allow me to create something new that we coul

  • Episode 26: Orange County After Prison

    Episode 26: Orange County After Prison

    12/03/2016 Duration: 20min

    Orange County After teaching my final class at SFSU in May of 2014, Carole and I loaded our Chevy Aveo to make the seven-hour drive south to Newport Beach. Earnings from books I wrote while in prison provided resources Carole needed to live while she advanced through nursing school. Those earnings also allowed her to purchase the small, four-cylinder Aveo. The car brought a lot of memories for both Carole and me through our journey. From prison yards, I used to wait for her to drive in on visiting days.   When I got out of prison Lee asked what type of car I was going to buy, because Carole would need to drive hers.   The tone of Lee’s question told me a great deal. Although I wanted to buy a nice car, and I had savings in the bank, I knew that wasting money on an impressive car wouldn’t be prudent. For one thing, blowing resources on a high-end car would not have endeared me to Lee. In fact, I’m sure that if I would’ve purchased an expensive car, he would’ve lost all respect for my judgment. Successful pe

  • Episode 25: Changing Jurisdictions After Prison

    Episode 25: Changing Jurisdictions After Prison

    11/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    Transferring Jurisdictions: Since I was still on Supervised Release, making a move to Newport Beach would not be so easy. I reported to a probation officer in a different judicial district. As a resident of the San Francisco Bay area, authorities required that I report to a probation officer in the Northern Judicial District of California.   Tim’s employment offer required that I relocate to the Central Judicial District of California. Besides convincing my probation officer to support my move, I’d have to persuade a probation officer from the Central District to authorize my transfer. If I could overcome those challenges, I’d have a few additional complications to resolve.   Fortunately, the seeds I began sowing from the start of my journey positioned me well to seize opportunities like the one Tim offered. I felt confidant Carole and I would be able to transition from Northern California to Orange County. But I needed to see what she thought. After Tim made his offer, I called Carole to ask what she would l

  • Episode 24: Corporate Sponsors After Prison

    Episode 24: Corporate Sponsors After Prison

    10/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    Corporate Sponsorship: To succeed in building the Straight-A Guide program, I would need to find a different source of support. My Socratic questioning convinced me that I didn’t have sufficient experience to accept responsibility for $3 million worth of investor money. But that didn’t mean I would have to abandon the idea altogether. Instead of raising money necessary to hire a staff, lease office space, fund travel, marketing, and advertising expenses, I decided to venture into the market and get more experience.   To validate the concept and build the business, I knew that I’d need to continue efforts I’d been making since I concluded my prison term eight months previously. Yet those efforts required me to spend money on airfare, on rental cars, on hotels. I had to travel frequently. Further, I needed more resources to pay for services like web development and marketing. I wanted to attend trade shows, purchase display booths, and interact with administrators who would consider purchasing my products. I di

  • Episode 23: Expanding Markets After Prison

    Episode 23: Expanding Markets After Prison

    09/03/2016 Duration: 20min

    Total Available Market: First and foremost, I anticipated that investors would want to know the total available market for products that I could create. As I wrote above, I envisioned a multi-billion-dollar annual market. I arrived at that number after reviewing published reports showing that state and federal governments spent in excess of $80 billion per year on corrections. Although I didn’t have any data, I estimated that at minimum, 5% of those budgets funded programs designed to reduce recidivism and to prepare offenders for successful lives upon release. Using those metrics, the total available market exceeded $4 billion each year.   Obviously, if I could put an organization together, we’d only receive a fraction of those resources. But if we implemented the program successfully, and we became an evidence-based program after three years, it would seem that the The Straight-A Guide could secure an average of at least 20 clients in each state, for a projected, estimated total of 1,000 clients. If each cl

  • Episode 22: Raising Capital After Prison

    Episode 22: Raising Capital After Prison

    08/03/2016 Duration: 20min

    Raising Capital The wisdom of Socrates has lived for longer than 2,000 years. His teachings influenced my thinking and approach to problems. To figure out next steps in the development of my career, I turned to his question-based approach to learning. The more questions I asked, the more truth I found in his saying, “The one thing I know is that I know nothing.”   By the spring of 2014, I’d been free from the Bureau of Prisons for eight months. The experience of creating the Straight-A Guide and striving to bring the product to market taught many lessons. More than anything, I learned that I needed help. In order to build a truly sustainable business, I’d need to inspire a team of qualified professionals who could accelerate sustainable growth.   I did some simple back-of-the-envelope math. Attracting candidates who could execute a plan would require sufficient capital. To start, the organization I envisioned would have to pay livable wages. We’d need at least $300,000 per year to build a team of five peop

  • Episode 21: First Mortgage After Prison

    Episode 21: First Mortgage After Prison

    07/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    First Mortgage: Carole and I met with a mortgage banker and provided all of the documentation requested. We took the next step of ordering an appraisal of the property. By considering comparable prices in the neighborhood, the appraiser provided documentation valuing our property at $454,000.                                                                                                                  To avoid additional charges for mortgage insurance, we agreed to accept a mortgage of 80% of our home’s appraised value, or roughly $363,000. We wrote a check for $17,000 to cover the remaining amount we would owe to pay off the note to ABS Development. With the $12,000 we had put as a down payment when we initially signed the purchase agreement, and the $17,000 in additional funding we had to pay at the time of the close, our total out-of-pocket investment in the property was $29,000. But in less than 18 months of ownership, our total equity in the property surpassed $90,000—or more than three times what we p

  • Episode 20: Financial Stability After Prison

    Episode 20: Financial Stability After Prison

    06/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    Building Financial Stability: When I concluded my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons in August of 2013, I set new goals with Carole. We were 49 years old and making progress, but we would have to cover a lot of ground to prepare for a stable future. Although I felt passionately about working to improve outcomes of our nation’s prison system, I also had a responsibility of preparing for our family’s future. Carole had sacrificed a great deal to marry me while I still had 10 years remaining to serve in prison. I wanted to provide her with the comfort of knowing that we were stable. I promised to work toward a goal of providing stability for our family.   While Carole advanced toward her Master’s degree in nursing, I had to figure out a way to build my own career. With limited resources, it would seem that I would need to think creatively in order to generate more orders for the Straight-A Guide. I needed to build more credibility, showing that the program didn’t only lead to success through prison, but also su

  • Episode 19: Finding Markets After Prison

    Episode 19: Finding Markets After Prison

    05/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    Finding Markets: Like anyone starting a new venture, Justin and I had to overcome many hurdles as we tried to introduce our products into the marketplace. Philanthropic organizations provided us with funding to get started, but we still needed to create a sustainable business model. That meant we needed to find markets. The markets we identified included jails, prisons, and schools that served people who were at risk of going into jails or prisons.   As formerly incarcerated individuals with felony convictions, Justin and I faced challenges in breaking through to decision makers at the institutions where we wanted to sell the Straight-A Guide. I concluded my prison term on August 12, 2013, but I was scheduled to serve an additional four years on Supervised Release. At times, selling to “the system” proved difficult because of our criminal records. Still, we were committed to the work, sensing that our product would inspire more people inside to pursue self-directed paths of preparing for success.   On occa

  • Episode 18: Programs For Prisoners

    Episode 18: Programs For Prisoners

    04/03/2016 Duration: 22min

    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 wel

  • Episode 17: Funding After Prison

    Episode 17: Funding After Prison

    03/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    I designed the third class to teach students about evolutions that occurred in criminal justice during the 18th century. Scholars referred to that era as The Enlightenment, a time when people had more hope. Two philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, presented different theories on human behavior. According to Thomas Hobbes’ view, people were basically beasts by nature. Hobbes’ theory held that people would only refrain from breaking laws if the state maintained a severe penal system that would punish wrongdoing. John Locke, on the other hand, believed that all people came into the world with a blank slate—meaning they were neither good nor bad. Instead, they learned behavior through their observations and experiences. People may have learned behaviors that led to criminal actions, but they could also “unlearn” those behaviors and become good.   Those types of philosophical questions, I explained to the students, led other philosophers to question the way we responded to criminal behavior. Instead of resp

  • Episode 16: Prison To Professor

    Episode 16: Prison To Professor

    02/03/2016 Duration: 20min

      San Francisco State University In early 2013 I began sending letters to professors who taught criminal justice courses in the San Francisco Bay area. If they thought it would be helpful, I offered to visit and provide their students with a different perspective. Many students who majored in criminal justice wanted to pursue careers in corrections, probation, or other law enforcement professions. I knew the students would’ve read many theoretical textbooks on corrections or different sociological theories. Listening to someone who could share first-hand experiences might contribute to their educational experience.   Dr. Jeffrey Snipes, from San Francisco State University, responded to my letter. He led the criminal justice department at SFSU and he invited me to visit with him at the university. Jeff’s email encouraged me, as I’d never stepped foot on a university campus before. I had invitations to speak at other universities later in the school year, but I looked forward to meeting Jeff and walking thro

  • Episode 15: Technology After Prison

    Episode 15: Technology After Prison

    01/03/2016 Duration: 21min

    Through Justin I met Scott Budnick. Through Scott Budnick, I met Chris Redlitz. And through Chris Redlitz, I met Tulio Cardozo. Tulio was one of the first graduates from The Last Mile. As I had done, Tulio made some bad decisions as a young man, becoming involved with drugs. While incarcerated, however, Tulio chose to reinvent himself. Through textbooks, he trained himself how to code computers. Those efforts brought Tulio to the attention of Chris Redlitz and Chris authorized Tulio to participate in The Last Mile training program. When Tulio concluded his prison sentence at San Quentin, Chris offered Tulio an internship so he could learn more about working with technology companies.   As it turns out, Tulio also followed the pattern of masterminds. He lived deliberately, and his deliberate actions led to success.   Although I didn’t know much about technology, Tulio had a wealth of information. He invested hundreds of hours helping me to build Whenever I had a technology problem, I could t

  • Episode 14: Support Networks After Prison

    Episode 14: Support Networks After Prison

    29/02/2016 Duration: 21min

      Support Networks Accelerate Growth Opportunities Earlier, I wrote about rules in the halfway house that required me to have a job. So long as I had a job that paid a steady paycheck, my case manager in the halfway house authorized me to leave. My friend Lee was more like a sponsor for me than an employer. He set a schedule for me to work 10—hour shifts, Monday through Saturday. I reported to an office and sat at a desk, but instead of doing work for Lee, I focused on creating a business. First, I needed Lee to see the vision.     I persuaded Lee that our nation’s commitment to mass incarceration was one of the greatest social injustices of our time. Although it would take time, I convinced him that a need existed for programs and services to help people emerge from prison successfully. He encouraged me to develop a plan that would lead to a sustainable business providing products and services that would improve outcomes of our nation’s prison system.     Technology: My first challenge was learning how to

  • Episode 13: Creative Financing After Prison

    Episode 13: Creative Financing After Prison

    28/02/2016 Duration: 21min

    Creative Financing: I visited Chris and Seth. They were partners of Advanced Building Solutions, a premier real estate development company with more than $100 million worth of properties under development. Although I’d never met Chris prior to my release from prison, my friend Lee could introduce me. Without a doubt, Chris and Seth were the type of people I had in mind when I thought about avatars. If leaders like Chris and Seth were going to believe in me, they would want to see a record showing that I was different from the foolish young man who began selling drugs when he was 20. I always believed that my adjustment through prison would have a direct influence on my ability to overcome challenges upon release.   When I met with the Chris and Seth, I showed them the record I’d worked hard to build. I was a published author, I had academic credentials, and I could show that I’d been married for ten years. Further, I had support from Lee, and he vouched for me. Any business person in the San Francisco Bay are

  • Episode 12: Buying Real Estate After Prison

    Episode 12: Buying Real Estate After Prison

    27/02/2016 Duration: 22min

    Real Estate Purchase When I returned to society, in August of 2012, our nation was starting to emerge from the worst recession in our lifetime. In 2008 the stock market and the real estate market began to implode. Credit dried up. Housing prices fell to historic lows. By the fall of 2012, however, the economy looked poised to rebound. Carole and I wanted to participate in the potential upside.   To profit from an anticipated market rebound, I knew that Carole and I would need to control a larger asset base. If we could purchase a large asset, like a house, when prices were still relatively low, our equity would increase if housing prices recovered. Both of us wanted to purchase real estate. Our challenge was that we did not have sufficient credit to qualify for a house purchase in the conventional manner. We would need to create an alternative strategy. Fortunately, the seeds we began sowing prior to my release would help.   What were those seeds? We began with a vision of what we wanted. We set a plan. An

  • Episode 11: Building Credit After Prison

    Episode 11: Building Credit After Prison

    26/02/2016 Duration: 22min

      Establishing Credit: With a driver’s license, a job, and a paycheck, I had to begin building a banking relationship. After I received my first paycheck, I went to Bank of America and opened an account. Charles had told me that I could not apply for credit until after I completed my obligation to the Bureau of Prisons. So I opened a checking account and a savings account.   Just to check, I authorized the banker to run a credit report on me. We learned that I had a 0-0-0 credit score. He asked how a person of my age could proceed through life without accumulating a credit score—good or bad. The banker listened with interest as I told him that I’d just concluded 25 years in custody and that I was living in a halfway house. That conversation opened another opportunity for me to tell the story of my journey, another opportunity for me to influence a potential source of support.   Many people emerge from prison and try to hide their past. I don’t make a judgment on how much information an individual should revea

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