Melinda Bixler-Earning Freedom

Author of Book: Michael G. Santos
Date Read:

Book Report

Why I read Earning Freedom: I read Earning Freedom because it was written by Michael G. Santos, someone I have tremendous admiration for. In facing an 18-month federal sentence, I knew I could turn to Michael’s book for guidance, insight and encouragement. What I learned from reading Earning Freedom: I learned so much from reading this book. It’s difficult to sum up everything without writing a novel about the book. I’ve done my best to highlight: 1. Attitude is a powerful determinant of success. Although Michael could have accepted a 45-year prison sentence as defeat, he worked every day as if freedom was just around the corner. 2. Using time in prison to read and increase knowledge is a lifetime investment. It adds, never decreases in value. Learn from others you admire and pursue subjects that envelop you. Read, write, talk, listen… connect. 3. A successful career can begin from anywhere. Michael began building his career in his early 20’s within a federal penitentiary. Like a painter deliberately selecting colors to create the masterpiece only the painter envisions, Michael’s methodical and strategic approach lead to a future most people could never imagine. 4. One can remove all of a man’s liberties and still leave him with power and freedom. The power of the mind should never be underestimated. 5. Success is achieved by taking deliberate steps, preparing with the desire to overcome any barrier and doing the work every single day to advance toward goals. Many times, Michael faced barriers that seemed impossible to overcome. As I read the chapters, I could see his plans unfolding. No matter what prison he was in, there was always someone wielding power over him who was determined to see him fail. In fact, it seemed that some thrived on watching others suffer. While they may have created delays or made it more difficult for him, none of them out-strategized him. 6. It’s never too late to change direction or shift course. At any point, we can pivot and create a completely different future. 7. It’s important to individually define success. That’s where the planning begins. Summary of Book: Earning Freedom is the real-life prison experience of a cocaine trafficking boy who evolved into an incredibly generous educated man. The book provides Michael’s perspective into multiple decades spent continually pursuing education, building extensive networks, planning for future, and finding the love of his life while confined within concrete and barbed wire fences. Each chapter reveals the trials and tribulations of trying to succeed in a system incentivized by failure. Conclusion: Although statistically, a man with Michael’s past likely had a better chance of winning the lottery than becoming an American success story, if you’ve met Michael Santos then you realize that statistics are worthless measures. Through self-discipline and confidence, he navigated his way through prison successfully; captured love, marriage and happiness; founded organizations that give back to justice-impacted people and continues inspiring others to feel empowered. How will reading Earning Freedom contribute to preparation for success upon release: Reading Earning Freedom reinforces the importance of resilience and perseverance. It has helped me understand that prison is where life is put on hold. Prison is part of life’s journey. As a close friend of mine told me as he encouraged me to enroll in college, the “time passes whether you’re doing anything with it or not.” I can tread water for the duration of my prison sentence, or I can use that time to build a promising future. I’m choosing the latter. Michael is an inspiration, and his story reflects a man who has succeeded in spite of the cards (the many, many decks of cards) being stacked against him. If he can survive 26 years in a place designed to punish and crush one’s spirit, then I can certainly serve my short sentence with honor. A few of my favorites from Earning Freedom: “My belief strengthens my spirit, improves my attitude, and gives me a positive outlook. Instead of looking at my sentence as a burden I begin to see it as a challenge, an opportunity to grow in ways I never would’ve without extreme adversity.” Pg. 108 “We’re all serving time, locked inside the same fences, going through the same struggles.” Pg. 262 “Should society hold people who come from poverty to the same standard as people who come from privilege?” Pg. 475