Travis came to The Man Class looking for employment after being released from incarceration. His ability to communicate and his desire to learn immediately impressed me. Unlike some men who believe they have all the answers. (to which I say if you’re so smart why are you here) Travis showed up every day on time and enthusiastic about taking part in the lessons. Although unsure of the relevance of some exercises he completed his assignments. As the days progressed he became more willing to be open and share his experiences with the group. When using the experiential learning model open and honest communication is essential. A student must expose intimate details and experiences from their pasts. It is how we grow and learn from past mistakes.
Upon graduation, Travis secured a position with a manufacturing firm where he continued to work for several years. He continued to stay in contact with me and became active with an organization of men in town who provided positive mentoring to those formerly incarcerated. Travis had shared his fear of success during our training sessions and how he had sabotaged his own efforts in the past. Concerned about this pattern and I would share these concerns whenever we spoke together. His fear stemmed from not wanting to disappoint others once he became successful and his sense of unworthiness of his success. His low self-esteem kept him from reaching his full potential as it does with many of the men I train. Because of all the negativity they receive as children and the negative self-talk they develop many feel undeserving of good things.
After being laid-off from the manufacturing firm due to a plant closing, Travis reached out to me to see if I could find a position for him. One strength of our program is we are able through our network of employers to aid our graduates in securing employment. I reached out to a few contacts and found a position for Travis. He is working for a contractor here in town and is doing a great job. He is planning on joining a union and continue a career in the building trades. Travis’s story is one of my favorites because it shows what anyone is capable of it they are able to overcome their fears and put these simple principles into practice. It has been a struggle, but he continues to move forward with a growing faith in the knowledge of his worth.
So what is the life application for us in this story? I think first we have to be teachable and be open to new ideas. We have to acknowledge what we don’t know and be ok with not knowing everything. Humility plays a large role in overcoming our pasts. Secondly, we have to put in the work. Breaking patterns and changing thoughts is hard work and requires a lot of patience. This is a marathon and not a sprint. We are overcoming years of bad programming and it cannot be deleted all at once. Third, is we have to overcome our fears whether they are fear of failure, of success, or the unknown. Fear is the greatest enemy to our success. You must not allow fear to rule in your life. One tool I teach the men I work with is positive affirmations. Every morning wake up and say, “Today I will be unafraid to be great.” If you put these tools to work in your life, I believe you will lead not just a successful life, but a rewarding life for those around you.