In the 1980’s Michael Santos started trafficking cocaine, which eventually resulted in a 45 year prison sentence. Michael experienced an intense change in mentality and earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, wrote 2 books longhand, married his wife, and earned six figures on the stock market- all behind bars.  Click here to read Part I of this 2 Part Series “No Excuses:  How Michael Santos Created Success in Prison”.

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Michael Santos was released from prison in 2012 after serving 26 years. He has an extraordinary outlook on life and an insatiable desire to make himself and others better. I had the opportunity to do an interview with him, one of the first things he said was “Be the change you want to see in the world!” Michael’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. There is much to value in his advice.

Can you describe your transition from the criminal mentality to using your prison sentence to learn and grow? Was it an instant change of thought or more of a slow transition?

When I was 21 years old I saw Scarface and it really influenced me. I wanted to get into that. I eventually got arrested [for dealing cocaine] when I was 23. I knew I was facing a very long sentence—possibly life without parole. My case didn’t involve any violence, but because of the war on drugs people were getting long sentences. After I was convicted, but before I was sentenced, I read the story of Socrates. Socrates was in jail, and he had an opportunity to escape. But he didn’t take it. He chose death. That story had a profound effect on me. It made me think about what I could do to make the most of my time in prison. It was an instantaneous change after I read that story. I began to think about what steps I could take to reconcile with society.

What was it that led you to pick up that book?

In jail I started to pray and ask for guidance. I didn’t pray to get out of jail, but to get me through the journey. Those prayers led me to the book, A Treasury of Philosophy—specifically the story of Socrates.

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I was a terrible student in school and never read books growing up. But my prayers led me to read that book. I began to think, “What would law-abiding citizens expect from me?”

That’s when I came up with a three-part plan. I was going to educate myself, contribute to society, and build a support network. If I could execute that plan, I could emerge from prison with dignity.

While you were in prison you were met with setback after setback, yet you came out victorious. What advice would you give to someone who is discouraged because of setbacks in his/her life?

I would encourage them to visualize success. Figure out the best possible outcome to their life. I started to think in the cell, not about getting through the day or the week, but about success. I would think, “What is the best possible outcome for this?” The visualization was to become a law-abiding citizen. I wanted people to see me as a good person—not just someone who made bad decisions as a youth. The more clarity I got on that, the more empowered I became.

Don’t look at today’s struggle because then you are just focused on those struggles. Make a three-year, five-year, or ten-year plan. Visualize what the best possible outcome is in three, five, or ten years. Then reverse engineer where you need to be and create a plan. Create a plan for what you can accomplish in a year, a month, a week, and a day and work on that. You become empowered as an individual as you move toward what you define as a victory.

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How have you adjusted your personal growth patterns now that you have more freedom?

I’m still very disciplined. I’ve been free from the Bureau of Prisons for almost two years now. I’ve found there are so many more tools to use. I got a nice Mac Pro: no more spinning ball! I’m trying to learn social media better. When I was in prison I never even sent an email. I read about it, but I never experienced it. I have a lot to learn, and I still need to master the tools that are available.

What’s next for you?

My big project right now is a new podcast that I have developed. It’s called Earning Freedom. I produce a new episode every day. On the episodes I interview formerly incarcerated people or business leaders. I’m trying to connect with more employers and formerly incarcerated people to learn from them and tell their stories.

I have also written a few simple eBooks to help individuals who have been indicted—so they can really understand the process they will be going through. I want to help them begin a deliberate path and position themselves so they can emerge successfully without letting the prison experience be a failure.

Will you be writing another book?

Yes. I will be writing a follow up to my book Earning Freedom that will have the details of my time after I was released from prison

If you haven’t read Michael’s book, Earning Freedom, I highly recommend it. You can also read more about Michael’s story or listen to his podcast here

Click here to read Part I: No Excuses: How Michael Santos Created Success In Prison

Each year, Colleges and Universities from all over the globe graduate thousands upon thousands of students who are eager to share their newly acquired knowledge and skills with the world. After years of digesting curriculum that has been outlined for them by their respective schools, graduates take what they have learned and relentlessly search for careers in which they can showcase these abilities.

While the class of 2015 may be facing the best job climate in over a decade, demand for entry-level positions in specific sought-after fields creates a great deal of competition and high levels of anxiety for those who are vying for a particular job. Many post-graduates find that they don’t have the necessary experience or hard-skills to beat the competition in landing their dream jobs. When left in the dust, these new graduates may take whatever position they can find which closely resembles their ideal career.

Of the 52% of college students who actually graduate, about 40% of them will face mal-employment , which means they are employed but not with the use of their degree. When this happens, it paves the way for a path that these individuals may not have planned for. Once on that path, many find it hard to veer off and eventually feel stuck and lost. Working in jobs that we may not enjoy or even care about can lead to feeling unmotivated and insignificant.

That fire which we carried on a first job interview dims into a flickering flame that we no longer feel compelled to reignite. The passion felt when stepping into a favorite class has faded as we enter into a somewhat monotonous routine of waking up, going to work, going home, and doing it all over again.

Further contributing to young employees losing their passion for work is that many companies may fail to inquire about the person behind the emails. The person who dedicates their time and energy 40+ hours per week is more than what they do at their desk . It can be easy for companies to overlook strong skill sets that their employees possess outside of their job requirements.

But how would they even know? Do employers care to ask? Do they value growth and developing passions beyond what’s required to complete their daily tasks? Both employers and employees have the power to put these skills and additional knowledge to use.

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Utilizing technology, we have ways to pursue passions and skills further, and communicate to our employer strong traits and skills we possess that may not come up in the minutia of day-to-day work. As individuals, we all have a way to measure and capture all we know and love to learn about, inside and outside of our formal education. We have the privilege and capability to step outside of the box and fulfill the dream jobs we strive to obtain . Options like additional online learning, passion projects, freelance work, or speaking up to your manager about what you really love to do are all available. We can advance our skills and knowledge in many ways even though we are no longer in the classroom. The beauty of innovations within technology in the past few decades is that it has provided us with endless opportunities to make something great out of nothing.

The person behind the emails has endless resources to progress and learn. Humans are made up of multiple facets – Their educational background, life experiences, work experiences, hobbies & interests, social network, etc. When all those pieces can come together in one job, it creates a recipe for true fulfillment. If, on the other hand, an individual doesn’t feel their abilities are being properly leveraged to their full potential, then they may flee to pursue outside opportunities where they can grow.

Employers, specifically direct managers, can help by valuing learning and skill development, and recognizing ways to talk about the passions and skills that employees have outside of their job titles, including what they want to learn more about.

For employees, it’s time to recognize and take control of continued growth and being more than just our job titles. Every individual is an essential asset to the world and to areas that may have not yet been discovered. This is how ideas are created. This is how entrepreneurs are born. This is how history is made. Strive to reach your full potential, speak up about your skills, and never settle for being just a person behind an email.

 

Check out degreed.com for more information on measuring and validating all your learning and skills.

You can find Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyRuns

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During my morning Twitter session, I noticed Quartz published this article in response to a new report by ZenithOptimedia on how much media we consume daily. The study throws down the numbers on how much time we’re consuming media in some form of internet browsing, television, magazine, or newspaper. It revealing that apparently we all have full-time jobs as Media Consumption Specialists (Mom is so proud).

That’s right, we’re spending 8 hours a day taking in the wonders of the internet, television, and the occasional magazine . I can’t say I’m shocked by that number, although I would never want to see a running counter of exactly how much time I spend on the internet- the thought makes me a bit sick.

When it comes to consuming 8 hours a day of media, one must wonder: So what? Does it count for anything? We’re consuming all of this information and entertainment a day, but are you tracking what you’re consuming?

Take 5.7 seconds to think about the last week and everything you watched or read. My guess is it was a week comprised of podcast episodes, documentaries, YouTube videos, some Wired and Quartz articles, and binge watching Silicon Valley. Was it all a waste?

No way. I’d throw down a pretty penny to bet that you learned something from most pieces of media you consumed (as far as for the educational value of animal Vines, I can’t vouch for that). The point is, media can teach us- and we should be measuring and tracking all of that learning.

Here’s the thing: If you’re spending even a fraction of those 8 hours a day, 56 hours a week consuming articles that may help you with your job, or teach you something about personal finance, or leadership, or even fixing a broken faucet in your house- ALL of that learning matters. You’re progressing and it should count for something.

The beauty of the internet is the vast amount of information at our disposal, and letting all that learning happen without recognition is a shame. I believe in a world where a future job interview would consist in part of talking about what you learned from the most recent 6 months of your media consumption, and how you applied said learning to your life and work.

Degreed also believes in that future, and offers all of us the ability to track and score everything we’re learning. Formal and informal, YouTube and classroom, articles and textbooks– you can score and measure all your learning to get a full picture of what you know.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t clock in 40 hours a week without getting a paycheck for your efforts, why would you learn for even a portion of 40 hours a week and not have a way to track, measure, and validate what you know. For those of us that aren’t engaged in formal learning, those hours add up, and it’s eye-opening to discover the different topics you’re learning the most about.

Degreed profiles are free, and if you’re in the business of media consumption -and according to the data, we all are- I suggest you get a profile and start tracking what you’re consuming. It’s time to make ALL learning count.

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What are your thoughts on media consumption and education? What do you see for the future of how much media we view a day? Tweet your thoughts @Degreed

Quartz article with data on the ZenithOptimedia report can be found here

Being only a few years removed from college, I have a lot of friends who are currently going through the process of graduating and choosing their next step in life. I also have a couple close friends who made that decision a few years ago and are now struggling with the fact that, in their view, they may have chosen unwisely. Charting a career course is difficult and confusing for almost everyone. As often as not, asking the right questions is as difficult as finding the right answers (if not more so).

Most of us have some idea that career success comes from some combination of ability (What am I good at?), passion (What do I love doing?), and pay (How can I make the most money?). In my experience the most pivotal is ability. Passion and money are great, but if you want to know what career path will make you both happy and wealthy, you need to start by asking yourself “What am I really good at?” This may seem intuitive, but in my experience it is anything but. Indeed, I came to my own fork in the road a couple years ago, and came very close to making the wrong choice.

My Experience

In college, I studied communication sciences with the intention of becoming an audiologist. Audiology is a secure field with plenty of high-paying jobs. However, between my junior and senior year I had taken a summer job working in social strategy for a large fitness company. I immediately realized that I was good at it. As time went on, I started to realize that I was very good at it. I started to think I could make a career out of it.

But when I graduated, I seriously considered going back to get my masters in audiology and reverting back to that career path. It had been my plan all throughout college; could I really just abandon it? Especially for a career track in social media that, at the time, seemed like it might be a dead end. I asked one of my good friends what I should do and he gave me some great advice:

“Jeremy,” he said, “you have a gift for social. Don’t let that go to waste.”

Despite a number of concerns, I decided to continue in social media. Two years in, I view that decision as a financial, personal, and career success: My employer truly values my work, I’m enjoying it more than ever, and I’m making good money.

Ability Leads to Passion

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Choosing a career you are passionate about is very important. What I have found is that people who choose to do what they excel at are almost always the most passionate about their work.  The truth is that interests wax and wane. I know people who have dream jobs working for their favorite sports teams who sometimes get burned out on those interests for a little while. That’s something that happens to everyone. At those times, it can be very difficult to keep the passion alive.

The passion that comes from being good at your job is different than interest. It stems from being able to take pride in what you do, and from being frequently recognized. It comes from winning. We are biologically hard-wired to love winning. You don’t have to be successful for very long before you find yourself very passionate about that thing. I’ve noticed that my friends are much more likely to be passionate about basketball if they’re tall. I doubt that’s a coincidence. Think about your own passions. Are you particularly good or knowledgeable at those things that you are passionate about? You probably are.

How to find what you’re good at

Many people want to choose a career in an area where they excel, but have trouble figuring out what that is when it comes to actually choosing a career. I have found one question to be the most helpful in figuring that out. Ask yourself, “What is the most successful I have ever been in my life?” Look for particular accomplishments, not general abilities. A good answer would be “I won the spelling bee in 4th grade”, “I was elected student body president in high school” or “I was able to talk my friend down from committing suicide and help him turn around his life.” Bad answers would be “I’m a good studier” or “I’m a people person.”

After you have identified moments of accomplishment, try to think of ways that you could recreate similar circumstance in your work life. Too often, I see people thrashing around with their own self-image of who they are supposed to be, rather than objectively evaluating their past results. They get an idea in their head and it’s difficult to let go. For example, I have a friend who insisted that his greatest strength was his creativity. I asked him what led him to believe that and he was unable to name a significant creative idea or project that he had produced. You will be able to avoid this type of self-deception by finding concrete moments of accomplishment in your past.

In identifying your career options, past performance is the best indicator of future results that you have. If you can figure out what you have been good at, you will discover what you will be good at. And once you start down that path, you’ll be on your way toward more passion, more money, more recognition, and ultimately more happiness.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn, read it here. Check out Jeremy Nef on Twitter or LinkedIn

Web development is one of the hottest fields right now. U.S. News and World Report ranks it #3 in Best Technology Jobs and #9 in Best Jobs overall, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 20% employment growth for Web developers through 2022. Web dev jobs are also highly lucrative and often carry some amazing perks (free housecleaning, anyone?).

The best part is that you don’t need a degree to become a Web developer. Part of the reason so many coding boot camps have emerged recently is that traditional institutions are not preparing students fast enough to meet employers’ demand for talent. In fact, you don’t need to go to school at all to become a Web developer—you can learn all of the required skills, get plenty of practice, and even create a portfolio of your work using free or low-cost resources available online.

Interested? I thought so!

So, without further ado, here is your ultimate guide to tools and resources you can use as your own DIY Web development curriculum. Part 1 of this article focuses on basic tools and Part 2 on more advanced ones.

Part 1

Command Line Tools

To become an effective developer, you need to be comfortable using the command line. If you are accustomed to using a mouse to navigate your operating system, then you are familiar with the Graphical User Interface, or GUI. The command line is a text-based interface, and you can achieve all the same functionality of the GUI by typing text commands at the command line. You can access the command line through a terminal (Linux/Mac) or Cygwin (Windows).

These tools and tutorials will help you learn the ins and outs of the command line:

Development Environment

The next step is to set up your development environment. Your development environment includes all the software gadgets you need to work efficiently. The most important software you will choose is the right text editor. You cannot write code using Word or OpenOffice because they save too much extraneous data along with your text. The best text editors include functionality specifically for developing software, and they are often referred to as Integrated Development Environments (IDE).

Sublime Text is a powerful text editor with a rich library of plugins and extensions. It is easily customizable, and free on a trial basis (do consider purchasing to support development of this awesome software). For a great tutorial on how to use Sublime Text, check out https://tutsplus.com/tutorial/sublime-text-2-first-steps/

Eclipse is the IDE of choice for developing Java and Android applications. Like Sublime Text, Eclipse has a vast library of extensions and plugins, but the learning curve is a little steeper so it can be a bit daunting if you are just beginning.

TextMate is very similar to Sublime Text, but it is available only for Mac and has a heftier price tag. It is a robust, reliable platform that is first choice for a lot of professional developers.

Emacs and Vim may be the dinosaurs of the list, but they stand the test of time for a reason. It would improve your coding street cred immensely to pick up skills on either of these editors, but again, the learning curves are a little steep.

HTML and CSS

Before you can build large web applications, you have to learn the basics of static web pages (walk before you can run).

Treehouse is an awesome platform for the beginning coder. The Treehouse team has broken down Web technologies into manageable and testable pieces, and packaged them into fun tutorials. For all the technologies on this list, Treehouse is a one-stop shop and well worth the money.

Learn HTML (hypertext markup language) and CSS (cascading style sheets) the old-school way with w3schools. W3 is the web consortium that sets the standards for both HTML and CSS, so they are the final word on the most up-to-date technologies.

These tools and technologies will give you the basic skills to build static Web pages. Part 2 gets interactive.

Part 2

In this section, we explore resources for building more advanced Web pages and applications. So if you dream of building the next Twitter, here is what you need to know.

JavaScript and jQuery

No webpage these days is complete without using JavaScript or jQuery. These languages impact everything you see in the browser, including auto-fill forms, toggle buttons, image galleries, and more. If you visit the Google homepage and look at the page source, you will find there is very little HTML but quite a bit of JavaScript.

Codecademy is a fantastic FREE resource for learning Web technologies. There are HTML and CSS courses to go along with JavaScript, JQuery, Ruby, and more.

Once again, w3schools and Treehouse provide fantastic resources for learning JavaScript step-by-step.

Ruby on Rails

Now that you are comfortable on the command line, and have a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, you are ready to take the next step toward building interactive Web applications. Many popular websites, like Twitter, are written using a technology called Ruby on Rails. Rails is a framework for connecting Web pages to a database where information about users, courses, grades, or anything else can be stored and retrieved. The foundation language for Rails is Ruby—an elegant, easy-to-learn programming language.

This awesome tutorial takes only 15 minutes and will introduce you to the power of Ruby from the comfort of your browser. Great for beginners.

Learn Ruby using the Buddhist practice of meditation on the path to enlightenment. Not only is it a great way to learn Ruby, but you also get a look at Test Driven Development early in your programming education. Getting the Koans set up on your computer is not particularly straightforward, but there is an awesome online version.

Rubymonk follows the same philosophy as the Ruby Koans, and it will bring your understanding of Ruby to the next level. Whereas the Koans introduce you to the basic features of the Ruby language, Rubymonk will challenge you to think like a Rubyist.

Rails Tutorial assumes you have knowledge of Ruby and will walk you through the development of a Twitter-like application. It introduces the concepts of Model-View-Controller applications and Test Driven Development. You will also use your HTML and CSS chops to make and deploy a beautiful, fully functional Rails application.

Rails for Zombies is a fun and popular way to learn Ruby on Rails, and it is free for a limited time, sponsored by technology company New Relic.

This course, offered by the University of California at Berkeley, is a thorough introduction to building Software as a Service, including Ruby on Rails, Test Driven Development, accessing APIs, and more, but it assumes some prior programming knowledge. I recommend taking one of the other background courses to learn Ruby before attempting it.

Version Control

No developer’s skill set is complete without version control, which allows you to take snapshots of the current state of your files so you can track important changes. It also gives you access to file restore points so that if something goes disastrously wrong, you can always roll it back to your last stable snapshot. Many tools are available, but the most popular is Git, written by the same person who started the open source Linux movement.

Github is a popular place to store your projects. Public repositories make your code available for viewing, but you can pay a monthly subscription to keep them private. Many open source projects are stored on Github, and being familiar with this tool is essential to becoming a professional developer. 

General Programming Skills

Programmers interact with their keyboards more than any other peripheral on their computer. Having a wicked typing speed and knowing all the keyboard shortcuts will make your fingers fly over the keyboard. Every time you remove your hands from the home keys you lose speed and efficiency.

So there you have it, your ultimate DIY guide to becoming a Web developer. Who knows? The next multimillion dollar startup Google buys may be yours.

Want more? Check out 39 Places to Learn to Code Online

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