Class 14: Week 14
November 16, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010 – Mimi was here today to teach us about the love languages. The Five Love Languages was written by Gary Chapman in 1997 and helps people speak and understand emotional love through their preferred method or “love language.” The five love languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, and quality time. We took a quiz to determine our love language. I learned that my primary love language, for example, is physical touch and my secondary love language is words of affirmation. Mimi told us that it is not at all unusual for men to have physical touch as a primary love language. After Mimi’s wonderful presentation, Carlos, a.k.a. Shakira, gave his personal statement, followed by Samuel, a.k.a. Bessie; Yours Truly (Scott, a.k.a. Banana Montana;) and last but not least, My, a.k.a. Starburst.
Later, Sandy, the president and CEO of Work Faith Connection, came to see us and shared a bit about herself, her organization, and what it does. She told us about Scott, a PEP Graduate who works for her. In a nutshell, Work Faith Connection is a faith-based employment agency which partners ex-offenders with employers.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 – WOO-HOO! We took the last and final test over Chapters 13 (Franchising, Licensing and Harvesting: Cashing in on your Brand) and 14 (Investing for a Secure Future). It’s finally over—we have successfully completed the Entrepreneurship textbook so lovingly, laboriously compiled by Steve Mariotti. We also saw some pictures of the guys in Galveston during their fishing trip. They did manage to catch one fish, and what’s more, they actually managed to capture on video the capture of the fish. There were also some videos of the guys at Caleb House, or “PEP TV” as we like to call it. The PEP Staff will occasionally bring in videos of the guys at the transitional homes or at the home office. These videos are great and the guys always have really positive and uplifting things to say. They tell us how wonderful it is to be free and give us encouraging words. Since we finished the Entrepreneurship book today, Randy rewarded us for all of our hard work by giving us the rest of the day off to enjoy the beautiful weather. Lest anyone think we should work overtime, let me just say, “Work is an important part of life and it should be fun and rewarding.” That is from Fun, one of our 10 Driving Values we live by.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010 – Randy started out by having the guys who were on academic probation dance up and do their best “I’m off probation” dance. We cheered them for the successful completion of their probation. Randy showed us his Courier Report from his trip to Austin for the “Together for Adoption” conference hosted by Loving Shepherd Ministry, which he attended over the weekend with his wife. He told us about the adoption process, using the analogy of God adopting us, and explained why he and his wife want to adopt. We saw pictures of the conference and the many restaurants at which they ate. A few of the restaurants they visited were the South Congress Café, Magnolia Café, Kerbey Lane Café, Guero’s Taco Bar, Maudie’s Hacienda, and The Salt Lick. He said the Salt Lick was out in Driftwood and the typical wait is about an hour and forty-five minutes. In an effort to educate us on the rapidly expanding world of social media, Randy also included screen shots of PEP’s Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/prisonentrepreneurshipprogram. He also showed us pictures of the PEP website so we can have a better idea of what it looks like.
After Randy’s wonderful presentation, we reviewed the test from yesterday over Chapters 13 (Franchising, Licensing and Harvesting: Cashing in on your Brand) and 14 (Investing for a Secure Future). We celebrated Willard, a.k.a. Taylor Swift’s, birthday. He requested that we sing Happy Birthday in a country fashion, and we willingly obliged. His birthday wish was to see Randy, a.k.a. Strawberry, and Jose, a.k.a. Glitter, sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. They obliged. Jose rapped the song, and when he was done, Randy sang it.
José came in and gave his weekly Esquire report. We learned about capital goods and Brazil’s fertilizer supply. José also talked about home sales in São Paulo as opposed to the U.S.—an 80% increase in Brazil versus a decrease of 20% here in the U.S.—not good, especially considering the typical required down-payment here is 3% while in Brazil it is 20%. We also saw a chart comparing the level of federal debt to the Gross Domestic Product, which is approaching 100%, at which point our debt will become unsustainable and practically irreversible. This may sound like a whole lot of Greek to some—I know it did to us initially, but thanks to José’s brilliant teaching ability, it’s not so foreign any more. Furthermore, José informed us of some new laws going into effect, such as the fact that any businesses or individuals conducting a total of $600 annually with any other businesses or individuals must report all transactions on a 1099.
Of course, no Esquire report is complete without the food, right? Of course not. So José showed us pictures of his lunch on Saturday at Nico Nico’s, a Greek restaurant. He showed us a picture of his gyro, which is actually pronounced “hee-ro,” similar to the sound a “g” would make in Spanish. He told us that gyros actually originated in New York and were later copied in Greece due to how popular they were with the American tourists. On Sunday, José fried some eggs with green peppers and put them on onion bagels. He also showed us pictures of an Indian restaurant he went to that had crêpes that appeared to be the size of a small child. We also learned that crêpes actually originated in India.
Adrik, a.k.a. Maybelline, read us a letter updating us on James, a.k.a. Pink Chicklet, a Class 13 Graduate. He told us about his company, Mendez Paint and Body, and some of their philanthropic efforts. Along with Liberty Auto Glass, they donated an $1800 paint job to a family to help raise money for medical bills and funeral expenses.
Thursday, October 7, 2010 – We met this morning in the PEP room for the Men’s Life, Session 6 (Facing the Father Wound). Robert Lewis, the author of the course and the speaker on the video, was addressing the wounds that are created by an absent father and how to go about getting closure in such a situation. We split up into our small groups and went over the discussion questions, which addressed these issues.
After Men’s Life we had a guest speaker, Paul, president of Worth the Wait Ministries in Tulsa. It was actually his first time here, but Class 12 Graduate Eric, a.k.a. French Vanilla, managed to give him a sweet name nonetheless: Hillary Clinton. The mission of his ministry is to promote premarital abstinence through the encouragement of teens and education of parents. Paul shared his life story with us, explaining how his father was killed in an automobile accident when he was 17, and how he was then raised by Jack, his father’s best friend. Sadly, Jack passed away last Sunday and Paul will be attending his funeral tomorrow. Paul told us about how he got married for the first time at 46 to his best friend. He told us about his daughter who is now four and his even younger twins, one of whom he named Jackson, after Jack. He shared some statistics with us on marriage, divorce, and abstinence. As it turns out, 80% of people who have premarital sex later regret it. He said that sex is the great gateway drug and stressed the importance of a friendship as the proper foundation in a romantic relationship. He spoke about the importance of choosing a spouse wisely, as 90% of your happiness or misery comes from your marriage partner. Also covered was the importance of “defining the relationship” and establishing boundaries in the relationship. We listened very attentively to everything Paul had to say, as he is a very captivating and engaging speaker.
He did share a funny story of a time when he traveled to a church in the Chicago area where he spoke about the same topic. He said when he arrived, there was a very large youth group of about a thousand kids. Toward the end of his presentation, he noticed four teenage girls giggling. He didn’t know what to make of it and immediately started assuming the worst. After he finished speaking, the kids were given a chance to ask him questions. Sure enough, up came the four girls, “like a little teenie-bopper mafia,” he said. He told them that he had caught them laughing. Still nervously giggling, they eventually fessed up and said, “Well, we agree with everything you said, and we practice it…It’s just that you sound like Bill Clinton.” He laughed as he recalled this story, and so did we as we realized the irony of hearing a speech on sexual purity from someone who sounds like President Clinton. Paul gave us his best Clinton impersonation, which then caused us to giggle, and almost instantly he was re-christened “Hillary Clinton.”
We also heard from Gami, a PEP Graduate who is the Re-entry Coordinator in Dallas. Gami also runs Casa Blanca, which is the PEP-exclusive transitional facility in Dallas. We also have two transitional homes in Houston, Covington House and Caleb House. He answered a lot of questions about how things are going to work for guys paroling to Dallas, such as the rules of the house, visiting our families, and so on.
We were blessed with the presence of Cameron, one of our wonderful visitors and “multiple recidivists” today. Cameron has been here not only for our Kick-Off, Venture Capital Panel, and Concept Day, but has come to see us on two separate class days.
José came in and brought us some music from Johann Strauss, the “Waltz King.” Born in 1825, Strauss was an Austrian composer of light music such as waltzes and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music. His father was also a composer of dance music, but wanted him to be a banker instead. Good thing he didn’t listen, because he composed some beautiful music, the most well-known being Blue Danube, which we listened to today.
After Strauss, José gave a presentation on stocks. He told us what to look for when choosing a company: strong management, clean and stable balance sheet, attractive assets on the books, an “economic moat” or sustaining competitive advantage, and clear opportunities for long-term growth. He also touched on bonds and options.
We prayed out Donnie, a.k.a. Butterball, and Moses, a.k.a. Sparkles, two Class 12 Graduates. We also prayed out Class 13 Graduate Chris, a.k.a. Sweet Bootsy, and Samuel, a.k.a. Bessie, a Class 14 Participant.
Friday, October 8, 2010 – Today we conducted our weekly Financial Peace series on Chapter 6 (Buyer Beware), during which Dave Ramsey lectured us on different strategies employed to get us to buy stuff, including advertising campaigns, impulse buying, and shelf positioning. It was a great lesson, especially for the un-materialistic who are already sickened by the sheer ridiculousness of marketing and advertising today. It reminded me of Cecil B. Rhodes, founder of diamond company De Beers. Through clever marketing over a hundred years ago, Rhodes increased the sale of diamonds by introduction of the idea that the diamond is the symbol of love. De Beers also introduced the slogan “A diamond is forever,” further creating value for diamonds in the eyes of the public. In reality, diamonds are not expensive because they are rare, but simply because the supply and release of diamonds into the market is tightly controlled. I remember reading a statistic that said that if the diamond exchange released all the diamonds into the market at once, the price of a carat would dive to five dollars. Diamonds are forever.
As you can see, it was another action-packed week here at the Cleveland Unit. Now that we are done with the Entrepreneurship textbooks, we have plenty of time to work on our pitches, business plans, and study other areas of interest such as personal finance and investing. We keep hearing over and over that free time is a highly underrated commodity that we are never going to have in abundance like we have here. True, we do stay very busy with the curriculum that PEP provides, but without jobs and families and bills and such, we still have ample time to read and to focus on self-improvement, be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or otherwise. PEP is blessed to have a fantastic library, furnished with a plethora of books on dozens of subjects (thank you donors!). I believe we are also going to have more time to learn about various aspects of personal finance, like José’s presentation on stocks. He is also going to teach us about options at a future date, among other things.
Beyond the little extra free time we will have over the next few weeks, we also have character assessment coming up on Monday. (I was impressed to learn that Enron actually used a similar performance review system known as a Peer Review Committee (PRC), which relied on feedback from 20 peers rather than from one direct supervisor. This system was a more accurate and objective way of assessing an individual’s performance.)
Our character assessment is based on a similar premise and is conducted twice during each class. All of the PEP guys on the unit live in one of four dorms. Character assessments are done by dorm, meaning that all of the guys in J Pod will assess all of the guys in J Pod, for example. Each individual ranks the top ten individuals in his dorm whose characters he perceives as outstanding and the top ten individuals whose character he perceives could use some work. In each instance, a list of various characteristics is provided for the participant to attribute to each individual. Some of the positive characteristics are humble, helpful, committed, devoted, and so on. Some of the negative characteristics include overly playful, sarcastic, unhelpful, distant, quiet, arrogant, and so on. Character assessments are an invaluable tool to remain accountable and work on character issues.