Andre Norman Image

Andre Norman

Episode 71

Spending 14 Years in Prison to Changing the World

EP. 71 “I know people in the world today who aren’t free. They’re slaves to work, they’re slaves to stereotypes and slaves to cultures and customs they don’t even believe in. Not being in jail does not mean you are free.”

This week’s guest is proof that your past doesn’t have to equal your future. You can drop the old stories, change your core beliefs, and create a life you love – even if your past says otherwise.

Rewind two decades and not only was Andre serving a 100-year prison sentence, he also ran all the gang activity in the prison. You could say it was his destiny. As a kid, he felt unwanted. He felt disconnected and left out. In turn, he never saw his potential and instead followed a life fuelled by drugs, alcohol, depression, self-harming, and ultimately crime.

But as is the case with many people, once he hit rock bottom he was able to turn his life around.

It was during a period of solitary confinement that Andre eventually pulled the metaphorical parachute for help. His epiphany inspired him to do the work, and after serving just 14 years, he was free.

But more than claiming his physical liberty, Andre also reclaimed his mind to take back full control of his life.

Now, Andre’s life is one of impact and giving back. His mission is teaching individuals and corporations how to turn any situation around. His innovative strategies against gang activity and inmate manipulation have also improved correctional facilities across the U.S. He’s an all-round inspirational dude with an impactful and powerful story to share.

Can’t wait for you to hear it.

Andre is the man! I was so inspired to discover the strategies and mindsets that enabled him to turn his life around in the most extraordinary way. So tune in now and hear us talk about:

-How gratitude for rock bottom experiences helps you walk the extraordinary path through life

-The real definition of freedom – and why most people aren’t as free as they think

-Why you need to take small steps today to actualize the person you want to be in the future

-The insanely valuable lessons he’d teach his 26-year-old self

-Why Andre believes it’s his curses that allow him to help people

-The only way to fail

Prison rarely changes people at such a profoundly core level. Instead, it compounds their anger, frustration, and trauma.

But for Andre, it was the turning point that set him on the path of extraordinary.

So if you’re stuck with an old way of being that doesn’t serve you, check out this podcast for proof that total and absolute transformation IS possible — if that’s what you really want.

“When you subscribe to the Stay Grounded Podcast, you help new people discover the show. And it means the podcast will automatically show up in your app of choice every time a new episode is released on Mondays.”

Time Stamped Show Notes

[4:59] I kicked off the conversation by asking Andre why he’s so passionate about helping kids and why he feels he resonates with them? He says he was an unwanted child and felt invisible, like he didn’t count. Despite growing up in a house full of people, he felt alone and didn’t feel connected to anyone. Those experiences and feelings created a mindset that played out in adulthood; Andre says that the things we do as adults are based on the lessons, beliefs and experiences we had as children. He says an invisible child will draw more to the background, keep a low profile, won’t assert themselves and ultimately not grow into their greatest potential because they feel unseen. He wants kids to understand that, not only should they be seen, they’re worthy of being seen. Regardless of who’s looking at them, they still matter. He also wants parents to know and understand how much of an impact their words can have on their children’s lives.

[12:36] Andre says “everything that takes you down, helps you come up.” Everything he’s experienced in his life, in spite of the difficulty and pain, has worked to his benefit. He says the experiences of being isolated, being institutionalized, being alone and not having friends are all things that he’s made work for him. The hardest thing for most people to do is sit and focus, because of the time he spent on punishment as a child and in maximum security isolation while in prison, he learned to focus.  As a result, he doesn’t fall in to FOMO (Fear or Missing Out) and doesn’t feel the need to “Keep Up with the Jonses.” Those experiences created a heightened level of focus that allows him to solve personal problems, business problems and even world problems.

[24:38] “When you have a gift, and you have things in you that you can do and be, and you’re not using them…” a quote that leads Andre into a powerful story about his mother, whom he calls one of the smartest and most talented people he knows. She had 6 kids early in life and, as a result, didn’t have the opportunity to fully exercise her talents. While she had a good life and raised great kids, she feels the pain and regret of not having those opportunities. It’s inspired him to not want to be left with the “should have, could have, woulda haves” especially with those opportunities where he can make a difference.

[32:44} I ask Andre, with all of the knowledge and wisdom he has now, what would he tell his 26 year old self? In order:

  1. Therapy/Counseling: he went later in life and it was essential to him. He says going sooner, with a more in depth approach, would have allowed his 26 years old self to tackle a lot of his unresolved issues.
  2. Reading More and Asking More Questions: growing up, he was taught that dumb people ask questions.
  3. Writing: this is an area of opportunity for him now, something he would have like to have honed earlier.
  4. Future Pace His Health: he would tell his 26 years old self to start walking 20 minutes a day! To start thinking beyond his 26 year old physique and start taking steps to prepare for his future physical state

[42:48] Andre talks about those moments where he “woke up,” and when his consciousness came to him. He became free in mind, clarity and purpose 18 months before he left prison. He talks about the difference between being free and having freedom. There are people who exist in the world who aren’t free; their bound to jobs, social norms, stereotypes, the expectations of others, etc. Andre says, “simply not being in jail, doesn’t mean you’re free.” He says ”once you’re free you can see problems, you can see pain and you can create solutions”, on the other side of the coin, “being in a self imposed prison, you can’t help anybody.”

[48:26] Andre discusses the work he’s doing with the prisons in South Carolina. The prison system in this country doesn’t work, for a variety of reasons. People are in prisons that are unsafe, they live in a constant state of fear and are then released back into a society that’s often unrecognizable to them. On top of that, he says, those initial issues that put someone in jail aren’t resolved and only end up being compounded. Last April, there was an attack in a South Carolina prison that resulted in a number of deaths and injuries; the entire prison was put on lock down for 5 months. Someone on their staff saw Andre speak and wanted to know if he could walk his talk.

He went to South Carolina with a team; they visited 10 prisons in 6 days and spoke to over 8000 prisoners. It was a different approach; he and the team spoke to pain, purpose and potential of the prisoners, having a real conversation and creating connection. The state recognized the innovation of his work, the impact it had on the prisoners and wanted to create a program. As a result, the Department of Corrections (DOC) in South Carolina made a deal for Andre to hire team of 15 (mostly former felons), have them come in and run the housing unit. Andre says “if you want corrections in the corrections department, you need part of the problem at the table.” This program will take the expertise of both former felons, who have lived the experience, and combine the training and experience of the DOC to create something that’s never been done before.

[58:42] Andre stays grounded with realization that he has more work to do. He’s the leader in the prison movement and putting someone else in place will take 15+ years. That wouldn’t be fair to those are directly and indirectly impacted by this issue. His friends also keep him grounded; they believe in him and set a high bar for him, he doesn’t want to disappoint them. Above all, Andre believes that he matters, that he can contribute and that his pain has a purpose and a place.

Andre Norman