Four Lessons I Learned In Prison

What Do You Think It Is REALLY Like Behind Bars?


It’s been said that a good friend is one who would come get you out of prison, but a great friend will be sitting next to you.  Recently, I had an experience finding me in prison with a whole bunch of new friends. And, in only one day, I learned some valuable lessons — many of which are easily overlooked by the majority of us on the “outside”.

Prison Entrepreneurship Program 2013
Prison Entrepreneurship Program 2013

Several months ago, a colleague of mine had to decline a meeting we were attempting to schedule because he “had to go to prison that day”.  I stopped in my tracks. “What?”, I replied. He confirmed that, indeed, he was going to prison the next day…and he smiled. Yesterday, I volunteered to attend (and help judge) a business plan competition carried out by the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP)  at the Cleveland Correctional Facility in Cleveland, TX. It was a moving experience.  Here are a few of the lessons I learned in prison:

  1. Everyone craves connection.

    When the volunteers walked into the room, we were immediately met with a huge cheer from the PEP participants immediately melting away any scenes I had previously recalled from Shawshank Redemption or an episode of Sons of Anarchy. Early in the day, I asked one of the long-time volunteers what kept him coming back. “Just wait until the end of the day. You’ll understand” was his reply.  In just one day, after hearing pitches for 14 legitimate businesses and observing the interactions between the PEP participants and executive volunteers, the only differences I saw between the two sides were the clothes.  Everyone in the room wanted to be successful. Almost all of them also mentioned their families.  Nobody focused on the differences.

  2. Mentors can learn from you, too.

    The focus for our day was to select four finalists (from a pool of 75+ business plans) in a “Shark Tank” style contest ahead of the finals, which would be judged the following day.  What I found amazing was the type of conversations that occurred by the judges AFTER the pitches were over.  Rarely did anyone seem to care that the presenter was a convicted criminal, rather the conversations were absolutely centered on the business attributes of the presented plans.  Many of the mentors even considered the fictional “investment dollars” as if it truly was their own actual dollars to invest, wrestling back-and-forth with how to allocate the money.


  3. Skills are transferable, even across very different disciplines. 

    No doubt, some of the men whose pitches were delivered yesterday once ran their own criminal enterprises.  But when you pull back the curtain, allow for time and healing to occur, create distance from bad situations and influences, underneath it all are many of the same skills someone would need to create a successful business.  Skills like marketing, business development, strategic planning, customer service, and, yes, even a little bit of “hustle”.  I don’t know of a single, successful entrepreneur who made it without a little bit of hustle.


  4. When telling someone your story, remember…it is your story to tell!

    Each plan I reviewed yesterday included some information about how that individual found himself in jail.  In many cases, I’d venture to guess what happened to them would not be much different from some of the decisions you or I might have made in a similar situation. These men, however, over the course of a six month program, learned that their story was just that.  Theirs.  Every one of them owned their story.  Most are heartbreaking to read or hear. Each of them knows that a leader is not defined by what has happened to them, but how they react, learn, and grow from that experience.

A few years ago,  following some setbacks in my own life, I wrote a book called Powerful People Overcome Powerful Failures. It is a success journal in which the reader invests 5-7 minutes a day to help get their thoughts and actions headed back in a positive direction.  In retrospect, my challenges were not near as steep  nor did they come with the consequences found by the men I met behind bars, however, the journey back to a blessed, fulfilled life was still a process.  As you consider the setbacks, failures and obstacles you may strive to overcome, just remember these four lessons I learned in prison and chart a course forward.  Abundance awaits, no matter what you have come through!

Click here to pick up your copy of Powerful People Overcome Powerful Failures (also available as an eBook).

Cooksey Selected as President-Elect of NSA Houston Chapter


Scott Cooksey, Director of Communications
National Speakers Association Houston Chapter
Office: 281-849-8255
Cell: 918-633-4490

Cooksey Selected as President Elect of NSA Houston Chapter

HOUSTON, TX ― The National Speakers Association (NSA) Houston Chapter has selected Scott Cooksey to serve as President for the 2012-2013 program year. Cooksey is currently serving as Director of Communications for the organization.
“NSA Houston is one of the leading chapters in the country. I’m looking forward to working with the best speaking professionals in the Houston area,” said Cooksey.
Cooksey is currently the Director of Marketing, North American Sales Coordinator for the Houston-based company Clock Spring, a manufacturer of permanent and temporary pipeline repair solutions.
Cooksey has also worked as a contracted speaker for, corporate trainer for Skillpath Seminars, and freelance speaker through his own company, CookseyConnects.
NSA is the leading source for community, education, and entrepreneurial business knowledge needed to be successful in the speaking profession.

Milverine – How Social Media Builds CONNECTion Between People and Ideas

Without a doubt, the Internet has allowed people with common interests who were previously isolated by geography to CONNECT. The playing field has been leveled.  Obscure performers like Tay Zonday or the Numa Numa guy become household names.  An unknown singer named Justin Bieber found a connection with mainstream media success by first leveraging YouTube. Fundraisers now regularly build connection of  political outliers to splinter issues, thus creating visibility for presidential candidates. Countries have been overthrown by their frustrated citizens who found real-time connections on Twitter.  And, of course, there are myriad random “Fan Pages” created for topics formerly collected only in syndicated articles like “News of the Weird” or the Onion.

I’m guity, too.  Back in 2009, upon reports of  a call for President Obama’s consideration to add a new Secretary of the Arts post to his cabinet, I immediately fired up a Facebook fan page (partly as a joke, party serious) to nominate a good friend of mine (and incredible arts advocate) Ken Busby from Tulsa, OK for the post. With little to no effort, I immediately found connection to interested supporters who, if I’d been more serious, likely could have provided much needed leverage for wider support of the “campaign”.

Then, there are blogs which observe daily life, unexpected moments caught on video, and urban myths / legends like Milverine.

Sure, there are great ways to leverage social media to legitimately build an authentic CONNECTion with your customers and clients by sharing your views and offering tips to help THEM succeed (see what my friend Darren LaCroix is doing with YouTube!).  But, let’s not stop the amusing aspects these creative platforms encourage.  If there is something of interest to you, no matter how odd or less-than-mainstream it may seem to your immediate group of friends, post it up on YouTube.  You just might find a community of like-minded people. Become known for facilitating CONNECTion between people and ideas!

Remember the Ten!

It’s been a short hiatus since my last post, but I assure you a LOT is happening these days!

Earlier this year, I challenged myself to run a 10k Race before the summer. Yesterday, I made good on that personal goal. In 1 hour 3 minutes and 43 seconds, I finished! My personal goal had been 1 hour 10 min-and I beat it by 6 minutes!

The Remember the Ten 10k event was started three years ago in honor of a group of 10 amazing men affiliated with the Oklahoma State University basketball program who perished in a plane crash on January 21, 2001. As a graduate of OSU, this event held a particular place in my heart.

During college, I was president of a group of basketball “superfans” known as the “Young Guns”. After each game, we always picked our VIP of the game award, and announced it at center court in front of the radio broadcast crew. On that fateful night in 2001, we lost Bill Teegins, the “Voice of the Cowboys”.

A good friend of mine in school lost his brother, Jarred Weiberg. And my current workout partner lost a friend he used to play basketball against in high school, Pat Noyes. Each of the others each hold a special place in the hearts of the Cowboy Faithful as well, and for all ten of of you… I ran this year. Thanks to each of you for the continued inspiration you give to me and all 1200 of this year’s registered runners in the 10k, 5k, and 1 mile fun run!

This year, as each of you think about how to make every day count, and define your own success, you are encouraged to pick out a tough challenge for yourself and DO IT!

Popular Music and Senior Citizens…Yep, They ROCK!

This blog features a number of outstanding individuals who have dared to defined their own success. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, these are people who have chosen to “Own it!” in their own lives.

My brother found an amazing bit of footage from a group suspiciously like the one featured in the 2007 documentary Young at Heart. I hope you’ll enjoy. OH, the last song they cover is worth the watch. Old people rock!

I'm No 'Sully' Sullenberger – but Tomorrow We'll Have Something In Common

Okay, NO. I’m not going to land a plane in the Hudson River on Tuesday, but I will grace the halls of now world-famous US Airways Pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger’s high school.

This just goes to show that great people CAN and DO come from anywhere!

I grew up and went to high school not too far from Denison, TX, just across the Red River in southern Oklahoma. We shared a television station (actually, two) in this area often referred to as “Texomaland”. Though, all those years ago, I never knew that much about Denison, TX.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

“It’s the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And Thomas Vulney Munson, a horticulturalist credited with helping save the European wine industry, spent part of his life here. “

Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to speak to the Junior and Senior classes of Denison High School. As my readers will already know, I’m a speaker with’s Making It Count Programs, and travel the country delivering messages of success to students who will be the leaders of tomorrow….some of them have already done some pretty good work today!

Hmmm. I wonder if these students know the potential they possess….This one should be special.

Cooksey To Emcee Tulsa Stars Event for Palmer Fundraiser

From (<--click for original article)
1/24/2009 2:21 AM
Last Modified: 1/24/2009 2:38 AM

If a private dinner with a well-known personality sounds interesting, fun and exciting, this one is for you.

Stars with Tulsa connections such as actress Mary Kay Place and “The Ultimate Gift” author Jim Stovall will be part of the auction action at the Dining with Tulsa Stars benefit, 6 p.m. Thursday at the Jazz Hall of Fame.

Proceeds will benefit Palmer Continuum of Care.

Other stars to be auctioned include Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor; Burns Hargis, Oklahoma State University president; Kristin Glover, the “Dad’ll do it” girl from the television ads; Wayman Tisdale, jazz musician and former NBA player; John Starks, former New York Knicks player and now author and sports commentator; Jimbo Elrod, OU All-American and former player for Kansas City Chiefs; and Stacy Prammanasudh, LPGA golfer and TU All-American.

Although some of the stars will not be able to attend Dining with Tulsa Stars, they will be sending a message.

For the auction, each celebrity will be coupled with a restaurant, including Bodean Seafood, Michael Fusco’s, Los Cabos, Local Table, KEO, Bone Fish, Sonoma, Brasserie, Lava, Mahogany’s and Palace Café.

Jay Litchfield also will auction off an exclusive one- week, all-inclusive vacation for two at the Sandals Resort in Montego Bay donated by Magoon & Associates.

Entertainment will be provided by John Hamill and his jazz trio including Max Surry and Leon Rollerson with vocalist Rebecca Marks-Jimmerson performing Bessie Smith specials and other well-known blues vocals.

Chris Heroux is 2009 chairman of the Palmer Board of Directors.

Committee members include Kelly Sudduth, Carrie Classen, Scott Cooksey, Kara E. Jones, Jeff Harjo and Elisa Heroux.

Sponsors include Cyclonic Valve, Bette and Michael L. Graves, and George Kaiser Family Foundation as gold sponsors; Ruth K. Nelson, Magoon & Associates and Heroux & Pollard, PLLC as silver sponsors; and an anonymous major sponsor made in memory of Harold Katz, former executive director of Palmer.

At least 90 percent of the funds raised through ticket sales and 100 percent of the auction bids will help those who need substance-abuse treatment but cannot afford it. Palmer, a Tulsa nonprofit organization for 25 years, treats more than 1,000 people each year through substance-abuse programs dedicated to helping adolescents and women with their children.

Tickets are $45 per person. Tables of eight are available for $350.

For more information, visit or call Paula Hall-Collins at 230-7669.

By DANNA SUE WALKER World Staff Writer

You Can't Take It Back

As many of you know, I have the privilege of speaking, literally, to thousands of high school students each year as a presenter for’s Making It Count Programs. During these programs one of the nuggets we caution students about is the importance of managing your personal image ONLINE.

Always curious about where my own “internet fingerprint” may turn up, I have a Google Alert set up to comb the web for sites where my name shows up. Over the past year, I’ve learned there are a handful of us around the globe who share the name “Scott Cooksey” (including one “Scott Cooksey” whose brother has the same name as MY younger brother-VERY unexpected.) There is a (retired?) soccer, goal-keeper in the U.K., a Dallas, TX area tattoo artist, and a fellow at Texas Tech University who seems to have a good reputation. I digress…

My latest Alert, which I received in an email this morning, linked to an entry I’d sent to the Tulsa World’s Opinion page back in 1997. I’d forgotten ALL ABOUT the post:

Trim elsewhere
Woodward Park is a gem, and deserves the love and care it has earned over the years as a wonderful, beautiful place in our city. Reckless acts of an arborist with an itchy chain-saw finger are simply that: reckless.

As an alternative to this condition, might I suggest the arborist look to more obvious eyesores such as the weed/trees standing tall along the train track in the middle of the Broken Arrow Expressway. While he’s at it, head on toward downtown to the south side of the Inner Dispersal Loop and consider doing some trimming of those “trees” growing up the retaining wall on the sides of the highway. They look awful.

As for spending city money for beautification, let’s fund those mowers to keep our roadsides looking good all the time; not just mowing them a week prior to a major golf event. It’s nice that the visitors get to see how nice our city looks once or twice a year, but if we could keep it looking good for the residents, that’s even better.

Scott Cooksey, Tulsa

Re-reading the article reminded me that no matter HOW or WHERE you post your thoughts, rants, opinions, and more on the ‘net, once you’ve published it, there’s no taking it back.

The lesson today, reminds me of some critical advice I’ve learned which can best be summed up as a three step plan for voicing your opinion:

  1. Be relevant – Make sure the issue you are raising is clearly articulated and one which truly matters.
  2. Provide a solution – No one likes a person who simply complains. Make suggestions on how the issue might be resolved. Even if your recommendation is not taken, it may still push efforts to implement a successful remedy in a productive direction.
  3. Listen to others – When you are the one in position to influence change, remember how appreciative you were when someone at least took the time to hear your ideas out before taking action. It’s an easy way to become known as a concensus builder – a powerful leadership trait.

For those of you curious, about 7 months after the above Opinion column was printed, Tulsa fell under the spell of Mother Nature’s response to the tree issue with an ice storm of disastrous proportions which took months to clean up. The park still looks great, but even previously healthy trees suffered severe damage. I guess it goes to show, you can’t prepare for everything!