At sixty miles per hour, while driving north along the 101 Freeway through beautiful Santa Barbara, you might miss it. As you bust out of the city limits and look right, up on a hill, with the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, is the Santa Barbara County Jail, a small squat building housing nine hundred inmates.

The jail is under the control of a local Santa Barbara legend, Sheriff Bill Brown. Part Wyatt Earp and part Doc Holliday, our lawman, his moustache, and his ten-gallon hat are popular fixtures in our small town, and he is a calming public figure whenever disaster strikes. I sat next to Bill at dinner one night and mentioned my work empowering organizations and schools though my Code Method.

Bill mentioned his primary focus at the jail is transformation rather than incarceration. His mission is to give the inmates support, so he never sees them again. Recidivism is a big problem for jails, and the best antidote is education and upliftment.

I mentioned that the Code Method, my simple process of self-empowerment, might be useful for the inmates.

Over the years, tens of thousands of people—families, employees, and friends—have intimately connected with each other through writing and then sharing their Code aloud—twelve lines, each line beginning with I will.

It is a simple yet powerful fifteen-minute exercise that reveals who you are and who you want to be.

It is a way to find and define one’s purpose.

In today’s uncertain world, when we are all fearful and stressed, the Code is an insightful way to visualize a better future and commit towards realizing it.

The Code is a tool of hope, commitment, and shared values. Everyone writes poetry of the soul.

A dean of a famous Hawaiian school said when people write their Code, they write in a particular language—“spirit language.”

I was curious as to whether my simple process of introspection, visualization, commitment, and action might work with inmates, so I visited with a few groups, both men and women, all facing one year to life.

I spoke to the inmates for about an hour, and then each inmate wrote their Code – a fifteen-minute exercise. After reading their Code out aloud to the entire group, each inmate then selected their most resonant line and we wrote it on a board for all to see.

Their words were inspiring and uplifting, words of power and purpose that soared beyond the prison’s walls. I was inspired that everyone was committed to changing not only their life trajectory but that of others too. Their uplifting words were like a wave of contagion throughout the jail—positive emotional contagion, not the negative contagion that is oppressing and depressing so many around the world.

Their powerful words are a way forward for all of us.

A few days after my visit, I received a touching letter from Jessica, an inmate who had just been released. She agreed to share her words to inspire others.

“Hi Shaun, You don’t know me, but I was recently incarcerated for a very poor decision I made, and you were a speaker there – at Santa Barbara County Jail. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your time there and how much of an impact it made on my life. A life Code I have for myself from that day I saw you has been “always do the next right thing.” I just wanted to deeply thank you for speaking. You opened my eyes to many things in life. And I am so greatly thankful I was able to hear you speak before I got released. I’ll never go back there. God bless you and your family. :)”

I have had the unique opportunity of reading and listening to hundreds of thousands of lines of people committing to a new path by writing their Code.

The process is one of introspection and visualization—a way of turning hope and faith into commitment and action.

Every line contains power, passion, and poetry—the beauty of the human spirit is revealed from the inside out in the form of short, simple promises.

While every line is different, our fundamental life mission is defined by two tributaries of the river of purpose. Every line of Code flows into these rivers and then becomes one:

I will be better.
I will help others be better.

The two most powerful lines of Code of immediate life transformation, of helping others and oneself, too, are “I will forgive” and “I will forgive myself”.

Words have great power to heal sadness and division in our lives and the lives of others.

Words are the precursor to action and are the bridge between thought and actualization.

I felt privileged to listen to the inmates write and state their Codes—their twelve lines of absolute commitment to transformational change.

People want to be better.
People want to help others be better.

One way to be better and help others be better is to forgive.

Simply saying it out loud in a group setting—committing to forgiveness, absolutely and unequivocally—is an immediate lightening of a crushing load.

Guilt is a bitter cancer poisoning the heart, a burden that ties one to the past.

Forgiveness is a sword through the rope that binds one to the post of bitterness.

Forgiveness dispels darkness and extinguishes the hatred burning inside the soul.

Forgiveness is the light that shines ahead while guilt is the bleakness of blame.

When an individual writes I will forgive, they are taking the first transformational step towards finding a new path in life—leaving the darkness of the past behind and venturing forward into the future.

Try it:
I will forgive.

The Code Workshop

The Code Method

  • Find a quiet spot and do the exercise solo, or with your family or colleagues at work.
  • Set aside 15 minutes.
  • Write 12 lines, each beginning with “I will…”
  • If you are with a group, then once all are complete, each person gets up and reads their 12 lines out loud to each other.
  • If you are solo, read it to yourself and feel proud.

These words are poetry of the soul – words of passion, power and purpose.

The Surfer and The Sage

The Surfer and The Sage

Legendary world champion surfer Shaun Tomson and international best-selling poet-philosopher Noah benShea join forces to offer you insight on a path of purpose, hope, and faith.

Buy on Amazon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *