Learning from Life Lessons

Experiences present templates to learn from in one’s way of life. Piper Kerman can be said to have gone through hell and back in her experiences in life. She makes decisions that change the course of her life and lead her to a life of disappointment and pain. Despite the fact that she has a career, a boyfriend and still has a loving family, she does not strike the audience as the reckless lady and a criminal. When she was twenty years old, she decided to venture into the life of extravagance. She ended up traveling around Europe as a drug trafficker. She was involved in money laundering and drug transactions at an age where she could not have been suspected at the airport. Although she seemed terrified at times of the life she lived, she chooses to carry it through, despite the dangers it imposed. Her actions landed her in jail for fifteen months. She pleaded guilty and she was incarcerated for a year. Piper’s life in prison provides her with an opportunity to learn the prison system and how the system works. She learns how to deal with uncomfortable situations that require her to consider the needs of other people. This allows her to stay on the right side of others in her time in prison. She takes her time to learn the new routines in prison and create a habitual way of life that helps her survive the challenging times.

According to Daniel H Pink, “Humans by their nature, seek purpose to make contributions and be part of a reason greater and more enduring than themselves.”. Motivation and perseverance are at the heart of Kerman during her incarceration. It appeared almost impossible for her to acclimatize to the new routine in confinement. She had to figure out how to adjust to the life in a reformatory and avoid feeling more of an outcast. She found her purpose by being the driving force that advocated the prison administrators to bring back the General Educational Development Program. She found a course in life that created an opportunity for the inmates who had not graduated high school. She took the program as a personal way of interacting, teaching and helping the prisoners. Having a purpose in the correction facility enabled Kerman to attain a purpose in life. The purpose pushed her during here incarceration period, the worse part of her life. In her publication she authored, “When I settled to aid the OG, I had in mind a typical student-tutor association.” “ I would talk to her about her homework, ask thought-provoking queries, and review and correct her assignment”. Kerman’s relationship with Mrs. Jones, who was known as OG in prison, enabled her to find a meaningful way of life in the correction facility. Kerman helped Mrs. Jones to gather confidence and pass her course exams. Through the GED program, Kerman was able to help prisoners with their assignments and complete their education. She had been through college education herself, and so she was a valuable asset to the inmates who had not completed their high school education. The education program provoked her to find a meaningful reason out of her desire to help the inmates in her capacity as a tutor.

Piper exhibits a strong character trait through the year of engagement. Engagement is the sense of investment and involvement in learning. Kerman found it paramount to learn the new ways of life in prison. It was crucial for her to adapt to the prison system and survive during her term. She takes it as a priority to learn from her inmates as much as she could. It is out of the little information she can gather in her time with them that creates the difference and gives her the survival tactics of living in prison. In her book, Annette explains, “You want to stay away from that one, Piper.”. Kerman receives the information from Annette and takes them precaution of the kind of people she should avoid in her paths. The information contributed immensely in aiding Kerman come to terms with her sentence. She explores the opportunity to learn more from her fellow jailbirds that gave her a chance to learn new ways of life. By learning how the inmates’ social system works in prison, she was able to stay out of trouble that would otherwise have befallen her out of social conflicts with her fellow inmates. Her learning brings her closer to the inmates. Her effort to learn how to cope with tougher inmates is seen when she is forced to live with Pops. Without her consent, Kerman is forced to share a cell with Pops. Pops was considered a bully and violent inmate by her fellow inmates. Sharing a cell with Pops under normal circumstances would have guaranteed Kerman trouble in her life. Nevertheless, she learns how to cope up with the situation and instead shapes her circumstances to fit her life. She makes friendship with Pops and in return Pops offers her credible advice about life in prison. Kerman paid attention to the stories that Pops had to give. She was open and listened keenly to discern whether the stories were truthful. However, she grasped that such stories had their place, and their environment predetermined their accuracy at the time. It is what helped her to learn more and be ready for the dangers that life in prison offered.


According to Duckworth on her comments about Significant of Grit, it is remarkably important for a person to use rationality in learning and when making efforts in life. She uses the example of taxi drivers’ performance during a rainy day. “If  on the other hand,  you are not just trying to reach a certain cut point but your are trying to maximize your outcomes you want to do well as you possibly can then there is no limit, ceiling or threshold.” “Your goal is “How can I get the most of out of my day?” then you are like the taxi driver who drives the whole day whether it is rainy or not.”. Kerman understood the inmates from the stories Pops narrated. It was clear that the prison had inmates who were often quiet and seemed harmless. However, the stories proved that this was not necessarily true and that these inmates would at times turn to be remarkably dangerous. The inmates came from different cultures and background. Each of these inmates faced challenges by using different approaches and as their instincts would lead them. Her way of learning from all the stories helped her learn how to approach these inmates and live with them. It gave her the upper hand of learning how to avoid dangers and adapting to the prison systems. It gave her a way of approaching the inmates and avoiding being on their wrong side as well as engaging and learning with them.  Kerman exhibits the trait of responsibility in her prison life. The trait comes about due to the job she is endowed. The term rresponsibility is the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for one and others. It is mandatory that each inmate participate in a particular task as a group. Kerman’s first job is in the electrical department. Kerman has to use a book in order to acquire the skill of repairing electrical appliances. During her time at the electrical department, she puts it, “We often spend our workdays changing the exterior light bulbs or checking the electrical panels in these buildings”. The prison works on the basis that, the inmates have to take part in certain jobs to maintain a working institution. It is their responsibility, Kerman and fellow inmates in the electrical department, to fix and maintain the appliances. The prison initiates a sense of accountability, by ensuring the inmates are well behaved on the job or else, they are punished by being sent to the solitary housing unit. Kerman acquires the skill though forcefully so that she can assist when the need arises. Other inmates cooperate with other departments as well to better their environment.

By the end of her service time served in prison, Kerman had learned numerous life teachings due other acquaintance with various new cultures. She was also able to master a strict time program that was used in the prison to control all inmates. This system was entirely new for her since she was not exposed to it before she was incarcerated in the correction facility. Through adapting to the schedule, attaining a new purpose, accommodating different traits of fellow inmates and creating a new purpose modeled Kerman into a responsible individual. The attainment of a new habit loop and other forms of responsibility are quite a significance since they indicate that, despite the surroundings one can learn something. Every interaction that Kerman had during her working time served as a learning platform. She learned the different perceptions of her fellow inmates. One thing that Kerman noted was that it only takes a single situation in life to bring out the best or worst of the personality of an individual. All the things that Kerman learned in prison were meant to serve as a guide to her life after prison. They shaped her to being a better person in the future and be empowered to adapt to new environments in life. Having such skills is paramount in an individuals’ life as it empowers them with the ability to associate with others harmoniously.