Image Part 2 by Toby Earl Johnson

toby johnsonImage Part 2

Toby Earl Johnson

June 6, 2013

My last writing dealt with image and the importance of making sure that what we are representing is what we really stand for. There are several questions we can ask ourselves to ensure that we are on the right path for the image we seek: Are our actions congruent with our beliefs? What is really important to us in life? What do we stand for? What is our purpose in life?

Who are our role models?

It has struck me that many teens and young adults lack role models or choose the wrong people to look up to. The image we choose for ourselves is influenced by who we choose as role models. As a little kid, how many of us wanted to be fire fighters, police officers, veterinarians, or doctors? What happened as we grew up that we no longer choose those careers, or choose those individuals to look up to?

For me, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. My uncle was a vet and I would go to his work occasionally and thought that was the coolest thing in the world. As I got older, I got into more trouble and stopped pursuing my dream. Ultimately, I ended up in a couple a group homes due to my behaviors. Instead of realizing who I truly was and returning to my dreams, I replaced my uncle with negative role models.

AT 18, I was heavily involved in drugs. As many of us do, I used the drugs to numb the pain of the self I “lost.” However the lifestyle presented new role models for me. Now I wanted to be the man. The hustler. The guys I dealt with respected me, or so I thought. I wanted to be in charge of a city and be the guy with money and with drugs. This is what we all look up to, right? There were a lot of faults to my logic. Being incarcerated now, I can share a few bits of knowledge with you. First, there are no rich older drug dealers. There are no older kin pins, or gang leaders who are free. Guys that I looked up to, as many of you also do, do not want you to choose the life that you are in.

On occasion, someone from my old town will come to prison. They are shocked as they try to say “you used to hustle…” or “you were involved in that murder, right?” They are expecting me to wear a badge of honor for these events. Immediately, I will correct them and say yeah that was me, but this is me now—and go on to explain how I tutor classes or am trying to reach out to youth. I am being true to my REAL image and want others to see that.

That brings me to the next point. Many of the role models you look up to for living the life of a hustler, do not respect the life you live now. For instance, people that idolize how I used to sell drugs do not impress me. Many guys serving decades for murders wish that they had chosen different life styles. Look at Tookie Williams for example. Before he was put to death he wrote children books. He tried to reach out to youth. It was not the gang culture or violence that he wanted to be known for, it was him trying to make difference. The big homies, old schools, big brothers==we all realize that street life only leads to either prison or death. There is no money and fame in it!

We must choose wisely who we look up to as it greatly affects the image we try to develop. Two of the people that I look up to are Bob and Shane. Before, I probably would not have chosen these as my role models because I did not place value on how both men are active in their community and try to make a difference. Now I can see both men are older than me and carry a big brother or fatherly role. Both men are success, because they maintain a good balance of family, work, fun, spirituality, and health. By choosing positive role models instead of people who are not what I want to be, it has made me strive to be better. It has pushed me to be a better man. Look around and find role models who you can look up to. Remember that those we have idolized from the street life, often have changed and do not want you to follow in their negative ways. Get on the right path starting today for success. Positive role models will help you develop a better image for that. The feeling or becoming the person that I was supposed to be is truly amazing, and I want you all to experience it to!


OID# 205064
7600 525th Street
Rush City, MN 55069