What Prison Taught Me About Effective Leadership

Renowned wellness leader Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander shares powerful insight gained while serving a total of 10 years in federal prison.

Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander at home in Southern California

Orange County, California, July 12, 2021 – Leadership is probably one of the most important yet misunderstood roles an individual can occupy in our society.  It is a contract between leaders and followers that dictate the success of both.  Leaders who effectively give direction that brings forth safety and stability for their followers are rewarded with prestige, greater economic positioning, and power.  This is even more important in a setting like prison where poor leadership can be instantly detrimental to all involved.

Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander has occupied jobs ranging from program coordinator to regional director in corporate surroundings, however, nothing prepared him more for those stations than what he learned in prison.  

In 2007, M.D. was serving the fourth year of a 97-month federal prison sentence handed down because of an advisory role he occupied in a series of unarmed bank robberies.  During that time, he had been transferred from FCI Talladega (AL) to newly opened FCI Bennettsville (SC).  Due to his early arrival at FCI Bennettsville, and his proven abilities and talents, M.D. Alexander was recognized as the leader of the “Midwest Car” (prison designation for a specified group assigned by convicts).  His group was composed of Black Americans from Midwest states (he being an Ohio native) which included gang members from the Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Black P. Stone Nation, and more.  This is the equivalent of being a general of an army or CEO of a company.  With so many new men being placed together in a new environment, conflict was inevitable.  That inevitability reached M.D. that summer when a new member of his Midwest Car was being sought out by members of the larger Florida Car for gambling debts accumulated at another facility.  The following are five things M.D. did to avoid bloodshed:

  1. Gather the facts and minimize emotional reactions.  Spontaneously responding to a problem without knowing all of the facts is a recipe for disaster.  M.D. could’ve immediately reacted to news of the threat and mobilized his men for violence, instead, he sought to gather information from key players close to the situation.

“Prison works just like any institution with branches that rotate personnel or share data.  Being aware of that truth and utilizing it provides leverage, or a key advantage, in negotiating any situation,” says Coach M.D. Alexander.

  1. Communicate with your internal network.  Prison is all about people.  There’s nothing more important than the relationships obtained and fostered in that climate.  Being able to efficiently and adequately relay information to your entire team can determine the outcome of your efforts.  

“If even one man is misinformed about what’s going on, it could lead to a bad choice on his part that causes everyone to suffer,” explains Coach M.D.

  1. Communicate with your external network .  M.D. understood he had an advantage in the challenge that was facing him: his celly (aka cellmate) was a respected and elder member of the Florida Car who recognized M.D. as a person of integrity and intelligence.

“Prison politics can be as deep, if not deeper, than civil politics.  The wiser heads realize that peace is the preferred state for everyone, even though they’re prepared for the worse.  My celly and I didn’t want that peace disturbed over the foolishness that didn’t even originate in our current dwelling, so he accompanied me to the first meeting between me and the Florida Car leader,” adds Coach M.D.

  1. Check your ego at the door and do what’s best for the whole (not just yourself).  There are a lot of people in prison because of pride.  Whether it be another man looking at their woman, risking their life to obtain money for peer acceptance, or someone “looking at them funny”, plenty of convicts made choices from the place of ego.  They didn’t think of how it would affect their loved ones until it was too late.

“When I met with the Florida Car leader, I was open to his perspective and needs without the barrier of defensiveness and wanting to prove who was in charge.  After he gauged my attitude and intent, it brought down his defenses that enabled us to discuss peaceful solutions,” shares Coach M.D.

  1. Follow through with what is agreed upon and enforce it where necessary.  In prison, no one likes dealing with liars or those who do not hold up their end of an agreement.  Many individuals have been on the wrong side of this equation and received the consequences, including death.

“Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Reputation goes a long way in most situations, especially when you’re locked up.  You have to become known for being a person of your word, or you’ll never be able to maintain influence among your internal and external network,”  Coach M.D. reveals.

“The key to effective leadership is always understanding that you’re the ultimate servant for those who place you in the position of authority over them.  It’s not about dictating to others, it’s about listening, understanding, and solving problems that don’t create more problems,” asserts Coach POWER UP

To learn more about Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander’s story and his work, please click here.

How To Reduce The Negative Effects of Stress Anywhere at Anytime in 3 Easy Steps

Renowned wellness specialist Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander shares three practical techniques from his H.A.C. System to minimize stress and boost relaxation.

“The important concept to remember is that stress is not a thing.  It is a physiological response to a stimulus and how we perceive that cue.  When it’s acute (short-term, less than an hour), stress is naturally a positive mechanism for us.  Once it becomes chronic (long-term), the biochemical process it releases can become toxic to our entire being.  The more you train yourself to relax and stay present in any given situation, the better your chances of minimizing the damage.”

Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander

Orange County, California, July 1, 2021 – As society in the United States seeks a return to normal (if such a thing is possible) following the COVID-19 Pandemic response, many people are heading back to work and school environments.  With that realization comes some anxiety about increased traffic, public transportation usage, and other forms of social interaction.  You know what else that means?  The possibility for highly stressful situations.

Some of you are reading this saying, “Yeah but the lockdowns and restrictions coupled with reduced work, and other COVID-19 related stressors were just as bad.”  I won’t dispute that, however, those stressors were dealt with in private settings for the most part.  We know that to be different from the pressures caused in-person by corporate managers, co-workers, fellow students, and the list goes on.  Not to mention that greater political and civil divides reared their ugly heads during the shutdowns.  People are stepping back into limited settings with individuals that may have shown “undesirable” aspects of their beliefs and perceptions over the past 15 months.  So in preparation for the challenges to eventually come our way due to the pandemic rebound, multi-certified wellness leader and industry veteran Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander is sharing three techniques that are usually taught to his H.A.C. System (Holistic Alchemi Coaching System) clients:

  1. Stop, Observe and Assess Before Responding.  This seems like common sense but we all know the saying, “all sense ain’t common or everyone would have it.”

Coach POWER UP spent a total of 11 years of his life in prison (one as a juvenile and 10 as an adult).  It’s one of the most violent environments you could ever encounter, so your survival is predicated on being able to assess situations before you possibly make a fatal mistake. 

 “Stop, observe every aspect of what’s happening, then assess the value of what you may be about to energetically invest into the outcome and how it will affect you in the long run,” says Coach POWER UP.

  1. Control Your Breathing.  Most people are unaware of how our Autonomic Nervous System works.  The ANS is the part of our nervous system that deals with our involuntary physiological processes such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, and so forth.  It also has two main divisions known as Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.  The former is known for its famous “Fight, Flight or Freeze” mechanism.  The latter is the opposite in that it is designed for calming us down.  With that said, stressful situations activate the Sympathetic System which causes our breathing to increase and become shallow.  To counter this reaction, active the Parasympathetic System by breathing deeply.  This is known as Diaphragmatic Breathing aka “Belly Breathing”.  It focuses on taking long, deep breaths that push the stomach and abdominal muscles out.  Ten breaths with a count of “five Mississippi” each should do the trick.
  1. Be Mindful of Yourself In The Moment.  Unless you’ve had some form of disciplined training (ex. Martial Arts or Military Service), most of our emotional reactions are subconsciously conditioned responses that date back to our time as children.  This is where the concept of “blacking out” comes in, it’s the “I don’t know what happened, I just snapped” situation playing out.  Instead of letting that habit loop  manifest, allow your consciousness to step in.  This can only be effective by being mindful a.k.a. being present or “in the moment”.  

After you’ve stopped, observed, assessed, and reduced your breathing, it’s time to be cognizant of your place in the matter at hand so you can control the only thing that you truly can: your perception and reaction to the issue.  Allow yourself to calm down.

To learn more details about Coach POWER UP’s story and his system, please visit: https://powerupcoachingacademy.com/2021/06/26/the-holistic-alchemi-coaching-system

Source: POWER UP Coaching Academy

Learn How Former Federal Convict Transformed Himself Into A Wellness Leader And The Process He Used To Improve His Life

Renowned wellness specialist opens up about his journey from the streets of Cleveland, Ohio and federal prison to the suburbs of Orange County, California and creating a balanced lifestyle to inspire others who may feel lost after the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Coach M.D. “POWER UP” Alexander

Orange County, CA, June 27, 2021 – In 1998, Cleveland, Ohio native Malachi El-Kush (born Michael D Alexander) had a plan: Use the music industry to spread the word about holistic health while gaining the capital to acquire land for a self-sufficient, Aborignal American (Black) community.  Two years later, he was indicted for involvement in an unarmed bank robbery, followed by another indictment in 2003 for organizing a few more.  Under his birth name, Michael ended up being convicted and sentenced to a total of 10 years.  Prison wasn’t his end, it was his incubator.

According to data analyzed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in every 138 adults was behind bars in the United States by 2004.  That overall number came with a crazy statistical comparison:

– 12.6% of Black males (25-29 years old)

– 3.6% of Hispanic males (25-29 years old)

– 1.7% of White males (25-29 years old)

Among those Black males between 25 and 29 years old sat a reflecting Michael.  During his time going through pre-trial, sentencing, and incarceration, Michael kept having the same question asked: What are you doing here?  Attorneys, probation officers, correctional officers, and convicts, all pointed out Michael’s intellect and ability to solve problems.  They all felt that he could have been successful in any legitimate career, so why involve himself in crime?  Michael was also baffled by that very question.  He vowed to use his time to reflect on and answer it in hopes of changing his life.

Like a lot of young men exposed to the lifestyles found in U.S. urban centers, Michael saw the effects of decades-old racial discrimination and oppression.  He also witnessed the traumas that were absorbed and passed down in the families living under those conditions.  His maternal and paternal families being amongst them.  As Michael began the process to address his issues, which included taking advantage of voluntary mental health counseling offered in the prisons, he noticed that a lot of his behavior tied back to traumatic events in his life.

Based on research and data analyzed by Mental Health America (mhanational.org):

– Black American people living below poverty are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those living over 2x the poverty level.

– Adult Black Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites.

– Black Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide at all ages.  However, Black American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers (9.8 percent v. 6.1 percent).

As Michael read books on personal development, participated in dozens of psychology-related classes and therapy sessions, he was able to reach the roots of the internalized traumas.  He used this time to begin working on his spiritual, mental and physical health.  Oddly enough, he had unconsciously begun this journey years before his incarceration with his interest in holistic health.  He read countless books on spirituality, psychology, and physical fitness, but he hadn’t made the complete connection to his life until that challenging time of being locked away.  These literary works included Dr. Llaila O. Afrika’s “African Holistic Health”, which led Michael to see the world of wellness in a different light.  It was a perspective that showed us the interconnectedness of experiences on the spirit, mind and body.  In addition, he became with the concept of “alchemy”, which led to his contemplation of “Holistic Alchemi”:

– HOLISTIC: Incorporating the concept of holism, or the idea that the whole is more than merely the sum of its parts, in theory or practice.

– ALCHEMI (ALCHEMY): Any seemingly magical process of transforming or combining elements into something new.

(Source: http://www.dictionary.com)

By the time Michael completed his sentence in 2010, he had received dozens of certifications in disciplines ranging from drug abuse counseling to personal training.  He also completed a college program for Business Administration with a 4.0 GPA, and wrote a 300 page book that was later broken up into three separate releases via Amazon.  All of this was done while Michael helped dozens of convicts with losing excess body fat, improving health metrics, and overcoming mental disorders such as depression. Michael knew he was no longer the “troubled youth” that initially entered into the federal prison system at 23 years old, but he also recognized that there was still so much to atone for back in the community he left behind.  He was officially released from federal custody in January 2011.

In 2012, Michael was offered the opportunity to work for the Greater Cleveland YMCA and assist in opening one of their new facilities in the same neighborhood where he once sold drugs and ran the streets.  He knew this was his chance to give back and continue his plan to spread the word about holistic health.  During his time there, he networked with local politicians and educators to design and lead community wellness events and programs for the youth.  However, some of his initiatives were blocked by the scarlett letter of being a former felon.  For those who knew Michael and his past, they were astounded by his change, but a small few individuals used his background as a means of keeping him out of “their arena”.  

Michael moved on to found his own wellness company in 2014 that allowed him to work with hundreds of people throughout the United States.  A few years after being home, Michael realized that staying in the place he grew up in was a blessing and a curse.  The blessing was a chance for him to heal while giving back.  The curse?  Him not being able to completely step into his purpose because of those who wouldn’t let him live beyond his past mistakes.  With that realization, Michael relocated to Northern Virginia in 2018 to accept a leadership position with Life Time Athletic (formerly Life Time Fitness).  The experience was refreshing and challenging for Michael, however, there was still something missing that he couldn’t explain.  This led him to go on a soul-searching, cross-country trip to Los Angeles which ended with him returning back to Northern Virginia for personal reasons.

At the age of 43, following another stint of working as a corporate leader for TITLE Boxing Club in the D.C. metro area, Michael finally returned to Southern California to start a new life as a father and soon-to-be husband.  He was excited by the prospect of this new chapter in his life.  A month after his arrival, COVID-19 brought the world to a screeching halt.  Those life altering moments provided Michael with the opportunity to answer two questions that had been re-emerging over the years for him: 

– 1. What are you truly here to accomplish?

– 2. Are you ready to share with the world what you’ve experienced and learned in your life, so far?

Knowing the answer, Michael (now Coach POWER UP) designed a digital, educational program that could be used by anyone, anywhere at anytime to achieve the transformation that they need in their lives like Coach POWER UP had accomplished through all of his trials and tribulations.  He mastered a way to assist anyone seeking to change their lives for the better.  To achieve their happiness and fulfillment in life.  He realized that with the changing views on life, including perceptions of beliefs, cultural traditions, and definitions of success, a lot of people had voids that could be filled by what he had to offer.  Question is: What is his process?

Coach POWER UP designed The H.A.C. System™ (The Holistic Alchemi Coaching System™) to guide individuals in:

– Lead you into the sensation of rejuvenation and vitality,

– Guide you into the feeling of being focused and present,

– Direct you towards the mood of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Coach POWER UP says, “The key is to align your holistic self (whole being – soul, mind, and body), which is mediated through the body’s chemical reactions (hormonal and neurological systems).  The soul is your essential energy.  The body is your interaction with the environment around you.  The soul and body are able to communicate via the mind.  When these three elements of your essence align, all things are within your grasp.  When they are misaligned, chaos becomes normal in your daily routines.”

23 years after his original plan, Coach POWER UP has been certified in several different disciplines related to wellness.  During that time, he has witnessed too many people disappointed with the multiple gym memberships, classes, fad diets, and wasted home equipment that they spent their time and money on to no avail.  The question he likes to ask with everyone who shows this frustration: “Are you tired of wasting your resources and being frustrated with the schemes?” 

If you answered “YES”, you can learn more about and join this program by clicking here.