What We Believe
We believe that human beings are fundamentally good, even though behavior may be “bad.” The inborn goodness of human beings is susceptible to corruption through experience and faulty learning; conversely, good behavior can be achieved through experience and relearning. This view of human nature encourages students to pursue their full potential. It allows them to forgive themselves for past errors, as well as the past errors of others.
The Other Side Academy has an explicit set of ethics and values or concepts that we teach and uphold. We have taken 12 of these values and concepts and have expressed them in a set of sayings and maxims that we have posted on the walls, that we discussing in seminars and other forums. Here are those 12 beliefs:
You alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone. The Other Side Academy is a large family where we all depend on each other for everything. We got where we are by disconnecting. First from ourselves. And then from others. Human beings are wired for connection—it is why we exist. Our relationships with others give purpose and meaning to our lives. Without connection there is suffering. The bad choices we have made brought us to disconnect from ourselves and others. We came to see ourselves as losers—others as tools we used rather than people we served. We then reinforced that image by repeating our hurtful choices. Our choices show how little value we placed on both others or ourselves. At The Other Side Academy we grow as we learn to truly connect for the first time in our lives. Community is the antidote to personal alienation. The way out is to let others in. We begin to see ourselves and others differently as we participate in the soul-shaping struggle of lifting others. We get to the Other Side by embracing the challenge of choosing to stay connected to imperfect people—because they are worth it. As we experience their choice to stay connected with us, we discover that we are, too.
Make and keep promises. The only requirement for entry to The Other Side Academy is a sincere desire to change. We took the first step to the Other Side when we made a choice to change from the inside out. We can’t simply change our address; we must change our selves. We must learn a completely new set of habits and skills. We are here because we asked to come – and made a promise to do our best. Life is about choices. We made a choice to come here. As we choose to follow The Other Side Academy’s principles we grow and progress. The basic process of growth is making increasingly rigorous commitments to live by principles we’ve never been able to do before. Others at The Other Side Academy give us feedback, help and encouragement along the way as we become people we have never met before.
Self reliance. There is no free lunch. We support ourselves—and keep our doors open for others who wish to change their lives–by running businesses. It’s pretty simple: if we don’t work we don’t eat. Half of our startup funds were provided in the form of a loan rather than a gift—which we are repaying through revenues generated in excess of our needs—so our training school businesses are serious business. We are even “paying it forward” for the other half of our startup funds by developing graduates who may choose to support the startup of Academies in other states so many others can have the same chance we have. The Other Side Academy is about us doing for ourselves what no one else can do for us. Each member learns and grows by working, teaching, and serving with one another. This isn’t easy because we’re not the easiest people to live with—much less run highly successful businesses with. But the friction of solving real life “family” problems while running businesses, maintaining a household and serving in the community is the process that helps us change.
Impeccable honesty. Many of us have lived both inside and outside of jails, prisons and rehab programs. Whether inside or outside we have perfected skills of lying, manipulating and using those around us. Dishonesty has become such a habit that we are even disconnected from our own feelings and truths. We have long justified our unhealthy choices by blaming others. These habits have kept us in a revolving door moving from inside to outside and back again. Students at The Other Side Academy have made a decision to get to the Other Side. While at The Other Side Academy you will learn—and be expected to practice—impeccable honesty—about your actions, thoughts and feelings. You will be surrounded by others who will expect this of you and hold you to account for anything less. Honesty is the value we place on our selves – it is the only path to reconnecting with ourselves and having real relationships with others.
Act as if. Trust us, you’re going to hate it… until you love it. New habits are uncomfortable. Lying, stealing and manipulation have become “normal” to us. When we stop blaming others for our choices, those habits will stop feeling good. Likewise, habits of self-discipline, hard work and rigorous honesty will feel deeply uncomfortable—even painful—in the early stages. We will hope that it’s all a sham and that we can find an easier way out. But we don’t worry about it. We know those feelings will change over time. As new principles become new habits they begin to create feelings of self worth, peace and happiness. Until then, we “act as if” we are honest, caring, curious, and humble. Over time we become that which we habitually do. And fortunately if we forget to “act as if”—others will promptly remind us.
Embrace Humility. One of the most difficult gifts the The Other Side Academy family gives us is feedback. Lots of it. Our job is to help others see the truth about their self. We spend our days working in our businesses–and often getting on each others nerves. We then spend evenings working on ourselves by listening to how others see us—and telling them how we see them. We do that through structured activities in which we give and receive feedback from one another. Uncomfortable as they might be, they help us change. To be aware is to be alive. Humility accelerates awareness. The speed with which we change is determined by the degree of our humility in listening vulnerably to how others see us.
Each one teach one. Our primary focus at The Other Side Academy is not ourselves, it is others. We don’t dwell on ourselves or our past. We can’t fix our past—the mistakes we made are unchangeable. But we can create a future. We do that by doing the opposite of what we’ve done in the past. Our past was about escaping discomfort and reacting to impulses. It was all about me. Our future is all about others. Stop worrying about yourself. If you think you are looking good, you are looking bad. As we become important in the lives of others—as we become instrumental in lifting and serving others—we discover a source of motivation, worth and satisfaction unlike any we’ve ever felt. The Other Side Academy is a peer teaching system. Each time we learn a new skill we are made responsible to teach it to others. When A teaches B, A gets better. We are lifted as we lift and serve others. You can’t keep it without giving it away.
200% accountability. Everyone at The Other Side Academy is accountable not only for our own actions, but to watch over those around us. We need each other. Anyone who sees a problem—in themselves or others–owns the problem–and is required to confront it and report it. Secrets kill. Truth heals. All of us need to know that everyone is watching us all the time—ensuring that we keep the rules impeccably. The strength of our family is in everyone’s commitment to keeping each other safe. Likewise, guilt kills. If we choose to allow our family to become “dirty” we kill the very thing we are hoping will save us.
Forgiveness. It takes time and great effort to live the way we live. So we help each other and are patient with each other. We won’t back down from letting you know when you fall short. But we won’t give up. Grudges not only weaken our family but weigh down the one who carries them. If we feel wronged, we:
- Speak out rather than act out or check out. In the past we used violence or escape to cover the feelings of vulnerability and hurt we feel when others disappoint us. At The Other Side Academy we connect with how we feel, and honestly express it to others in order to give them the chance to do the same.
- Work on me first, you second. I humbly listen for ways I may have contributed to problems. I own my part – and invite you to own yours. I am as interested in understanding the reality of the others person as I am in expressing my own.
- Let go. After fully expressing myself I allow the other person to choose their path. I keep myself safe when needed – but I surrender the desire to punish or control others by withholding my own good will.
Boundaries. Setting and maintaining boundaries is the process through which we create our character. We learned to set or neglect boundaries from infancy. If those we lived with violated our boundaries, we may have concluded we can have none. If they modeled a life with few boundaries, we may have surrendered our responsibility to define them. Boundaries are like muscle. Long neglect of boundaries weakens it. Building it takes effortful practice. At The Other Side Academy, setting strong boundaries is how we develop the muscle to change our lives.
When we get dirty at The Other Side Academy we don’t just make a mistake, we surrender a boundary. From that moment forward we telegraph our weakness to everyone around us. We become a “trouble magnet.” Our stay stops working when we remain dirty. The only way to turn a mistake into strength is to clean it up–completely. Doing so is a message to our self about who we are. And so is continued failure to do so. If we don’t stand for something we fall for anything.
The best way we can help others learn to set strong boundaries is to be an example of someone who does.
The Other Side Academy has boundaries. As a family we promise to give each other a safe environment in which to grow. We have four firm boundaries at The Other Side Academy in order to protect the family. We understand that we have chosen to leave The Other Side Academy if we choose to:
- Commit any act of violence.
- Make any threat of violence.
- Engage in any substance abuse.
- Become a threat to the community.
Faith Friendly. There is no requirement at The Other Side Academy to believe in God, nor will anyone make an attempt to persuade you to any religious beliefs. We are not a 12-step program. We are, however, supportive of any beliefs that help you lead a healthier and more connected life. While we support each other in worshipping—or not worshipping–according to our own conscience—we allow all others to do the same.
Pride in Work. The way we live demonstrates the value we place on our selves. You get back what you put in. The best way to create a feeling of well being is to do any job—no matter how minor—with joy and love. The best way to measure the progress you are making in “becoming” is to look at the quality of your work and the condition of your environment. Clean bed, clean head. We hold each other to rigorously high standards in the service we offer others and in the way we care for ourselves because lapses in quality reveal defects in our selves. Shoddy work is an invitation to self-examination.