DEUCE Community Update: June 2023


If you’re reading this in Los Angeles, you’ve probably done a significant amount of complaining about the weather recently, I certainly have.

Most of us have the life experience to know how ridiculous it is to complain about a cloudy day in Southern California, but I think it’s dangerous not to reflect a little deeper on how good we have it.

If we believe ourselves to be in a bad situation, we become unhappy. Conversely, if we think we are relatively well positioned, our outlook changes.

Seems basic. But, stick with me...

I’d be willing to bet that even if you agree with this, you’ve been imperfect in implementing a mindset rich with gratitude for your situation.

My benchmark for keeping a perspective of optimism and purposeful living is Viktor Frankl. Victor Frankl spent three years of his young adult life in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau. During this time, he held onto his purpose in life and held firm to the belief that his tormentors could take everything from him, except his thoughts and his response to external circumstances.

I can’t begin to imagine what it was like to experience the horrors of Auschwitz. However, I think I can begin to imagine what life was like after. I can imagine a world that was rich with abundance, gratitude, joy, and connection. I can imagine a world that was more colorful in every way.

The tragedy is that not everyone who makes it out of imprisonment sees the world through a lens that makes everything brighter. Past traumas haunt us and sometimes it can be easier to shut out our past rather than embrace it.

I’m certainly not as strong as Viktor Frankl and so to bolster my resolve, I try to incorporate reminders of gratitude into my habits and environment.

When I was fresh out of prison, one of my favorite ways to bring presence to myself and my reality was to look up at the sky while I rode my bike from gym to gym. For many years, I was in a seg cell with no window. Without the hour a day of recreation I received or my clock radio, I would have had no idea of what time of day or season it was. It was a kind of sensory deprivation that would affect the body in strange ways. Even with this experience, something as simple as looking up and being able to see the sky is easy to take for granted. Now, I do this less frequently, but I still try to stop to take in a world with fresh air and no fences. 

What keeps me most present and grounded in gratitude is helping other men and women make the transition out of prison. Walking beside them as they navigate the path to autonomy and success gives me the greatest feeling I could ever imagine. This work forces me to show up as the best version of myself so I can support them. It’s the most effective way I’ve found to move forward and stay rooted in where I came from. 

The last practice is newer for me. Almost every day, I run a drill in my head that I stole from my therapist and renamed, ‘this fool’:

I tell a story about myself to myself in the third person. The story might start like this, “This fool used to be so uncomfortable with who he was as a person that a needle and a life of violence were better options to him than sitting with himself…”  I stop and sit with how I feel about the story and the person in it. I examine what feelings and observations come up for me. This exercise is a game-changer for several reasons. It’s easier to have awareness and make judgments about other people than it is about yourself; the drill takes me outside of myself to give me deeper insight and perspective. It also allows me to see how far I’ve come, which gives me a strong sense of self and motivation to keep evolving. 

It’s one thing to say something like, ‘see the glass as half full, not half-empty or, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’. To me, these seem like Barney and Friends bullshit aphorisms. It’s much more effective to build systems and environments in your life that encourage reflection and a positive mindset. 

The reality is that life will always be hard, sometimes seem oppressive, and no matter where you are in the world, the weather will never be perfect. I wouldn’t try to change that if I could. However, I can empower you with the knowledge that all of life's problems are relative and that you can CHOOSE how you face them and what context you put them in.

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Viktor Frankl 

  • June 17th at 1:00 p.m. | Tattoo Pop-Up - Please RSVP 
  • June 17th at 5:00 p.m. | Dinner in the Yard with Nyesha - Buy Your Ticket
  • Every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. | Community Dinners at The Mar Vista House – All are welcome. Contact 
  • Every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. | Community Workout at DEUCE Gym @ 110 Lincoln Blvd

The Amazon Prime packages that show up on the porch of the DEUCE Community House mean more to these guys than you can possibly imagine. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for buying from our Amazon Wishlist.

My name is Joseph Bruner. The majority of my adult life was spent in the California prison system. 15 years of served time. I was caught in a vicious cycle that seemed like it would never let me go or ever end. Throughout my life, I've never really had much thought as to what my purpose in life was. Aside from my children, I didn’t consider my life or how I lived as anything with any substance. Then I was introduced to DEUCE Community who ran a workout at the reentry house I lived in. I was offered an opportunity to come to the gym and participate in Coach’s Prep. Little did I know that I was about to discover my purpose.  I quickly found out that the gym was more than a place to work out. The culture quickly grew on me and for once I felt like I had found a place in the world where I belonged. I now am working to become a Coach, and most importantly give back to those who were like me. I would like to thank DEUCE Community for giving me hope and helping me find my purpose in life.