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Finding Your Freedom from Within with Quan Huynh

by | Nov 23, 2020 | Q&A

We often make the mistake of blaming outside factors for our problems. After something terrible happens, we tend to find ways to cover immense feelings of guilt or anger, leading to a spiral of wrong decisions. Unfortunately, that spiral can result in grave consequences in finding freedom. How can we free ourselves from the life sentence our mistakes place on us?

In this episode, Quan Huynh talks about his imprisonment and how he came to forgive himself in finding freedom. He shares his struggle with fitting in as a child and how it has shaped his mindset growing up. He talks about what sparked hope within him that led him to a life of helping others.

Make sure to tune in to the episode to learn the value of forgiving yourself, finding freedom, and taking responsibility for your choices.

About Quan

Quan Huynh is the post-release program manager of Defy Ventures. It is a nonprofit organization that helps people with criminal records to transition into entrepreneurship. Before this, Quan has spent 22 years in and out of correctional institutions and was given parole from a life sentence in 2015. In 2016, Quan received the Peace Fellowship Award for his contributions to the Alternatives to Violence Project.

Quan is also the author of the Sparrow in the Razor Wire.

You can connect with Quan through his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
  1. Find out how you can bounce back from making the wrong choices.
  2. Discover how to change your life’s trajectory and help others do the same.
  3. Learn the value of choosing a better way of living by finding freedom.



Episode Highlights

[03:11] Not Born a Murderer

  • During his life sentence, a passage from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity resonated with Quan.
  • This quote reminded him that he was not born a murderer. He could transform his inner world by making intentional and correct choices from then on and by finding freedom.
  • With this, he found liberation and freedom before his parole.

[06:02] Sparrow in the Razor Wire

  • He wrote the book for men who are in long or life-term prison sentences. 
  • Quan also speaks universal truths that he uncovered in his journey.
  • We all live in our own versions of prisons.
  • Listen to the full episode to find out how Quan is doing now!

[12:10] Operating on Chaos and Turmoil

  • He previously operated from a place of loneliness, anger, and rage.
  • St. Francis of Assisi’s life sparked a change in Quan’s perception of life.

[15:42] Quan’s Background

  • He was born in Vietnam. Right after the Vietnam War, their family settled in Provo, Utah.
  • Because of the French colonization, the Vietnamese were either Catholic or Buddhist. Quan is a Roman Catholic.
  • He experienced racism as a kid. He shares an experience where he couldn’t do anything when his brother got beaten by other kids.
  • His father created the Vietnamese Refugee Association to help refugees adjust to the country. 
  • Quan wanted to be just like his father and pursue the military.

[23:43] Not Fitting In

  • After his father got diagnosed with leukemia, they decided to move to Southern California with their extended family.
  • It was the first time he went to school with kids who are not predominantly white. However, he didn’t feel like he fit in because they said he was “whitewashed.”
  • He continued to fit that narrative later on in his life, looking for confirmation in other experiences. 

[26:17] His Father’s Passing and Blaming God

  • During his first communion, he prayed to God to let his father live. That Sunday morning, he found out that his father had died the night before.
  • In his mind, he thought that God killed his dad. 
  • Unlike him, his younger siblings only knew their father as always in and out of the hospital.
  • After that, he blamed his wrong choices, particularly his arrest, on God and the American justice system. 

[32:33] The Gang Life and Culture

  • The gang’s brotherhood fulfilled the part of him that wanted to fit in. However, there was also an inner conflict of living up to expectations.
  • It was easier and more comfortable for him to settle in the gang and gain recognition there.
  • There are rules in the gang and prison culture, which you have to abide by like a sense of honor.

[41:15] His Life Before and During Prison 

  • He was in prison for 16 years for his last case and went to different state prisons during that period.
  • Before the murder, he took a management position at the Gallup Organization, bringing his hopes up until they said he was not a fit.
  • It was not until he became suitable for parole that he realized he was turned down because of his history as a convicted criminal.
  • He used the gang to vent emotions and regain the sense of power he lost from getting turned down.
  • He didn’t feel any sense of remorse when he pulled the trigger during the fight. At the time, he saw it as an accomplishment.

[51:17] The Spark of Hope

  • Helping others in prison sparked hope within Quan.
  • His trajectory changed after being coached by someone named Donnie.
  • From then on, Quan started reading books on personal responsibility, choice, and mindfulness.
  • With this newfound mindset, he started sharing the same concept with the people around him. 

[55:05] Being a Bookworm and His Spiritual Journey

  • In every prison he was, he was known to read three or four books simultaneously.
  • Quan got engrossed in books, learning how he can apply what he learned to a life out of prison. 
  • The Bible’s themes were in alignment with how he saw the world and how he wanted to live.

[1:00:37] Being Forgiven

  • He held onto the label of being a murderer for a long time.
  • It was a long process of constant refinement for Quan to accept that he can be forgiven.
  • He became very mindful of the words people were using, which gave him a glimpse of how they saw themselves.
  • It was liberating for him to choose his way to every conflict.

[1:06:29] Outside the Prison Walls

  • He uses the mindset of choosing his way in life and business to take responsibility for his choices.
  • He now helps people in their reentry journey from prison in Defy Ventures.
  • The “inner jewel” mantra is his inner compass.
  • Listen to the full episode to find out Quan’s short-term and long-term plans for the future!

5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

[03:34] “The choices we make can either turn us into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature.” —C.S. Lewis

[08:57] “We all live in some sort of prison, real or imagined.”

[54:25] “So just slowly seeing little seeds that I’m planting and seeing where they’re starting to sprout up, and then seeing what they’re learning and they’re sharing with others, and I could just see like the whole fabric of prison life for me just changed while I was in there.”

[1:06:06] “It was, for me, a sense of such liberating purpose because I can just choose my way to every conflict that’s coming on. Whether it’s my mind saying crazy things, my thoughts, or other people saying things, I could still choose to find my way through all of this.”

[1:09:53] “Even if the world says it cannot be done, just don’t automatically buy into it.”

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