Editor’s note: Scotty Rushing recently completed the Associate of Arts in Applied Psychology degree program offered 100% online by Florida Institute of Technology. In May 2015, he will travel from his home in Coushatta, Louisiana, to Florida Tech’s campus in Melbourne to receive his diploma. You can follow Scotty’s journey to graduation at #FLTechGrad on Twitter and Facebook.
One of my favorite stories involves a president of the United States, a bathtub and several pounds of melted butter. Some claim the story is a myth, but myths have been used since the dawn of mankind to convey important truths and life lessons.
William Howard Taft became the 27th President of the United States in 1909. Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 340 pounds, he arrived at The White House bearing the distinction of being the largest president.
As legend has it, in the course of bathing, Taft became stuck in Bathtub One. Some versions of the story say it took several men to dislodge the president. Other accounts say the application of melted butter allowed the president to slip from his tub in a scene that would have shamed Laurel and Hardy.
One can only imagine the president’s embarrassment.
There are some very important things to take away from this story, whether it be true or steeped in myth. First, even the best and the brightest among us can sometimes find themselves in a tight spot. Challenges and adversity do not discriminate.
The wonderful news, however, is that the ability to overcome obstacles also does not play favorites. Every man and woman has within them the power to harness amazing inner resources that enable them to succeed.
In 2005, I found myself in a jam. The job I’d held for several years came to an end without warning. Within a short period of time, I lost my home and possessions and was forced to live in my Ford Taurus while I looked for work. Things were further complicated by the fact that I was raising my 13-year-old daughter as a single parent. One of the most heartbreaking experiences I have ever endured was being forced to send my daughter to live with her mother because I had no place for her to rest her head.
There were days when I had little or nothing to eat and struggled to find a safe place to park so that I could sleep for a few hours. Among my few remaining possessions was a tattered copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Thoreau’s words gave me hope and renewed my beaten spirit. His thoughts on the power of making an effort to improve the substance of one’s life were especially powerful:
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.”
With those words to guide me, I began to make my own conscious endeavor to overcome my challenges and design a life worth living. I found work and started writing again. Within a short time I had landed a monthly column for a nationally published magazine. I became a licensed sports agent and met my wonderful partner, Sharon. Little by little things became good again.
But I needed to use my newfound sense of purpose to do everything I could to prevent anything similar from happening again. I decided to pursue an education.
When Terry Marlow of University Alliance called me on New Year’s Eve of 2012, I had no idea that less than an hour later I would be registered for spring classes at Florida Institute of Technology. Terry refused to accept any of my reasons for delaying admission and my conversation with her taught me another powerful lesson: sometimes we all need someone to give us a hand up.
Just like President Taft, I was compelled to realize that there are times in our lives when we all need a little encouragement to help us break free from the old patterns and excuses and habits that keep us stuck in an uninspired way of life.
With Terry’s help and the help of other great people at University Alliance and Bisk Education, such as Anthony Porrevecchio, I excelled in my studies. Florida Tech recognized me as an Outstanding Sophomore and I was inducted into Psi Chi, the international honor society for psychology students.
I didn’t let anything deter me from my goal, not even a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis that has presented its own unique challenges to overcome.
Whether or not the tale of President Taft and the bathtub is true, there is one important fact that is known. After he left office, Taft went on to become the Chief Justice of the United States. He is the only man in history to have held both positions. He also lost more than 70 pounds, improved his health and lived to be 73 years old.
Obviously, President Taft understood the power of a conscious endeavor. He also knew that challenges and obstacles only serve as an opportunity for a man to refine his character and refuse to be defined by the things that stand in his way.
What is your conscious endeavor? What are you doing to design the quality of life you want and deserve? Most importantly, are you using your own adversities as a platform for inspiring others? The value of any accomplishment rests in its ability to encourage others in their own journey toward success.
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