From Janitor to Ph.D.: 4 Tips To Turning Your Tragedy Into Triumph

Shaun Marq Anderson

by: Shaun Marq Anderson

This life can be marred with tragedies, regrets, and setbacks. Moreover, these obstacles can leave a person searching, hoping, and pleading for a break. But what if you can turn your tragedy into triumph, your pain into peace, and your setback into a setup for greatness? Take it from me, I have ridden the roller-coaster of life and I have decided to use my mistakes as a launching pad!

Years ago, one could have considered me as the stereotypical urban youth that gets plastered on mainstream media day-in and day-out: black, fatherless home, born into poverty, with no hope for the future. As a teen I began acting out, rebelling if you will, because of my familial and environmental circumstances. I could have gone down that familiar path of prison or death, but unbeknownst to me, there was a destiny for my life, a plan for a bright future that was in the works!

At 19 years old, I was a struggling college student looking to better my life. I needed a way to pay for my studies so I accepted a full-time janitor position at a local junior high school. As a result, I was a full-time student by day and a janitor by night: all in an effort to pay for my degree. Moreover, if anyone would have told me that between the ages of 19 and 30 that I would have completed my bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, worked a “good job”, fired from that “good job”, become homeless, penniless, car-less, rejected by friends/family, abandoned, depressed, become a motivational speaker, published a book, and currently pursuing a Ph.D., then I would have told you that you were crazy!

Although these times were very rough, it was a journey that I endured! Likewise, you must learn to endure your life’s struggles! Therefore, here is a list of things that must be done in order to turn your tragedy into triumph:

  • There is always a light at the end of the tunnel – Yes, there is always a light, but you must sometimes remove your shades in order to see it. You see, when we constantly observe our problems, harping over them each and every day, you will never see yourself out of that particular problem! You must continue speaking positivity because it will certainly propel you to a positive outcome! You will never reach the light with negativity leading the way!
  • Value your small beginnings – Many people want greatness so badly that they try to achieve it quickly without a strategy. But let’s observe the farmer’s life! A farmer wakes up very early in the morning, digs the ground, plants the seed, and nurtures the seed every day from a sprout until it reaches its full potential! If the farmer didn’t work the small beginning with consistency, he would have never seen the seed reach its full bloom! Yes there were days that the farmer didn’t get up and yes there were days that he had to fight off weeds, birds, and other vermin, but he endured and the seed did as well! Work your small beginning consistently and it will pay off!
  • Don’t let your past issues determine your destiny – As a youth, I was angry, upset, always lashing out, etc. because I was a scared kid missing a father! But my issues as a teen didn’t stop me from seeing myself as a king, as a leader, as an intellectual, and as a mentor for the young black minds in this world! My past issues did not stop me from pursuing greatness!! Moreover, you must determine whether your past life will help or hinder your destiny! Will you use your past issues as a launching pad or as quick sand? Only you can determine this! But I believe in you and I believe you want better! Right?
  • Follow your dreams despite what others say – During my journey “From Janitor to Ph.D.”, there were many people who tried to discourage me with their negative words. But despite their ignorance, I remained steadfast in pursuing my dreams. Often times we try to get people to understand the vision for our life. But here is the secret: Other people were never supposed to understand the vision for your life! So stop trying to seek their approval for your dreams! Go forth with your life without fear, without hesitation, and without negativity!

I hope these tidbits have helped you in any way. My journey has eradicated the myth of fatherless black boys who grow up to be delinquents! Remember, the race is never given to the strong or the swift, but to those that endure! You can do this! Now go forth and pursue your destiny!

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