Losing my college scholarship is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I can still remember my elation opening the giant envelope, pulling out the uncreased paper and reading:

Congratulations on your outstanding preparation, exemplary performance, and impressive record of achievement. … This award will pay full tuition for eight semesters…

Scholarship Committee

[my Social Security Number]

Reading such praise (however misplaced) is enough to make anyone feel proud. I received the good news about a month before turning 18. The future was bright and exciting. But the tigers… :tiger:

A short year later, I found myself opening another envelope—a normal-sized envelope with a folded letter inside. This one also ended with my Social Security Number, but had a different tone and message:

…although your course loads were good, you did not earn a 3.50 cumulative grade point average. Therefore, the remainder of your scholarship has been canceled.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about the committee’s decision.

I had some concerns. But I didn’t contact the committee about them.

Reading the second letter, I felt like a failure. I was sad and disappointed. The scholarship-losing grades I had earned from my math classes—classes I thoroughly enjoyed. The teacher was fantastic, and I loved attending class. I just couldn’t manage to do the homework. (I have a long history of not doing math homework).

I spent the next two years serving the Lord as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (this was my plan even before the first letter arrived). I lived among humble, poor, happy people—the happiest people I’ve ever met despite the unhappiest of circumstances.

Upon returning home, I found a job and resumed my studies. Save the first semester, I worked to pay my way through the rest of school. And an interesting thing happened: I valued that time in college much more than my first free year. And I did well.

Now, hold your horses! Don’t go making an inspirational rags-to-riches movie with soaring music and a slow motion shot of my graduation cap flying triumphantly into the air. (If you do, though, make sure you get my bow tie in the shot).

I’m not naive enough to think that I alone pulled myself successfully through college:

  • I was lucky to having loving, supportive, stable parents.
  • I was lucky to have an inexpensive (understatement) car.
  • I was lucky to have been able to live at home for my first year back.
  • I was lucky to have attended Brigham Young University (with very low tuition).
  • I was lucky to have a flexible, well-paying job.

I was lucky. I am lucky.

My point in sharing this isn’t that “if I can do it, anyone can do it.” My point is to share the lesson I learned about value, struggle and growth. Because I had to struggle (in my own little way, in my otherwise very favorable circumstances), I valued my education and grew into a better person.

That is the principle: when we struggle, we grow and we value the growth.

When I awoke this morning, I intended to write a post about who you should and shouldn’t vote for. But I’m not going to. I don’t lack for opinions, but I doubt anything I write on the Internet could convince people.

Instead, look for the fundamental, correct principles you’ve learned in your life, then apply them to the political situation. Here are a few that I’ve learned (though definitely haven’t mastered):

  • When we struggle, we grow and we value the growth.
  • Honesty, however self-damaging, is better than dishonesty.
  • Nothing in life is free (except the things God gives us).
  • Don’t be a jerk. Be nice.
  • Except if someone’s trying to hurt you—go ahead and punch them.
  • Great success comes from a joint effort.
  • Why are the happiest people I’ve ever met also the poorest?
  • Prayer actually works.
  • When the right tool for the job is missing, elbow grease is the best substitute.
  • Corn is not a vegetable.