On an ordinary hot summer day in rural Georgia, just weeks before heading off for his first year of college, Scott Rigsby’s life was to change forever.
Riding in the back of a pickup truck after a long hard day of landscaping work, Scott and his buddies were laughing and talking about the upcoming weekend.
Suddenly, and without warning, a passing 18-wheeler ran them off the road, sending Scott under a 3-ton trailer and dragging him more than 300 feet.
By all human expectations, Scott should not have survived. But he did. And with horrific injuries. One leg was completely severed, the other left hanging by a thread — and he suffered third-degree burns all over his back.
What followed were 26 surgeries, a second amputation of the leg that could not be saved, unspeakable depression, fear and uncertainty.
In the blink of an eye, Scott’s life changed from one with a bright college career ahead to one of unbearable challenges, dashed dreams and poverty.
It’s not surprising that as a result of his now broken body and constant pain, Scott waged a battle with prescription drug addiction. After all this, plus no steady income, Scott lost his dreams of a stable and successful future.
A decade later, in 2005, Scott read about the Ironman Triathlon, a series of races consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon (26-mile) run — raced in that order and without a break. All Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race.
On that day, Scott made a promise to himself that one day he would compete in the Hawaiian Ironman. What irony. Not only is this a man with no legs, he didn’t even know how to swim! With a new sense of determination, Scott figured that if he’d come this far through so many physical challenges, learning to swim should be simple by comparison.
And learn he did.
Scott completed 13 triathlons and five road races in less than a year, on his way to setting multiple world records for a double below-the-knee amputee.
On Oct. 13, 2007, Rigsby became the first double amputee in the world to complete an Ironman distance triathlon with prosthetics at the 140.6-mile World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Scott calls it “Doing the Unthinkable,” the motto he has embraced since that day in 2005 when he picked himself up off the couch and decided to stop being a victim of his circumstances.
I’ve watched the videos of Scott in action, and recently had the privilege to hear him speak. With humility and gratitude, Scott faces life with uncommon determination and gentle strength.
What kind of 18-wheeler has run you off the road of life? Is it unemployment? Divorce? Health issues? Whatever it is that has cut the legs out from under your financial situation, it’s time for you to get up out of that recliner!
Just as Scott knew that he could not grow new legs, you need to accept what is true and stop fantasizing that you’ll win the lottery, or your former employer will apologize and beg you to come back to your old job. It’s time to find new strategies, plans and methods that will become your new prostheses.
Lost your home? Stop wallowing in self-pity. Pick yourself up and start looking for a landlord.
Can’t find a job? Maybe it’s time to become your own next employer.
Whatever it is that is keeping you deep in debt and a victim of a rotten economy, stop giving it power to hold you down!
Let go of whatever it is that brings you to this place. Stop counting the money you’ve lost in your retirement account. No more dwelling on how many weeks you didn’t get an unemployment check.
Give up looking in the rearview mirror of your life. What happened then is over now. It’s done and there is nothing you can do to change it.
Instead, look at what lies ahead. There’s a big, clean canvas out there just waiting for you to paint the next season of your life. Identify your triathlon. Give it a name. Start training.
You are stronger than you know and smarter than you think. Dare to think big and set goals to match — unthinkable goals!