Ice Picks & Toilets

30 years ago this month I graduated with my Master’s in Counseling Psychology. Florida State University was kind enough to schedule our graduation ceremony on my birthday…Get a Master’s Degree and turn 24 all on the same day. Very efficient…

I was the first in my class to get a job. In Vero Beach, Florida. Massive culture shock. University town to a city where seeing someone my age was an event. Spent a year there that summer…

Moved back to Tallahassee determined to make it work where I wanted to live.

So at 24 I took a job, with a Master’s Degree, as a Jr. Counselor, at minimum wage, in an adolescent drug rehab program. Got paid for 20 hours, worked a lot more.

But the many many things I learned there were priceless, in the truest sense of the word.

The program was housed in a 1940’s house with no insulation. The first winter there, we were given a choice: turn on the heat or get paid. We got paid…a little bit.

While the group treatment began at 8 am, the program opened at 7 am so parents could drop their kids off on the way to work. On Friday nights we had a big meeting with all the staff, parents and kids. During that meeting, a plate would be passed to collect money, kinda like in church, and the money would go to whoever was willing to open the program at 7 am and work with the kids until 8 am.

I needed the money and volunteered to open the program 4-5 days a week. Some of those days were bitter cold. Remember, a 1940’s house with no insulation and no heat.

So some mornings the first thing I would do after unlocking the building was get an icepick from the kitchen and chip the ice from the surface of the toilet. I am not making this up.

Yet I worked my way up to Assistant Clinical Director and learned so many ways of working with so many different people that still serve me and others to this day.

Moral of the story: you gotta be willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, even chipping the ice off of toilets at 7 am…

About The Author

Jeff Herring

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  • Julia

    Reply Reply

    What I love about you Jeff is that you’re always modeling what you preach – doing whatever it takes.

    There’s not a lot of that around anymore!

  • Anna

    Reply Reply

    Jeff: You take ” doing whatever it takes” to the extreme. The more important lessons I get from your story are:
    One, don’t let anything stop you and two, learn as much as you can from any situation; all that life experience makes for well rounded individuals. Thank you for being a constant inspiration.


    Jeff, not only do I learn from your posts but so often you make me laugh. Then I remember your stories even more!

    Thanks for sharing your life stories with us, it always helps.

    ~ Carla

  • What a great story. I can imagine that at the time you might not have thought your experience with the ice pick would have provided a life long lesson. I agree with Anna that we can learn as much as we can from any situation.

  • I wonder whether there is an age/generational difference in understanding your message. With the “always-on” culture with instant everything, have we lost general character traits such as perseverance, resilience, and humility which you describe here.

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