Wake up with a Smile

Join our newsletter

Janitor Becomes Physicist After Teaching Himself Trigonometry Watching YouTube.

We have the power to do anything when we believe in ourselves.

Just ask Joshua Carroll! Years ago, the Army veteran had no idea what he wanted out of life. He’d just returned from being deployed and had no direction or purpose. But then he took a chance on himself, and it’s astonishing to see how far he’s come since!

joshua the physicist

Joshua was still in high school when the 9/11 attacks took place in 2001, and he quickly decided he wanted to serve his country. So he got his GED, put further education on hold, and enlisted in the military.

After deploying to Iraq three times, he returned home to Virginia feeling like a different person. He struggled with PTSD and felt like a lost soul wandering aimlessly through life. Thankfully, he found a job as a school janitor, where he stumbled across a small library book that would change everything for him.

joshua the soldier

The book was Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.” As Joshua flipped through its pages, he felt a spark of curiosity and passion.

“That’s when I realized, ‘I want to study the stars,'” he said. “‘I want to be a physicist.'”

The only problem? His mathematical education had only reached 10th-grade geometry. But he didn’t let that stop him! Instead, he taught himself calculus by watching YouTube videos.


Once he mastered calculus, he tried to enroll in Radford University’s physics program, but he didn’t meet their prerequisites for trigonometry… something he hadn’t even known existed.

At that point, the semester was about to start, so he promised the department chair that he would teach himself the necessary skills. As long as he passed his entrance exam, the chair agreed to make an exception for him.

With only three weeks to learn an entire branch of mathematics, Joshua got to work. He spent long nights watching video after video on his phone, and incredibly enough, he did it!


He went on to tackle every challenge Radford threw at him until he graduated as one of the top students in his class.

Today, he’s working as a scientist and has an important message to share with the world: “It’s about trying to reach for the unattainable and figuring out that you can actually grab it.”

joshua studying

None of this would have happened if Joshua hadn’t believed in himself! And if he can achieve so much by setting his mind to each new challenge, so can we.

Learn more about Joshua’s journey to the stars in the video below, and share his story to encourage others to pursue their dreams.

Share your story & inspire the world.
If you have an uplifting story we would love to hear about it! Share it with us here.

Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.