Failure: the first step towards success?

Albert Einstein

Being told you’re not good enough is a simple factor of life. Whether it’s a rejection for a place at your desired University, or an unwanted grade in an essay; it seems failure is a common feature of our everyday life. However, this doesn’t mean we’re destined to fail for the rest of our lives. More often than not, history shows us that being unsuccessful at first can lead to the determination needed to succeed.

Take Albert Einstein; a man now considered to be the epitome of genius. Einstein didn’t talk until he was 4, and took a further 3 years to learn to read. He was expelled from school and was initially refused admission to Zurich Polytechnic School after failing the entry exams. This didn’t stop him from changing the face of modern physics and winning the Nobel Prize in 1921. The guy even got his face on the Faversham posters!

Similarly, in his early years Charles Darwin failed at a medical career and was deemed by his father as ‘a disgrace to yourself and all of your family’. Additionally he suffered from panic attacks as a result of agoraphobia, so much so that he struggled to even communicate with his own children. Despite this, Darwin went on to write ‘The Origins of Species’, which laid the foundations of the theory of evolution and consequently changed the way we view the natural world.

A more recent example arose last week during the Nobel Prize announcements when British researcher Sir John Gurdon won a Nobel Prize for his work on stem cells. Who’d have known that during his Eton days Gurdon’s teacher had reported “I believe Gurdon has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous; if he can’t learn simple biological facts, he would have no chance of doing the work of a specialist”.

It’s not just scientists that have had to face defeat in order to eventually succeed. In 1985 Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computer was sacked from the very company he helped to create. However Jobs went on to create a new computer company, NeXT, a business which was consequently bought by Apple in 1996. Jobs went on to form Apple as we know it, overseeing the development of the iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes.

Bill Gates, Vincent Van Gogh, Steven Spielberg, The Beatles, the list really is endless. So the next time you get a low mark in a piece of academic work, or get rejected from yet another graduate job position, remember history tells us failure is just another step towards future success

Louise White

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