Have you experienced failure?

Some people seem to coast through grad school. As an outsider, it looks like doors are just being thrown open to welcome them, money is being showered on them, and they’ve never hit an obstacle. For most of these people, it’s probably mostly an illusion. Sure, the things you are seeing look to be perfect, but there’s probably other things going on that you don’t know about.

But there’s something to say about coming up against failure And working through it. And it’s much better to have that happen sooner, rather than later. So don’t worry if you’re not one of the above people. In fact, I think you’re actually slightly better off.

I’ve known a few people who have left grad school over the years. And in almost every case (of the ones I know the details) some of the biggest reasons behind them dropping out is that they didn’t know how to deal when things got tough. These are the people where everything always seemed to work out with little to no effort. And so when they were finally presented with challenges and situations where stuff didn’t work out, they didn’t know how to deal. Instead, they found it so stressful and they had little to no coping strategies that they ended up leaving. And they often blamed the institution on their failure.

I believe failure is important. And I think too many people discredit it as being just proof that you’re wrong. However, research is all about learning from failure. And, in my experience, grad students who’ve experienced failure, and figured out how to learn and move on from it, are better prepared to deal with research failure.


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