Failure is a part of who we are. This is how we survived and evolved. Learning though trial and error, that is how we build resilience. Einstein said that genius is 1 percent talent and 99 percent hard work, which in itself is another way of describing failing and moving forward. Without failure, there is no journey forward.
This essay is based on comments from fellow Arab scientists who served with me on a panel that discussed the question, “As Scientists, How Can We Learn From Our Failures?” The panel was part of Arab Science Week, a virtual gathering held in August 2020.
Barham Abu Dayyeh, professor of medicine, Mayo Clinic
Not being accepted in a program may be considered failure, but that experience guided Abu Dayyeh to go another path that ended with success.
“Figuring out how to solve a problem by imagining the path is like driving a car in the dark from New York to Richmond with only headlights.”
Every day we face failure. You can’t control circumstances, but you can control your reactions. Failure is an opportunity to grow when you are passionate in your field.
“Everyone is a genius,” Einstein said, “but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid.”
Real failure is when you are not doing what you like. If that happens, that is an alarm to remind us to find what we like, what we are passionate about.
When you don’t like what you do and you fail and you are not incentivized, that is real failure.
Omar Yaghi, professor of chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
Yaghi developed a whole new class of materials and is still figuring out the chemistry behind these materials. More than 100 countries are working on employing these materials to create a better life in areas such as capturing carbon and water in water scarce areas.