Tag Archive for aspirations

Dr Fearnot or How I learned to love failure

I grew up in a small port town in the Far East of Russia.  Like any other Soviet boy I was brought up on heroic films and had big aspirations.  Many other boys dreamed of becoming cosmonauts, while I wanted to be an inventor, someone like Leonardo da Vinci or Thomas Edison. Of course, at the time I did not realize what massive geniuses they were, I just liked the idea of inventing things.

When I went to school I gradually started to excel in all subjects, but I didn’t love all of them. I was only mildly interested in physics and math, which was the biggest disappointment to me. How was I supposed to invent things without solid knowledge and passion for these subjects?

The Scream by Edward Munk, 1893

Luckily for me, apart from inventing I have always been passionate about three things in life. The first is singing.  I admitted to music school and studied there for four years, between the ages of seven and eleven. It was a disaster that kept me away from music for years. In the first year I failed in solfeggio and was forced to go through the same first year at the music school once gain. My major subject there was choir; I had a high and loud voice, which in combination with my tiny skinny pale exterior produced quite an impression on others.

The problem was that I didn’t like what we sang, I mean the repertoire. So, four years after joining the music school I dropped out.

Since then all my creative energy was put into my two remaining passions: plants and poetry. No wonder biology and literature became my favourite subjects at school.  When the school was over and it was a time to try for the university I decided to pursue biology, since my knowledge of natural sciences was better than my writing skills. Many people told me that it’d be impossible for me to get a place in the most prestigious academic institution in Russia: Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), that I would definitely fail my entrance exams. And they were right: I failed, but not the exams. I just failed to reach the required passing score.

It was almost like a tragedy for my mum, but I thought that I was okay; I just needed a better preparation. The next year I got in and spent my best five years at MSU, School of Biology. My failure to enter the first time round made me stronger, better prepared. I had learned to value my time, to plan and achieve long-term goals in order to succeed.

My failures didn’t stop there. In fact, even now I still keep having a generous share of them. My manuscripts and grant applications are often rejected by journals and funding bodies, respectively. This is normal if you are a scientist. I have to do better research and keep applying /submitting to be able to continue my work. Life is tough. This hardship has been molding me into what I am now. Why? I should be grateful for having all these shortcomings.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
Winston Churchill

Even simple things let you down at times. A cactus dies on you? Your cat walks away? You don’t have a professional respect? You novel is rejected by a publisher?

It is frustrating, but you need to pull yourself together and improve. And I don’t mean buying a new sofa or a next generation TV. I mean you. I mean myself. We all need to improve all the time. If we stop, we’d fall apart slowly. So keep on going.

Life is Motion.