Wish I had known….

At the beginning of my PhD, up until not too long ago, I struggled a little bit with what I used to call “failure”. This wasn’t “failure” like “I’m not doing my work and i’m going to quit my PhD failure”, but “failure” of the kind where you work really really hard to get a specific result, or to answer a specific question, and things don’t turn out the way you think they might. This used really bring me down, and I used to think “what am I doing wrong…”

But recently, I had a realization. This thing that I was calling “failure” is actually, plain and simple, THE “research process”. Of course every question we try to answer is not going to be answered on the first try. Otherwise, we would have all gone home a long time ago. This was especially highlighted recently, when I was at a talk and the researcher was discussing this great result that had produced several publication, and they remarked “It took us 2 years to figure out how to set this study up for it to work”. In other words, it took them a lot of “failures” in order to get to their success.

So, when you’re feeling down because that great idea you had isn’t working, or you’ve run too many studies to count, but yet you have no “good” results, it’s OK! Keep your head down and keep working away. The worst that can happen is that this idea is really a failure, but now you’re a little smarter, and you can move on to work on a new idea based on this little “failure”.