Scientific Anthology: Failure as a Stepping Stone

Introduction

Failure is often seen as a negative part of scientific discovery. Failure is inherently bad. But failure is not completely bad. When it is not a completely indomitable failure, it provides an opportunity for growth, and quite often is a stepping stone towards success, or brings you one step closer from achieving your goal.

This anthology is a collection of 15 carefully curated pieces which reflect the importance and the nuances around failure and its role in the scientific world. As you will find, failure is not only an irremovable component of science and progress, but a driving force into scientific discovery and advancement.
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Scientific Anthology: Failure as a Stepping Stone

Psychological Effects of Success and Failure

“We were young, and when you are successful, it helps enormously with your whole state of mind. It helps with your confidence; it helps with the publications you write; it helps with your future, with your career” (Hughes 51).

This quote is taken from Heyneker as he recalled the thrill he felt when he learned that synthetic DNA could be immortalized. After reading this, I was curious to know the psychology behind success and failure and how it affects the brain and the body. I looked to the article, Psychology Today, for more information, and found some interesting facts. For example, psychologists study something referred to as the Cycle of Failure. This is the time period when failure sets in, resulting in various mental effects. The cycle progresses as follows: Unconscious fear, Wish Fulfilment or Desire to Fail, Overconfidence or Lack of Confidence, Perception of Failure, Anger with oneself and others, Sorrow and grief, Loss of Confidence/Motivation, Unconscious Fear. Clearly, this is a cycle filled with pain and general unhappy feelings, creating continuous domino-effect results in the brain. Another interesting concept I came across was that failure weakens our ability to think creatively due to the fact that once we fail once, we fear failing again. According to the article, failure we start to perceive failure as being too risky, thus we limit our ability to create new ideas. On the other hand, happiness obviously bears a more positive weight psychologically and ultimately gives us an advantage in life and work. According to Forbes, success results in increased motivation, self-confidence, improved leadership skills, and overall happiness. These ideas are interesting to consider as Genentech continues.

 

Psychological Effects of Success and Failure

Success is Not the Absence of Failure

“The history of being spectacularly right has a shadow history lurking behind it: a much longer history of being spectacularly wrong, again and again” (Johnson, 134).

Innovative ideas, most of the time, come from a long process of trial and error. From a young age we are taught to strive for success and are often reprimanded for failures. However, success should not be synonymous with the absence of failure. Plenty of very successful people had to face multiple failures before they hit success. Even Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper company for lacking imagination and good ideas.

Success is Not the Absence of Failure

Silver lining to failure

“The errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one” -Johnson (137)

The idea that failure can ultimately lead to knowledge and understanding. It amazes me how such a simple idea is so overlooked. In society if you’re wrong about something, you get told to your face and there is no way to justify your thoughts. However, people are imperfect, and sometimes need more experience to learn from their failures and use it to their advantage. Our failures actually positively impact us in the future, so why are we so scared of it? Why don’t we just take that leap if we know its going to benefit us? These are just my thoughts throughout the reading.

Silver lining to failure