Let there be more biographies of failure

Henry Oliver writes:

The point of biography is to set an example, to teach us how other people did the things we want to do. That might be something grand like live a good life, or it might be something more mundane like manage a small company. Whatever it is, the genre suffers from selection bias. Only the successful get biographies.

But we will not all be successful, and if that is our main criteria we won’t learn as much from biography as we could. There’s a lot of fascinating information in Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age, by Alex Wright, but some of the most interesting is about how Otlet was repeatedly let down by the world….It doesn’t always help to be right. Ideas aren’t easy to implement without the right combination of technology, attitudes, and luck. The work is what’s important, not the result. Maybe the cranks who fill their houses with cart loads of ephemera aren’t so crazy.

Don’t make political trouble. Get a PR department. Have a partner who can do these things if you can’t. Be in the right place at the right time. Don’t get cynical, or as Churchill said, don’t let the bastards grind you down. Keep working. Philosophical and ethical beliefs matter a lot to what work you do and how you do it. Don’t be so pragmatic you end up being a conformist. Conventional schooling isn’t always the best approach for your children. Worry less about imaginative young people becoming lawyers. Being bored might give them the opportunity they need to have their big idea.

This is a fascinating insight from the author about the bibliophile biographer who was bogged down repeatedly by the circumstances. He couldn’t make an impact to the extent he desired and he tried. His methods may be recognized now, but the recognition eluded him in his lifetime.

I am always on the lookout for these examples as it ties in with my perspective on failing repeatedly while trying to break into research. However, each time, I discovered a niche within me that allowed me to explore ideas which I never knew ever existed within me.

Research requires fortitude, vision, focus and never giving up. That’s why I do find it comical to see some real shitty ideas getting prominence on Twitter. Ideas that have already been done to death and the grand idea of “late-breaking-abstracts”.

I’ll let my blog do the talking instead.

Failures should be celebrated more than success. It is the failure that keeps you grounded.

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