This is an essay topic for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
The subject line cut me off so this is the actual prompt:
*We tend to spend our time doing the things we know we do well--running because we're good runners or painting because we're talented artists. Tell us about a time when you tried something for which you had no talent. How did it go?*
It'd be great to get any feedback..positive or negative. For example: is it too dry, corny, etc?
82°F, 200 test tubes, 2 specimens, 4 trials, 1 protocol, 2 days later—failed.
80°F, 10 bacterial clones, 2 strains, 2 trials, 1 protocol, 1 day later—failed.
83°F, 30 test samples, 2 centrifuges, 1 DNA sample, 3 days later— failed.
When it seems like everything you do ends in defeat, is it worth it to carry on?
After my first week of internship, the outcomes of my efforts were not promising. I couldn't help but think: I have no talent, no experience, no intelligence, and no hope.
And yet, 2 weeks later, I was still sweating in an 80 degree lab on a hot summer's day, wondering if I was ever going to retain any information that I had just learned. While watching the researchers of this biotechnology lab toil day in and day out and struggling continuously myself, I started to wonder about what failure really means.
As the scientists attempted to find answers to their research, I fought just to stay afloat in a sea of new information. The first day of work was overwhelming. While it was unrealistic to expect any involvement in experiments, I was assigned the most basic yet seemingly pointless tasks imaginable. As a graduate student loaded gel electrophoresis trays next to me, I concentrated on simply opening a test tube with two fingers. But I severely underestimated the skills required for this task; my clumsy hands were working against me. Worse than these blunders was the incredible feeling of incompetency. My face burned with shame as my answer to every scientific question the researchers asked me was "I don't know". By the end of the first week, the feeling of failure had overpowered and exhausted me to tears. I started thinking about quitting.
But, I couldn't possibly quit the work that I had just barely started learning. Watching scientists labor over their research, I wondered more than once why they were still coming to work everyday after 12 years. If they still faced constant defeat after 12 years, how could I quit after only the first week?
If Edison had given up after the tenth failed light bulb, we might still be sitting in the dark. If the researchers in this biotechnology lab had given up after the first year of failed results, they would not recognize the effects of using a virus as a vaccine against HIV. If I had given up after the fist week, I would not know how to analyze bacterial cultures, load gel samples, or isolate plasmid DNA. Moreover, I would not truly understand the power of persistence.
It is the people who have the most determination, the most drive, and the most passion that continue in the face of defeat. As an intern, I saw that failure after failure, scientists who continuously pursue their goals view defeat differently. They view it as one step closer to succeeding.
Teenagers in particular are afraid of defeat. Because of this, we mindlessly follow others, knowing it is the safest path. But the experiences that truly count are those that affect the individual. If I never personally experienced the feeling of constant failure first, I would not have the opportunity to see what success is. No matter what we do, we cannot be afraid to fail—or we will always be standing in the same spot.
My choice in career has always been in the scientific field. Science is trial and error. It takes more than talent to succeed; it also takes perseverance. As my internship and past experiences have taught me, this path—as with any other challenge—takes an inexhaustible supply of devotion and passion.
So, the next time I enter a challenging situation, I will voluntarily admit: I am here to fail. I am here to try and fail all over again—until I succeed.