Grateful for failures

old saxophone

I’ve been thinking lately about different things I’ve tried that didn’t work out and how grateful I am that they did not.

The first one that comes to mind is my academic career. If I’d been more successful with grants and publications as a postdoc, it would have been harder to decide to leave academia. I’m glad I left when I did.

When I was in high school I was a fairly good musician. At one point decided that if I made the all-state band I would major in music. Thank God I didn’t make it.

I’ve looked back at projects that I hoped to get, and then realized how it’s a good thing that they didn’t come through.

In each of these examples, I’ve been forced to turn away from something I was moderately good at to pursue something that’s a better fit for me.

I wonder what failure I’ll be grateful for next.


4 thoughts on “Grateful for failures

  1. I am imagining the counterfactual blog post by eminent musician John “MacDaddy D” Cook (who made the all-state band and majored in music), looking back with happiness at not pursuing that math career he had contemplated.

  2. That’s conceivable, but I doubt it. I was good at pleasing judges, but not so good at pleasing an audience. But maybe I could have learned that.

    I’ve heard Bill Clinton and Condi Rice both talk about their decisions not to pursue music. Bill Clinton said that he thought about being a musician but didn’t like the idea of playing clubs for years trying to make it, so he went into law.

    Condi Rice said she wanted to be a performer, not a teacher. Even though she was very good, and still is, she was not quite good enough to be a professional pianist and would have ended up being a piano teacher. So she went into Russian studies.

    I don’t know how good a musician Clinton was, but I’m sure I could never be as good a musician as Rice.

  3. Perhaps you should have failed engineering.

    We all of course still fondly remember “Cookie”, the beloved and celebrated circus clown that toured the world to universal acclaim for more than sixty years, before passing away at more than a hundred years of age.

    The funeral at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was attended by a who’s who of international celebrities and statesmen, and by more than a hundred thousand mourners that lined the streets and paid their last respects. Twenty years after his death, his movies and live performances are still huge sellers the world over as new generations of fans discover his genius. Imagine the tremendous loss – the waste of genius – if a young John D. Cook had decided to pursue an engineering career all those years ago.

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