All the failures I’ve overcome? That’s much more important than any successes. I had to repeat ninth grade. I had to repeat the beginning of graduate school. I lost my major source of funding just before I came up for tenure. One of the major things — news flash — that they judge you on for tenure is whether you can support yourself. In each case, it helps if you can think out of the box and think of a new way of doing things. The other thing is: Follow your dreams, even if it does mean taking a risk. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not trying as hard as you could be. And being petrified of failure means you’re going to be probably a very extreme underachiever.
One of the things we recruit people for in my lab is being nice. That’s the ethos we try to encourage. “Nice guys finish last” — isn’t that a terrible message to be sending to the next generation?
I think what goes around comes around. You have to really want all the teams to succeed, all the boats to float. You want your competitors to not fail. It’s hard enough to get progress in the world if everybody’s succeeding.
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From Alvin Powell's interview with George Church (Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School).