When looking at all those successful people, it sometimes seems that all works out, all the time. For me anyway, it doesn’t. And that’s although I’m, allegedly, reasonably successful in my professional life so far.

This is why I’d like to disclose setbacks and “failures” (not sure if failures really exist — don’t we always try our best?) openly and honestly (as far as I manage), and also how I’m trying to learn from these experiences until this day — and I think that’s the beautiful thing about failure.

Here’s an excerpt of the most moving ones for me:

  • Got close to missing entry into university-qualifying schools in Germany at age 9. My primary school teacher thought I was just not good enough, my mum thought I was just extremely bored. I also struggled with my classmates at the time. Not a good time. Reminds me everyday to be kind, welcoming, inclusive and humble.
  • Failed countless exam in Arts, English and German at school. I used to be terrible at writing (partly because my teachers weren’t actually teaching it), and have tried to improve since. It’s my key motivation for starting and writing this blog. My parents always loved me anyway — a true inspiration.
  • Almost failed my first exam at university. Since it was a test exam, it didn’t count. I made up for it in the subsequent real exam, but only after hard effort and lots of self-doubt. Not fun. Deeply shaped my expectations around uni exams (to take them seriously but not too much) and my understanding of myself.
  • Got rejected five times by the relevant scholarship bodies in Germany. I was young and didn’t know enough what I wanted in life, and so performed poorly in the interviews; I’ve since worked on this, but still only know so much.. Had to earn money myself to pay for the fees of my MSc at Oxford instead of being funded through a scholarship like many others. And that’s alright. The work taught me more than many terms at uni.
  • Barely passed one of my six exams during my MSc at Oxford, making me have to take on another course. Spent time with a friend in need instead of preparing enough for that exam. Would always do it again. It’s always been the connection to others, and supporting them, what mattered most to me.
  • Barely got a distinction in my MSc thesis, one of the key requirements for my PhD entry at Oxford. I’m not usually a perfectionist and usually wouldn’t do more than is required to reach my objectives — to spend the most precious resource (time) wisely. A good horse only jumps as high as it needs, right? Still, a tight call, and don’t recommend.
  • Got more rejections for job and internship applications than I can count. The whole job selection process is just extremely random. A terrible experience for everyone involved. Maybe, I would be better off without a job. I’ve considered it (not super seriously though) and have some sympathy for those who simply refuse to work (although we can obviously not all do that).
  • Had my first academic paper torn into pieces by the review committee. They “applauded my effort” but not my execution. Ouch. Also got rejected for my first grant application as an academic researcher. Learned how to do it better, and not to take these things too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s just a very weird kind of game.

Obviously, most success in life relies on a certain talent. But more importantly, it depends on getting up again, and again and again..

Never blame yourself. Given the circumstances, you always try your best. But there will be cases when even that is not enough. And that’s alright. There are millions of good reasons. Remember it’s okay to be human, and not a machine all the time.

..the sun will rise and we will try again..