Research Actually Proves This Cliché About Success

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You've seen it in a million ads and inspirational taglines: That which does not kill me makes me stronger. It might surprise you to learn that the source of that quote is none other than the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Whatever you think of the rest of his works (the abyss, the super-man, and Zarathustra notwithstanding), a new study has just proved that this Germanic aphorism is more fact than convenient fiction.


Professors from the business school at Northwestern University have just released research on how failure affects the careers of young scientists, where failure can be more specifically measured than in lots of other jobs. In particular, the team looked at how many research papers young scientists who'd stumbled early on produced, and how many times their research was cited in other papers through the years.

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Surprisingly, being in the "near-miss" group of struggling early-career scientists made those scientists a little over 6 percent more likely to publish a "hit" paper in the next decade. In other words, they came roaring back, "suggesting other unobservable factors, such as grit or lessons learned, might be at play," according to a press release.


Even a big failure by no means suggests an end to your chosen career; in fact, knowing how to talk about it can give you a leg up. Even more weirdly, unbridled optimism can trip you up, while facing your mistakes can actually lower your stress. Let yourself feel whatever you feel when you mess up. After you're done, you're more than ready to tackle whatever comes next.