Failure and Success

Some of the greatest people,

Are the ones, who have faced failure and pushed on anyway,

They seem to look on the bright side and continue to move forward,

Facing their obstacles with barren simplicity.

They can walk with humility and confidence within the same stride,

And this is the kind of success to which I abide,

For perhaps the highest achievements in life,

Come from greatest hardships,

Recognising that either way we win,

For the next step is always available,

But what we do with it,

Is only up to us.


I refuse to accept defeat unless this is for my benefit. Even when I fail, I always try to see it as training for the next attempt, or preparation for the new direction that I am taking. This attitude isn’t always easy, but it is possible.

Tonight I watched an inspiring TED talk that spoke straight to my heart (the amazing story of Sam Berns, a teenager who has lived through the premature aging condition of “progeria”, and talks openly about his philosophy for a happy life – well worth the watch if you can spare 12:45 minutes) –  his story reminded me of a philosophy that has guided me through many difficult times.


So many times throughout the journey of PhD I faced failure. The “feeling of failure” seemed to come up repeatedly;- when studies were not approved to be carried out, or when help seemed like it was far away, when journals rejected preliminary submissions, and when I had to complete a thesis that seemed like it was against the odds. However, I made it through all of these things, securing 3 scientific publications in a peer reviewed journals, 1 book chapter, and a completed PhD thesis of 363 pages long. When I submitted my thesis in January this year it was late, requiring more than one extension, but still I delivered the goods.

Recently I heard back from the Australian National University, and that the thesis had been accepted for the degree, pending some minor revisions. It was a powerful moment for me to read their reports that indicated that the thesis was worthy of the degree to which I was submitting it towards, but the ideas contained within were likely to make a difference in the world, particular in rural areas of the developing world. This was already a dream come true.

To make a difference through research was something I kept close to my heart all the time when I was conducting studies and writing up the thesis, which took me through some lonely but also inspiring periods. The gratitude I feel for all the help I’ve received cannot be expressed in words alone (although I tried in this post years ago) – and this is why I created a short film about the experience some years back.

However, now that I am almost there, it is clear to me that I needed to go through all that I went through to arrive here– for I believe the “journey” is what makes the destination worthwhile.

This concept inspires me for the next journey, and I hope it will be as good as the last one. Even if I have to again face failure and overcome obstacles in order to move forward, I accept this wholeheartedly, knowing this what I have chosen to do and will appreciate it accordingly.

Thank you for being there!

For all of you out there, who are walking down towards a vision of success may all your dreams come true  – after all as a wise friend once said to me “perhaps the only failure is the failure to try”


Ps I don’t think I’m alone in this philosophy, for many others seemed to have had a few obstacles along their inspirational paths.

Celebrating success

Celebrating success,
Is perhaps the real test,

Cherishing what has been already achieved,
Instead of allowing the glory to be thieved,

By the next goal,
And other reasons for not feeling whole,

Instead be in the know,
Like a boarder gliding through the snow,

With awareness of life’s ebb and flow,
In the act of a single breath.


Two days away from the hustle bustle of emergency medicine and I feel like a new person. A little meditation, some surf and hint of life music has such a healing touch. Sometimes in the space between the business and intensity of an active work-life lies the balance that perhaps we all strive for. I by no means have found the perfect balance, but I feel that I am moving towards it experimenting in with work, and relaxation in a variety of forms. It is a daily practice rooted in breathing and the exploration of philosophies that brings meaning into my life.

Sometimes the philosophy needs to be tailored for the specific context of our lives, and this is why I particularly like Shawn Anchor’s guide to happiness for those of us in the pursuit of greater knowledge and skill. Shaun’s revealing findings (about the culture where high achievers can easily be fixed on the next goal without appreciating how far they have come), shed light onto why I had encountered challenges in the past, and provided some tools on how to tackle the present moment without too much focus on the future.

I remember watching this TED talk years ago and it having a profound effect on my own perspective of goal setting and my present relationship with success as I had defined it. After all we can always find our own definition of success, and it doesn’t have to require a definite endpoint. To date the best definition of success I have come across has been one that I heard from a person called Earl Nightingale who was a motivational speaker from the 60’s

“Success is the step-wise realization of a worthy ideal”



Visualisation of academic success

I can see the end product,

The goal is here,

The final chapter is near,

The graduation bells sound clear,

All I have to do is move beyond fear,

And I am moving forward,

Enough too-ing and fro-ing!

For now it’s time to steer where I am going,

After all, “this” is the key to personal growing,

And moving into a greater knowing.

18-1-12  Sitting in the Chiefly library and confronting my old friend “procrastination” and my old obstacles of completing on time. I realize that all I have to do is write an email and press send and be happy with less than perfect material.

I am also going to look at what I fear most in the eye and be still, and realize that it wont kill me. I am just going to try and put it all together in the best possible fashion, create a plan that I am happy with and work towards it. This is the real goal of this final chapter of the PhD – to create a plan that “I”am happy with in a timely fashion, and then to execute!

To get here I have to painfully read through what I’ve written and first appreciate it for the good points, but also  go back and edit what is obviously out of kilter.