I’ve seen a lot of emissions on social media lately consoling those who might not have achieved the grades they wanted in order to go to their preferred job or institute of higher learning. Therefore I thought I should contribute to the now-customary general outpouring and effusion of platitudes by people saying that there are more things in life than exams, that things happen for a reason, and so on, and so forth, notwithstanding inasmuch as which I invite you to consider, therefore, my so-far stellar career…
— I failed my Eleven-Plus.
— I failed my Common Entrance for public school. I did however make the subs’ bench and was asked for an interview. I took my fossil collection to show the headmaster and didn’t let him get a word in edgeways. I got in.
— I failed A-level maths. That is, I got an ‘E’, which wasn’t good enough. I had to re-take a year. In the end I got a ‘C’, which was honestly the best I could manage, and enough (just) to get into University.
— I failed my entrance exam to be an undergraduate at Cambridge. ‘Don’t worry’, my Mum said, ‘you’ll get there as a graduate student’. Which I did. I did my undergraduate degree at Leeds, which I loved, and was much more fun than Cambridge would have been. I got a 1st and went to Cambridge to do a PhD.
— I failed my PhD viva. They offered me an MSc as a consolation prize. No, I said, I’d rewrite my thesis. Which I did. I got my PhD.
— While I was writing up (the second time) I was invited to join the staff of the Submerged Log Company. That was more than 33 years ago. So despite the
three six five failures listed, I haven’t done too badly. For more advice on the sometimes circuitous route one can take to career success, I refer you to this recent eructation from my colleague Professor Rohn.