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One Step Further

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Emily Whiting mentioned incremental success being as important as actually reaching the goal in her sport of rock climbing. For many of us, reaching the goal of whatever it is we desire is the equivalent of success.

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One Step Further-iceclimbing_newengland2.jpg
Here’s Emily, as always, taking it one step further.

Often it becomes the driving power—not to improve but to reach the goal. Her comment about being able to attain just a bit more than the last time made a lot of sense. It fits life, too.

Starting out on a writing career, my dreams of a best seller, huge royalties and fan recognition featured prominently. As for science careers, finding a cure for cancer or winning the Nobel Prize for many trumps a teaching career, particularly at the elementary level. But Emily’s statement about incremental success shows life as it really is. A few people hit the big time right away. But for most of us, it’s the steps along the way that make our own career and life rewarding. With each step, small successes push us further along. The goal is the direction; the steps are our life.

Writing for magazines and small presses may not be most writers’ goals. Teaching science often conjures images of academia and scholars, not second graders testing magnets. But who is to say one has more value than the other? Choosing what you love to do is the best goal.

And the steps toward the goal are what we should celebrate, for those are the things that fulfill our dreams. And the small successes may add up to far more than the original goal in the end. Funny how rock climbing is a lot like life—and Emily is on to it. Success is simply going one step further.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.