Back when I was starting in my faculty position and failing to get grants funded and papers accepted, I had a tendency to blame the system. “How could they not SEE how brilliant my ideas are and how IMPORTANT my findings are? The system must be broken!” And I don’t blame myself for doing so, because up to that point everything I’d done had validated those claims. I had great publications, nice grants as a trainee, I got a job at a fancy school, so how could I not be brilliant? That’s right. I considered myself that special snowflake. However, one of the most important pieces of advice I got from one of my senior colleagues who was acting as an informal mentor was this: Maybe the system isn’t perfect, or fair. Maybe there’s bias in the review process. But complaining about it and blaming the system is NOT going to get you papers accepted, your grants funded or you tenure. What you need to do is go back, and try harder. Make the next grant proposal better, the next paper revision more interesting. But only by trying harder are you going to make it through this. And she was right.
And the hard part is, that after every grant you send or paper you submit, you feel like you DID try hard, and that it couldn’t be better. But in truth, it can always be better. No proposal or paper is perfect. No scientist is super special. And I agree, it does suck, because this results in a lot of wasted effort. But the important lesson is, it’s OK to vent by complaining and feeling indignant, you may have good reason to do so, but unless you keep trying, and trying harder, no amount of self-righteousness is going to get you anywhere.
So, to paraphrase James Brown, “what you gonna play now? I don’t know but what’s it ever I play, it’s got to be Funky!”
So…make it funky!