It is all too easy for those of us pursuing our passions to focus on all the reasons that we can’t succeed.
Sometimes it’s common feelings of inadequacy. Other times it’s more practical fears like funding, academic support, personal finances, career positions, natural talent, etc. We often let these fears keep us from finding creative solutions and achieving our goals.
Galileo, “the Father of Modern Science” himself was not immune to these challenges in his career. Though today he is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists in human history, he had plenty of reasons to give up in his own lifetime.
Still, Galileo never abandoned his goals and was able to overcome every normal fear and change the world anyway. Let’s take a look at what advantages he had that we don’t.
Hardly. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 19 years old in his first year at the University of Pisa that he was even introduced to contemporary physics and mathematics. We here at MindGiants would like to imagine he loved looking at the stars much earlier though.
Though his father was a popular musician and a brilliant music theorist in his own right, he was still a musician with 6 children to provide for. Galileo couldn’t even afford to attend university for more than 2 years, and he studied medicine, not physics or astronomy. The majority of his education came from studying, observing, and experimenting in his free time.
While his family eventually became supportive of his study of physics and mathematics, Galileo himself was reluctant to abandon medicine for fear of disappointing his father. It ended up not mattering however, as being unable to afford a formal education in anything solved that problem for him.
Freedom from a day job?
Galileo had numerous day jobs throughout his life to fund his experiments (and not just science jobs either). At various points of his career he was employed as an art teacher for various age groups including young children, a geometry professor, freelance inventor, freelance writer, and a by-hand telescope maker for shipping companies.
His first successful writings earned him a faculty position at the University of Pisa. After just three years, his lectures, public experiments, and writings concerning falling objects were so controversial they got him booted. His claim that all objects are pulled towards the Earth equally regardless of their weight was widely rejected by the public too. In fact, when man landed on the moon over 300 years later, they brought with them a falcon feather and a hammer to perform Galileo’s theoretical experiment and prove him right once and for all. (Spoiler alert: he was totally right.)
By all accounts Galileo was a bold, arrogant, unyielding voice in both the scientific community and to the public. Despite numerous heresy accusations, rebukes from scholars, scientists, theologians, and the general public, and even in the face of torture and death, Galileo never relented in his support of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory.
As we all know, he ended up branded a heretic and put under house arrest for the last 8 years of his life – and even that was narrowly escaping life imprisonment. Having nothing to lose at that point, however, he went ahead and wrote his greatest work spelling out the evidence, logic, and proofs for the heliocentric system. His ideas would still not be accepted into mainstream western science for at least another century.
So what was it?
Like all the great men and women throughout history, Galileo was fueled by raw determination and persistence. He was certainly open to being proven wrong and engaged in countless debates with the top scholars of his generation about most of his findings, but the more his contemporaries failed to disprove his theories, the more persistent he became.
It was this persistence that allowed him to become the MindGiant we all know of today.
In the modern STEM world with grant availability in constant flux, advanced technology requiring more training, tuition skyrocketing, and hyper competitive academic positions, it is easy (and tempting) to throw in the towel and assume that we just don’t have “what we need” to be successful.
Galileo’s story reminds us all that there are no excuses good enough for giving up on our passions, even when the entire deck is stacked against us. We need only remain humble, creative, and persistent and we too can enjoy a successful career.