I fancy myself as someone who has been fairly successful in my life, and certainly someone for whom things have going quite well. I imagine a number of people who know me are likely to believe the same, perhaps even more likely than I am to myself. The people closer me are no exception, they understand just as well as I do how fortunate I am to be in the position that I am in today.
However, they also understand, just as I do, that things have not been anywhere near as smooth as they seem. Behind this wallpaper-worthy picture that represents my life now, there is a little metaphorical me trying not to step on the broken shards of glass that are life's little pinpricks, little metaphorical me is trying to slowly climb a mountain that are my ambitions without falling down (too much) again, and little metaphorical me is trying to keep his breath and fight the tiring demons with a little metaphorical sword.
Little metaphorical me aside, my point is one that I have been aware of for a long while, but one I worry we forget a little too often for my liking. That no matter how long our list of successes and achievements is, for most of us our list of failures is that much longer. The proud statuses you read on my profile (if you're stalking me several years ago, at any rate), are of things that worked in my favor. the performance videos you see on me post are the ones that went well, that the two pages you see in my curriculum vitae are carefully curated with intent to impress.
1) I was rejected from all of the PhD programs I applied to in 2018 too! Hurray! Here's the list of schools I applied to - CMU, Georgia Tech, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, USC, University of Washington, University of Michigan. 2) Rejected for Deepmind's Research Engineer this year! (I am quite happy to have given final round interviews though). 3) Rejected from Google / Uber / MSR / AI2 / OpenAI residency programs in 2018! (I barely got past any initial screens). 4) I also applied to a bunch of (the same) PhD programs in 2016, and was unceremoniously rejected from all of them - CMU, Georgia Tech, MIT, UC Berkeley, Brown, University of Washington, University of Michigan. The same for my MS applications to MIT and Stanford. 5) I've had papers rejected from ICRA, CoRL, AAMAS, ICORR. 6) I didn’t really get into IIT the first time I tried, sure, I got a rank, but it took me another try. 7) Failed projects - Again, without qualifying the word failed, I have attempted (and for the most part, put a significant effort into) more projects than I can count. Some have ended up with no tangible result, some barely worked, and some didn't work at all. I often have no idea why these projects failed as they did - I pride myself in certainly trying to change that if I did.
In truth, my intentions of documenting these failures goes beyond providing a more representative version of my vitae. My hope is that this (admittedly small) list conveys to you three important things.
First, that my memory of my failures is not particularly comprehensive. I do not appear to remember failures earlier than two or three years ago, nor do I seem to believe that other things that did not work in my favor at the time count as failures.
Secondly, what I perceive as failure, and indeed the failures that I have listed out above, tell you a great deal about the kind of person I am. Besides my being (what seems obsessively) work oriented, that the things that I have failed at are all (to arguably varying degrees) ambitious targets to try to achieve.
My final, and perhaps most important point, stems from these observations. That I view this List of Failures as a list I can draw inspiration from. It reminds me that if I do fail at something that I consider important, no matter how much I berate myself over it, I will get over that failure. It tells me that no matter how many times I fail at something I consider important, I will still try to achieve that target, if it is still something I want for myself. It shows me that no matter how much this list keeps growing, little metaphorical me will continue to try to scale the mountain of his ambition, how many ever times he falls nonwithstanding, and adding new summits to the mountain every time he gets within a stone's throw of the top. And wherever little metaphorical me stands on his mountain, I am going to keep adding to my List of Failures.