[PMC Weekend Edition] Setbacks and Nietzsche

(Readin’ time: 1m 14s)

When I was verifying that the quote “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” did indeed come from Frederich Nietzsche (apparently it does), I learned that Kelly Clarkson used that quote her pop song “Stronger”. Or, whoever wrote the song used the Nietzsche quote. I wonder if they know the origin?

On that note, this is fascinating: marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/04/early-career-setback-and-future-career-impact.html

Here’s the money quote:


Our analyses reveal that an early-career near miss has powerful, opposing effects. On one hand, it significantly increases attrition, with one near miss predicting more than a 10% chance of disappearing permanently from the NIH system. Yet, despite an early setback, individuals with near misses systematically outperformed those with near wins in the longer run, as their publications in the next ten years garnered substantially higher impact. We further find that this performance advantage seems to go beyond a screening mechanism, whereby a more selected fraction of near-miss applicants remained than the near winners, suggesting that early-career setback appears to cause a performance improvement among those who persevere. Overall, the findings are consistent with the concept that “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”


At some point in my life I committed to experiential learning. There are plenty of areas where I’m fine with accepting what others have learned the hard way, and there are other areas where I insist on learning things myself–directly–the hard way.

This necessarily involves mistakes, near-misses, far-misses, and outright failure.

I’m happy that someone has collected data that suggests these mistakes and misses can have positive downstream effects. I’d like to think they have for me too.

Happy (Easter, if you’re in Greece) Sunday,

-P