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Motivation Monday: Fail your way to success


What would you do if your son was invited to a World Youth Leadership Conference in Italy, and to the Congress for Future Science and Technology Leaders by Harvard and the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists? PLUS- they are happening at the same time! You find out that the congress will be host to Nobel Prize winning scientists and child genius inventors. Even though he was already signed up for the Italy trip, we instantly knew he needed to go to the Congress.

So, from June 29 to July 1, 2017, my son attended the Congress for Future Science and Technology Leaders, with me as a guest. I can tell you it was one of the most memorable few days of our lives.



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The congress was a who’s who of science and technology.  We saw at least 8 different child inventors, 3 Nobel Prize winning physicists, 3 National Medal of Science winners, along with Adam Cheyer – the inventor or Siri (yes the one on your iPhone!), NFL star-Bo Eason, Tim Webber-Academy Award Winner in visual effects for the movie Where the Wild Things Are, and a host of inspiring speakers, including Dr. Sean Stephenson (my favorite speaker of the entire event!-He was absolutely PHENOMENAL!) If you’re not familiar with Dr. Stephenson, here is one of his videos:

Seriously, if you ever have an opportunity to hear him speak, DO NOT miss it!

The congress consisted of approximately 4500 high school honor roll students from across the nation, all nominated by a teacher, to attend the congress. At the end of the congress, they were all nominated into the Society of Torch & Laurel, which is a nationwide honor society for science and technology students.


There was a fundamental theme during this congress which I loved. FAILURE! Yes, in an era of participation trophies, these kids were flat out told by EVERY speaker that failure is a fundamental part of success. The MC Richard Rossi said “You will fail your way to success.” It was truly refreshing. They were told: you’re great, you’re brilliant, you’re the future, but you’re going to fail, ALOT.  

It was so inspiring to hear these stories of failure, but through persistence there was ultimately success. That’s the key. If these kids didn’t learn anything else, I hope they all learned that you can’t give up, ever. As Mr Rossi said on the first day: ” if you never give up, you can never fail.” 

We heard from Sheldon Glashow, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1979, as he told his story of failing physics his freshman year of college. There was another story of   Dr Rainer Weiss, Professor Emeritus of Physics at MIT. Back in his day at college, they not only had “F” but “FF”! And, believe it or not, this now MIT professor failed out of MIT as an undergraduate with a FF!  

We had the pleasure of listening to many brilliant minds, but one stands out in my mind. His name is Jack Andraka. At 15 years old he developed a diagnostic test for pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer that’s 28 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests. Instead of playing games or having summer fun, he spent the summer of his 15th year researching 8000 different proteins in the human body, as he looked for an answer to his research question. 

Jack was definitely a unique speaker, and one of my son’s favorites. We  laughed til we cried, as he told us of the exploits of he and his brother, as they conducted experiments in their mother’s home, such as experimenting on E. Coli and cholera on the kitchen counter. In one instance, they were trying to make a lab in their basement, got a bunch of high tech equipment. When they plugged it in and turned it on, they blew out the electricity on the entire block.

In another story, they tried to make nitroglycerin, while their mother was away. They attempted to make 10 ML, but through a conversion error, they made 1000 ML instead. As they were cleaning up their mess, before mom came home, they were curious as to how explosive this homemade nitroglycerin was, so, they through it off the deck into the back yard. The result, a 40 foot hole! (It’s lucky they didn’t hit a gas main!)

In a final story, they used their mother’s credit card to purchase uranium off a dark Russian website, just to see if they could. Well all be darn if it didn’t actually work! Unfortunately, it also caught the eye of the FBI, who paid a visit to their mother!

Yes, that’s Jack. A brilliant young man, with a very curious mind, almost too curious. But, the test this brilliant young man invented could save millions of lives.

Here is his story, from 60 Minutes Australia.

Another important lesson these kids were taught…WHY WAIT?!! They were told over and over again, “you don’t have to wait until you’re an adult. You can do it now.” They proved this lesson by presenting 8 different teenage innovators, one of course was Jack, here are the other seven:

  • Kensen Shi – age 17 – Won the national 2012 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for his development of anew algorithm that identifies collision-free paths for robots to move more efficiently. Kensen currently attends Stanford University.
  • Paige Brown – Winner of the Global Good 2016 Intel Science Talent Search for her development of a cost-effective filter capable of removing phosphate pollution from storm water. She is currently attending Stanford University.
  • Vineet Edupuganti – Winner of the 2016 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for the development and modeling of a high-performing, low-cost biodegradable battery, that dissolves after a period of useful operation. He will be attending Stanford University in the Fall.
  • Erik Finman – Founder of Botangle – He bet his parents that if he made $1 million before he was 18 years old, he wouldn’t have to go to college. I’m sure you’ve guessed – He just turned 18 and won his bet. After making $100,000 on Bitcoin, he invented a VR computer that can replace your laptop. He is also the youngest person ever to win a NASA contract. His Satellite will be launched in November, 2017.
  • Kenneth Shinozuka – 2014 Davidson Fellow – Winner of the Scientific American Science in Action Award for creating the Safe Wander wearable sensor products for bed-wandering detection and fall prevention.
  • Shree Bose – 2011 Grand Prize Winner for the Google Science Fair. Co-founder/COO of Piper. At the age of 17, she beat out over 10,000 competitors of the Google Science Fair for her research into the chemotherapy drug Cisplatin. Cancer cells often become resistant to this drug, and she developed a way to counteract this effect. She recently graduated from Harvard University and will be attending Duke University School of Medicine, where she will pursue a dual MD/PhD.
  • Amol Punjabi – 2016 winner of the Intel Talent Search for his research into bioinformatics. He is currently attending Harvard University.

You see, you’re never too young to live your dream. Now reading all this, you may feel as if you’ve missed the boat, not to worry. Have you heard about the 94 year old man who just invented an ultra-efficient new battery? You can find the article here: 94 year old invent ultra-efficient new battery.

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So what are you waiting for?

Your dream is just over the rainbow….

go get it!

God Bless!Namaste!





About Tamara Hoerner (1349 Articles)
Welcome to The Purple Almond! My name is Tamara Hoerner. I am a student at Hawthorn University working toward a Master of Science in Health and Nutrition Education. For me, the name Purple Almond symbolizes “Good, nutritious, whole food bringing light and life to the body, awakening the inherent healing mechanisms within.” I'm all about getting back to the basics, good old fashioned traditional organic, whole food, the kind your great-grandmother used to eat. You'll find no processed foods here. Just good food to heal your whole body. I also believe a healthy body isn't just about food. Stress plays a large part in the physical health of our body. I, therefore, believe in using anything that relieves stress and heals the body, including: mediation, yoga, music, laughter, inspiration and helping others. You'll find all these included in my blog as well.

5 Comments on Motivation Monday: Fail your way to success

  1. You always have such great, inspirational stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my! What a privilege for you and your son to have attended the conference. Congratulations to your son.

    Liked by 1 person

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