I spent the majority of the past three weeks of my life writing a Federal grant. The process gave me flashbacks to dissertation writing where it is overwhelming, all-consuming, stressful and seemingly impossible – and then suddenly you somehow finish. Only there was one major difference between a dissertation and a grant…

…I knew that if I completed my dissertation, I would earn a degree. With a grant, you may end up with nothing. All that work could result in no more than a rejection. School is a sure thing whereas grant writing, a business venture, making art or a host of other activities are done on pure speculation – yet they are where the real difference is made.

With your students or those with whom you have influence, help them cultivate their risk tolerance. We don’t teach enough of it in the educational system and yet it’s a critical skill for progress to occur. Help people take chances, to invest time in possibilities without letting the chance of failure overwhelm them, and to live life from a position of hope.

Writing a grant may get you nothing (at least from this round of proposals) but not writing a grant is certain to limit the ability for your idea to flourish. I have a paperweight that reads: “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Do that.

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