Just Ignore Them

via Vera Rubin, a trailblazing astronomer who confirmed the existence of black holes (among many other things) on perseverance in the face of adversity:

I think I was terribly naive all along and when I came upon obstacles I don’t think I took them very seriously. I just felt that the people who presented obstacles really did not understand that I really wanted to be an astronomer.

And I tended to ignore them or dismiss them, so I don’t think the obstacles have been severe. In general, I think they were just a lack of support. I always met teachers who told me — in college, in graduate school — to go and find something else to study… they didn’t need astronomers… I wouldn’t get a job… I shouldn’t be doing this. And I really just dismissed all that. I just never took it seriously.

I wanted to be an astronomer and I didn’t care whether they thought I should or should not. So, somehow or other I just had the self-confidence to ignore all those bits of advice.

How was she able to do this? Perhaps it was a survival strategy, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

The ability of these people to minimize obstacles is well illustrated in how the women responded to our persistent queries about the difficulties they encountered, as women, in their careers. Most of them denied that sex bias or the burden of role conflict produced by dual expectations had any great negative effect on their lives. The general attitude seemed to be “So what else is new?” and “Let’s get on with what needs to be done.” Not that these women are unaware of the difficulties women face in many careers. In fact, they could be very passionate in decrying the special burdens of women.

I think we could all use a bigger dose of this as we move forward in our personal and professional lives. We need more courage so that others can be encouraged to do the same.