I tell this to my daughters and my students all the time. Do you have a dream internship or job? Pursue it. Want to play on the varsity team? Try out. Success and fortune rarely, if ever, drop into your lap.
For the feature on James Joyce's Ulysses at 100, I told writer JoAnn Greco to take risks and have fun with the Joycean language and—like the author and work she profiled—to be unconventional when the mood struck. In a story about the impenetrable magic of Joyce's masterpiece, better to go too far than not far enough. Reading Greco's story inspired me to play Kate Bush's "The Sensual World," the title track from her 1989 album that borrows language, and a lot of yeses, from Molly Bloom's soliloquy at the end of Joyce's 1922 novel. If you know Bush's work, you realize that she must have admired a kindred risk-taker.
The subject of another feature in this issue, the School of Medicine's Bert Vogelstein, is also not risk averse. More than 20 years ago, Vogelstein first cracked open the Pandora's box that is cancer, revealing first one and then a series of genetic mistakes responsible for colon cancer. At the time, a link between genetics and cancer was a foreign concept. He didn't follow a known path; instead he chose to chart his own.
Playing it safe is certainly an option, but as I've witnessed from my over two decades at Johns Hopkins, venturing into the unknown can offer huge, life-altering rewards. As Vogelstein says, "If you're going to go into research, you want to set the world on fire. If it's not likely to fail, you're not thinking big enough."
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