Am I Quitting Too Soon?

Dr. Pamela Bush is the author of Transforming Your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation

When Not to Quit

As I traveled to Houston to interview for the NASA astronaut program, I was incredibly nervous. I had dreamed of becoming an astronaut since I was a little girl, sleeping in the roll-away bed on the back porch of my Grandmother’s house in Spencer, Oklahoma.  Newspapers in Florida and Oklahoma ran stories saying I was “a sure bet.”  After appearing before the selection committee, Astronaut John Glenn complimented me on my interview.

It was a crushing blow for me when I wasn’t selected. The pain of not succeeding was one of the most difficult experiences of my professional life. I didn’t want to give up my dream but it seemed the timing just wasn’t right.

I poured myself into my career as a professor at the University of Central Florida in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems and accepted an invitation to join the faculty at MIT as a Visiting Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Like the astronauts, I had a chance to demonstrate leadership and innovative thinking while using my platform to inspire others.

Years later, for Women’s History Month, I was invited to speak at NASA. I faced a room full of impressive scientists and astronautic experts and helped them realize that everyone experiences failure and that it’s important to never give up. The best approach to dealing with inevitable challenges is to prepare for adversity, develop healthy coping skills and create a plan for bouncing back. Realize that everyone, in particular every leader, faces adversity.

What I know today:

    • Recognize that it is okay to experience failure or disappointment.  It doesn’t mean you won’t accomplish your goal and life mission.
    • Have a support system that includes at least three individuals (in person or via the internet) who can give personal and professional guidance in an open and honest fashion
    • Develop good coping skills – handle problems without letting them handle you
    • Take care of yourself  – rest, eat the right foods and learn to release the stress
    • Select one thing to do for your professional or personal development that has nothing to do with the situation
    • Remember WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.

No one can prevent failure. Timing and circumstance may necessitate a change in your path. Many of us are unable to realize our dreams because we give up too soon. Have the patience to see through failure as you move towards your goal. As a leader with a passionate vision, you need to adapt, adjust and evaluate, but never quit. It is always too soon to quit.”

We all have it in us to be great. Women working together can make a difference.

Joan E. Higginbotham Born: August, 1964; Chicago, IL NASA Astronaut

Joan E. Higginbotham Born: August, 1964; Chicago, IL NASA Astronaut

With Great Confidence in You,


Pamela McCauley Bush is a professor of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at the University of Central Florida. Here are her insights for about success, failure and never giving up


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