I have a request to ask of the few dedicated readers I have. I very badly want to go to a TED conference but, at $6000, it’s going to take me a few years to save up for a place. TED offer 25 free fellowship places for “an eclectic, heterogeneous group of young thinkers and doers from the fields of technology, entertainment, design, the sciences, engineering, humanities, the arts, economics, business, journalism, entrepreneurship and NGOs”. The application process is extremely competitive and, frankly, I don’t stand a chance. That said, they actively encourage people who don’t stand a chance to apply and to keep trying year after year, so I guess I may as well give it a bash while I’m saving up.
The application places very little weight on qualifications, instead it contains some questions designed to get at who you are and how you can contribute to the TED community. Obviously, painful as it is, I have to be able to sell myself, and… you might be able to see where this is going.
I would really appreciate it if you could read over my answers to the questions and give any and all feedback you can (I’m really not sure about my punctuation). The most important thing to bear in mind is that they value achievements over credentials. I’m braced for hard truths, so bring it on!
First question (current length: 1456 characters, limit: 1500):
What achievements (not only academic) would you like to share?
I have achieved many things, but I don’t want this to be a boring list. Instead, I want to describe a single, more nebulous achievement; the one that led to all the others.
I like to think I’m a fairly high-flyer academically. In the last 2 years, I have gained a Ph.D. (Bristol, UK), been published in Nature Materials and awarded a fellowship at Tokyo Institute of Technology. However, my CV hasn’t always looked so healthy.
I’m lucky to have been born a middle-class child of reasonable intelligence in a rich country. I was a just-above-average student following the usual educational route and I could easily have sleep-walked onto a just-above-average career path. But one day I realized I wanted more. Wanting something very much isn’t enough, however; great achievements require great opportunities (and usually a little luck). That doesn’t mean we should sit around waiting for chances: it means we have to go and find them and then wring out every drop of possibility.
I don’t know what my maximum potential is, but my achievement has been reaching an understanding of what it will take to get there. Already along the way, I have worked in care homes, skydived, taught children at home and abroad, volunteered at an elephant orphanage and climbed mountains. This is only the start, I have so many new opportunities that I am just beginning to explore and I have never been so excited about my future. Succeed or fail, the journey will be fun.