This past December, I had the honor of attending the 2011 Nobel Prize events in Stockholm, Sweden and then the Nobel Peace Prize events in Oslo, Norway with my friend and colleague, Ariane de Bonvoisin, to collect interviews for Epiphany Channel and to do research for a television idea I’ve been working on. To attend the Nobel Prizes and go behind the scenes and interview the Laureates and people who run the Prizes had been a long-time dream of mine. Besides the many insights I gained just by attending and interviewing these amazing people, realizing this dream was a revelation in itself. The video above contains some of the highlights of our enlightening adventure.
Alfred Nobel died on December 10, which is why the Nobel Prize ceremonies in both Stockholm and Oslo are held on that date every year, despite the intense cold and difficult weather, very short days and early nights (dark by 3:30p!), and close proximity to the holidays. We wanted to attend the Peace Prize Ceremony so we went to Stockholm first to do interviews and attend some events and then went on to Oslo. In Oslo, I interviewed Mr. Geir Lundestad, Director of the Nobel Institute, and he jokingly mentioned that it was too bad that Nobel didn’t die on June 10 instead of December 10. I think they should maybe reconsider and go ahead and change it to June 10 and say it’s his half-year death anniversary or something. They’d actually probably get a lot more attention if they did because it would be so much easier and pleasant for people to travel there. After all, it’s been over 115 years since his death, so I don’t think Mr. Nobel would mind. Do you?
In honor of that idea, I am now posting the impressions, videos, and highlights of the experience of this adventure in 2 separate articles very near this auspicious half-year anniversary — and on very warm, sunny, summer days!
Life Lessons and Success Tips from Nobel Laureates
We spent the first days of our trip in Stockholm, where we attended the lectures of the Nobel Laureates in Physics, Chemistry and Economics and had the opportunity to interview them afterward. I wasn’t really there to ask them about their actual work as scientists, I figured enough people do that – my goal was to find out who these people are – what makes them “tick” – and of course, what their greatest epiphanies in life are. As you’ve probably heard me mention thousands of times, our greatest epiphanies contain some of our deepest wisdom, so naturally I wanted to know what some of the brightest minds of our time had to say about theirs. These are some of the life lessons and epiphanies they shared with me.
1.) BE WILLING TO FAIL.
Failure is not bad. You can’t succeed if you’re too scared of failing. When something does not work out as planned or completely fails, in the end you just admit it, people forgive you and you move on. Pick yourself up and start over. You cannot let failure stop you.
I found it fascinating that every single one of the laureates I interviewed brought up failure — how they had faced it and failed hugely, not just professionally but also personally — and what they learned: You just have to pick up and start over and not be scared of failing again. In fact, you had to be willing to fail in order to succeed. For two of them, failing was part of their greatest epiphanies in life. Tom Sargent, one of the Laureates in Economics, even said he had to start over completely. He discovered that everything he had built his career on was wrong, so he had to go back to school at age 30. Saul Perlmutter, one of the Laureates in Physics, talked about how the project he had received the Prize for was expected to take two years, but in the end, it took all of ten. They all had a sense of humor and were good-natured about their setbacks, though at the time things had been rough to be sure, and they all also had a deep sense of gratitude. (Note: Alfred Nobel apparently failed quite a bit too but finally started succeeding in his ventures and ended up leaving what is equivalent today to $250 million to the endowment of the Nobel Prizes.) This insight probably had the greatest impact on me and greatly lessened my own fear of failure. Every time I start to go there, I remember how all these guys failed again and again, seemingly even with humor and dignity, until they didn’t.
2.) FAMILY IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE.
Each laureate I spoke with mentioned his family – his wife, children, parents, and extended family – as being a huge source of support and inspiration. This included several of them who had fathers or uncles or family members they’d looked up to who were scientists, which got them interested in the profession at an early age.
3.) LOVING YOUR WORK MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
Every laureate loves his work – they all lit up when they spoke about what it meant to them personally. They were excited about winning the Nobel Prize of course, but all talked about when they got back to life as usual, that it wouldn’t matter. What matters to them most is their actual work and research and the people they work with.
4.) COLLEAGUES AND COLLABORATION ARE KEY AND IMPERATIVE TO SUCCESS.
Their colleagues are very important to all these men. Each one of talked about the collaboration and the camaraderie that it takes to make discoveries like these. There were three laureates in the Physics category and they mentioned that the friendly competition between their two research teams helped them make their discovery that the universe is expanding, not contracting.
5.) WE NEED MORE WOMEN IN THE SCIENCES!
In case you hadn’t already noticed, all the 2011 Nobel Laureates in science and literature were men, but they expressed a desire and hope to try to recruit more women to the sciences. Women have received a Nobel Prize in the Sciences only 17 times since the Nobel Prize’s inception in 1901. *See the Nobel Trivia below to read more.
Also, just as an interesting aside, one of the other things the Laureates I interviewed all had in common was a love of music, and they all played some kind of musical instrument as a hobby.
Here are some brief video highlights from our interviews and some of the Laureates’ greatest epiphanies in life so you can experience what they said for yourself!
To see more about the Laureates and watch a wonderful in-depth video about them and their work, please go HERE.
After interviewing the Laureates in Stockholm, we took off to Oslo on December 9 to attend the Nobel Peace Prize events, press conferences, and the Award Ceremony on December 10, and we conducted interviews with some of the key players who make it all happen. Stay tuned for that article on the Nobel Peace Prizes and the remarkable women who won the 2011 Peace Prize next week!
Some Nobel Prize Trivia You May Not Know
– *Women have been awarded a Nobel Prize 44 times in total since the Prize’s inception in 1901. (43 Laureates in total because Marie Curie won one for Chemistry and one for Physics.) This is how it breaks down: Physics – 2; Chemistry – 4; Physiology or Medicine – 10; Literature – 12; Peace – 15 (includes the 3 women that were awarded in 2011); Economics – 1.
– The Nobel Prizes in Sciences and Literature are set up and awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. The Nobel Peace Prize is overseen by a 5-person committee chosen by the Norwegian Parliament and the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway. There are theories, but no one is exactly sure why Alfred Nobel wanted it that way.
– Here is a list of all the 2001 Nobel Prize Laureates in the Sciences and Literature. All are men and most are American.
THE NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS
Saul Perlmutter, Adam G. Riess, Brian P. Schmidt – United States (though Schmidt now lives in Australia)
THE NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY
Dan Shechtman – Israel
THE NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE
Bruce A. Beutler, Ralph M. Steinman, Jules A. Hoffmann – United States and France
THE NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE
Tomas Tranströmer – Sweden
THE PRIZE IN ECONOMIC SCIENCES
Thomas J. Sargent, Christopher A. Sims – United States
– For More Interesting and Random Nobel Trivia you can go HERE.