written many books… but I was rejected by everyone in Australia and worldwide. It felt very personal. My mistake was in how I responded to this. I was so angry, and jealous of other published authors. I saw myself as nothing because I only felt powerful when I was writing.
“I had a strange childhood in which I had no real power, which is why I escaped into these imaginary worlds I created through my writing. My mum had six children of her own and would also foster kids. So there’d be 12 or 13 children in the house, and sometimes you’d want to hug your mum but you couldn’t, as there would be a traumatised kid who needed her more.
“It made high school rough. Some of these kids had been neglected so they might also have lice or ringworm. I’d get all this, too. So I was this weird kid with nits who came to school in a minibus full of children, and who liked to sit by herself and write stories. I thought, ‘If I can’t get published and become a writer, then who am I?’ I definitely felt shame.”
Michael Biercuk, a quantum physicist and associate professor at The University of Sydney, says he looks back “with self-disgust” at the way he interacted with his colleagues during his stint at a management consultant firm in the US. “My mistake was profound,” he says. “I did what [someone with] a PHD in science would do; I spoke honestly about our organisation’s shortcomings and provided solutions I thought would improve the business. But I completely failed to understand the local workplace culture or how my comments might be perceived by others, especially peers and supervisors. It became me parachuting in with the solution and effectively saying, ‘All of you have been wrong all along.’ That was what my failure was. Despite an education from some of the best universities, I was never taught the fundamentals of business interaction or social psychology. My colleagues saw me as a troublemaker and some even considered me a traitor to the firm.”