Don’t Fear Failure

Jennifer Holmgren urges you to ignore people who say ‘it can’t be done’
Image of woman looking at data
Image credit: iStock by Getty Images

After 15 years, a thousand patents, and millions of hours of pioneering scientific inquiry, my team has invented a technology that transforms carbon waste into many of the things currently made from fossil carbon. Despite our success, it was not an easy journey. Nothing so big and so great is easy. 

I have spent my career doing things everyone tells you, "Can't be done." My answer to them has always been, "Watch me!" Personally and professionally, I am not afraid of failure, and neither should you be. The only downside to failure is not trying. Throughout your life, you will hear people say, “No, it can’t be done” to you. Ignore them. They are saying no because they have not seen your idea proven before. Often, I think, it would be easier to be second, but if we are to become disrupters, we need to be the first. We need to find the people who have the vision to see the change and make a difference.  

These disrupters make up a community of doers. Insert yourself into this community but make sure it is enriched with diverse people from various industries and backgrounds committed to challenging the status quo. That is how we will make progress, and that is how others will know whatever your dream is, it will get done.

Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, LanzaTech
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, LanzaTech

Dr. Jennifer Holmgren is CEO of LanzaTech. Under Jennifer’s guidance, LanzaTech is developing a variety of platform chemicals and fuels, including the world’s first alternative jet fuel derived from industrial waste gases.  She is also a Director and the Chair of the LanzaJet Board of Directors.  Prior to LanzaTech, Jennifer was VP and General Manager of the Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit at UOP LLC, a Honeywell Company. While at UOP, she was a key driver of UOP’s leadership in low carbon aviation biofuels.

Jennifer has authored or co-authored 50 U.S. patents and more than 30 scientific publications and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. She is on the Governing Council for the Bio Energy Research Institute in India. The institute has been set up by the DBT (Department of Biotechnology, Indian Government) and IOC (Indian Oil Corporation).  She also sits on the Advisory Council for the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University, the Halliburton Labs Advisory Board, the Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS International Advisory Council, and the Founder Advisory for The Engine, a venture capital fund built by MIT that invests in early-stage science and engineering companies.   

Jennifer holds a B.Sc. degree from Harvey Mudd College, a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

Related Content