Success demands risk as well as hard work

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DANIEL MCCARTHY, SENIOR EDITORZig Ziglar, salesman and motivational speaker, famously said, “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” As clever as Ziglar’s metaphor is, it frames success as an inevitable destination waiting for those who persevere. Hard work always merits respect, whether it leads to success or not. But success is worthy of celebration for the inherent risks it confronts and overcomes, as much as for the hours and grit required to achieve it.

So, perhaps there is an elevator to success after all, except we’re required to invest our own time and money to design, build, and ultimately ride our creation as far as our ambitions — or our elevator’s flawed design — can bear us.

Several converging events have prompted this meditation on the nature of success.

Among them is this month’s annual trends issue, in which our features section highlights seven of the most notable photonics technologies and applications gaining traction today. Starting on page 56, the articles cover the latest in e-mobility manufacturing, optical metasurfaces, fiber sensors, lidar, scientific imaging, mid-IR spectroscopy, and quantum technology.

Additionally, in December, SPIE and its media partner Photonics Media announced the 30 finalists for the 14th annual Prism Awards. You’ll find the list beginning on page 50. Ten winners will be announced at a gala event during Photonics West this month. But all finalists deserve commendation for their persistence, ambition, and contribution to the industry.

Lastly, as of this writing, the James Webb Space Telescope is still prompting anxious anticipation ahead of its planned launch on Dec. 24. No amount of metaphorical stairs could possibly express the lofty ambition or the heart-in-mouth risk associated with this endeavor.

The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the Webb instrument cost $10 billion and has taken 10,000 people working for 20 years in the U.S., Europe, and Canada just to build, package, and load it onto the “elevator” — a rocket designed to carry it 1 million miles away from Earth, where things get really challenging.

Unlike the Hubble, which remained in Earth orbit, the Webb telescope will park at Earth’s second Lagrange point, where it will be beyond any service calls from the space shuttle. Once there, it will begin the complex, months-long deployment of its sunshield and the optimization of its mirrors before — hopefully — beginning its mission to study every phase in the history of our universe.

Whether you favor the stairs or the elevator, we wish you success in your endeavors this year.

Published: January 2022

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