But aside from these determinants, one factor stands out which may not always be obvious because of it's negative connotation; and that is the good sense to realize one's weaknesses and the willingness to give up and marshal one's resources into a more productive endeavor. Admitting one's weaknesses is understandably an unpleasant task; nobody wants to admit what they are not good at, especially if they have worked at it for years. That kind of attitude does not get you job offers or impress interviewers. Yet being able to admit what qualities you lack can make your life take a radically successful direction. And lest we think that only mere mortals have to go through this painful process of periodic self-evaluation and subsequent betterment, we can be rest assured. It was none other than Linus Pauling who went through this soul-searching. And we are all the wiser for his decision.
When Pauling graduated from Oregon State University in 1922, he had already shown great promise. At that point he had had an excellent overall education in mathematics and physics and compared to his peers in the United States was mathematically quite outstanding. In 1926 he won a Guggenheim fellowship to study in Europe under the tutelage of Arnold Sommerfeld in Munich, with trips to the great centers of physics in Copenhagen, Gottingen and Zurich included as part of the package. There Pauling met the founders of quantum mechanics, almost all of whom were about the same age, and realized that maybe his talents in physics and mathematics were not as great as he thought. There is a story, probably apocryphal, that the famously acerbic Pauli dismissed one of his papers on quantum mechanics with two short words- "Not interesting".