Most of the time you will fail, but you will also occasionally succeed. Those occasional successes make all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.
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Clearly, there are many places where diesel is king or gas-turbine is king, or IC engines will win, but there are many places in the world where, as we've seen, they just won't do the job. The modern version of the Stirling engine has some very, very attractive characteristics, and we're trying to optimize it for some of those applications.
I would argue that education, actual learning - it is hard work. It's very personal. Your parents don't teach you anything. Your teachers don't teach you anything. The government doesn't teach you anything. You read it. You don't understand it; you read it again. You break a pencil and read it again.