I spent five years getting no results. My supervisor was hired to be the director of a research institute at my university after spending years in industry and government labs in the States, and I was his first grad student. The first year or so was lost in setting up the lab and waiting through renovations. Another year was lost chasing a compound that a collaborating group had published (turned out later that the results they got were actually due to the steel walls of the pressure reactor and not the compound - and they got another paper to correct this).
My difficulties were not entirely due to circumstances. Synthetic research and I are not a good mix. I've said in the past that I suck at research, and my supervisor told me not to be so hard on myself, because if the project had involved measurements or anything other than air-free metal complexes I would have had a much easier time.
After banging my head against the wall for five long years, during which time I tried to write up and discovered my work filled 32 pages, including introduction and literature review, I admitted that it wasn't going to work. My project was dead and never going to produce results, and while I had some momentum going on a side-project, I was just too burned out to carry on. An hour after I sent my withdrawal notice, I got an email from the university telling me they were giving me the boot because of an unsatisfactory grade at a presentation six weeks before. Efficiency has never been this school's strong suit.
Rather than being crushed, I was actually relieved that the slog was over. The unwritable thesis was no longer hanging over my head, and I was so worn down at that point that I didn't really care my life's ambition had dissolved. I had a sessional gig at a second-tier regional university, and they didn't seem to care that my promised credentials weren't going to appear. After that, my current position fell into my lap. It's a postdoc, but they knew they entire story and hired me anyway. I've been far luckier than I deserve.Thanks to Steve for his story.