Sunday, March 24, 2019

being a failure vs having failed at something

There's a motivational quote that goes along the lines of "if you don't try at anything, you can't fail" and "you never fail until you stop trying". I'm not much for motivational quotes. I do however keep some demotivators as my screen saver at work since my humor is dark, and cynism has kept me from falling into the deep pit of despair a lot of times. You can't cry if you are laughing (well, you can but the saying is "laugh or cry")

The thing with the motivational quote in regards to failure is that I do think there is some merit to the saying. If you try something you have never done before there is a chance that you will not be able to do it (aka fail doing it). The problem is not with having failed at something. Learning from what you failed at doing is probably one of the best way to learn how to do something right. Not the only way though, and not always the best, but one of the ways. It is also true (in my humble opinion) that "just because you failed the first time, doesn't mean that you will keep failing".

One of bigger issues is when there is a switch in wording from "I have failed" to "I am a failure". It's a pretty common word play - at least based on the stories I hear at work, and the fears I hear vocalized from people I interact with. That the failure of doing R means that you are defined by R and now you are a failure. And that the failure is in everything, or at least in more things that one thing you initially failed at.

Personally, I have faced this particular piece of thinking a couple of times in my life so far (no surprise here). Maybe that is why I am so good at explaining it to others, yet failing a few key times with myself - no one is perfect...

Most recently I found myself talking to a friend who was walking in a circle around this particular argument. They have failed at something, something that a lot of people do and succeed with, and now they feel that they are a failure. That this something defines them and they keep thinking that success in general would mean no set backs and no failures - ever.

I saw a tweet a few months back in regards to people asking PIs to post their "failure CV" as in stating "applied for and got rejected for 5 R01s", "applied for 48 jobs before landing this one perfect job". While I like the idea, to be able to acknowledge that life isn't a full line of (easy or hard) successes, I can't help but think this is part of the issue that makes it even more difficult to not look at oneself as a failure.

Why? Because there are people who will never succeed with their dreams of getting an R01. They will not have the time to keep trying over and over. Like a lot of us knows, there's a finite time frame for most TT and if you haven't succeeded with an R01 by then, then you are out. Same with people who want to become actresses,  writers, partners, grandparents, truckers or anything else that people dream about. Very select few can keep trying the same thing over and over again to wait for that one time of success. This doesn't mean that everyone who does not succeed with what they set out to do are failures. Not failures as people, nor failures in general. I know that there are people who would say "but you shouldn't shy away from accepting that there is failure in life and that means that you failed". I don't. I shy away from defining it as "they are a failure".

There are a lot of failures in the world, I know. But there is something special to attribute the word "failure" to a person. A ship can be a failure (think Titanic). A plane can be a failure (think 737 Max8). Dinner was a failure (everything burns and is undercooked at the same time). However, Person P isn't a failure if they failed getting into grad school. They failed at getting into grad school.

To me that is a very important difference that bears reminding. We are more than a failure or a success story. We are the sum of all our failures and successes and it's not like math where the pluses and minuses add up since we are not math, we are people. People with experiences to live through, and learn from. And there are so many experiences in a life time.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

back in the saddle & planning new posts

It's like that saying "when you fall off the horse, you just get up in the saddle right away again". Why? Because you need to do it quickly to not overthink and over feel the scared feeling of falling. I should remember that. After all, I fell off horses a lot while training equestrian vaulting back in my youth and got back up again every time.

And still, more than three months since I wrote something here. Even more months since I opened my journal and wrote a longer piece.

I got a little wake up call a few weeks ago when I pulled a few 50+ hour work weeks, woke up at 5 am without an alarm even though I didn't go to bed until midnight and kept running around feeling wide eyed and having a cry at work.... Then I went on vacation and enjoyed no telephone, internet or work emails for a few days, plus hanging out at sea and in nature in the now so to speak.

Part of my "after vacation resolution" is to get better at doing things that keep me both mentally and physically in shape. The usual; sleeping, eating, working out, not over working, hanging out with friends, talking walks outside during work days and weekends. But also; reading physical books, writing blog posts and having time to do my side project (another sort of writing).

Since it has been a week since this "new regime" started; I have worked out every day (maybe not as long as I had dreamt about but 30 min is a good start), I have slept 7 hours every night and I have eaten porridge for breakfast every day - I have yet to attack the reading a book or writing a blog post, so here is it....

Life has been, I guess life? The last few years have had some struggles, maybe early midlife crisis ("what should I do with my life?") and some set backs in the dream department. There is nothing I would like to dwell in right now, considering this is my "back in the saddle, which should be short and sweet, bringing a happy feeling without dread for next time" blog post.

I have gotten increasing number and sizes of projects at work, and some of these have not been easy navigating. It's difficult for everyone working with unrealistic expectations in delivery when you look at the resources being offered and the time line to fix in under. Needless to say I've been repeating a lot "the best we can do with the allocated resources and the given time constraints" rather than "the best you can". The latter phrase usually leads to some Type A people working overtime and getting stressed since you know that "you can do better" and "it shouldn't just be good enough".

With that nugget/wisdom/pep talk/detailed focused nit picky comment, I leave you with a few areas that I am working on for the next blog posts during this year. If you want to make a comment/wish on which one to go first, please let me know.

  1. Good team work is constant communication and support
  2. Work-life balance in the time of "if you love what you do, it's not work"
  3. Stories from the US South as a Northern European woman - the differences, the similarities and the exotic craze - nuggets like bbq, heat vs freezing, feminism, church, seer sucker vs tight fitting dark wash jeans, craft breweries, biking to work and living together without being married.
  4. Science lab dynamics, the team sport like hockey
  5. "I have a PhD, this job is beneath me"
  6. Negotiation and diplomacy, best when coming from equal footing?
  7. Are you spending your time on the right things, or the things you want to be right?
  8. Setting expectations, an important part of delivering success
  9. Conflict between the wet and the dry lab sides
  10. Correct salutations - half the win when working with new people
  11. Pit falls to avoid when starting in a new team with a new project - no presumptions