Life Lessons from Academia

153433-004-e1dfd1cbThis past semester, I took Robin Hanson’s Ph.D. Law and Econ class at GMU (Econ 840).  The course grade was a research paper you wrote.  Dr. Hanson gave some excellent advice on writing these papers (I apologize in advance as I am paraphrasing here.  His actual expression of the advice was far more poetic than my rendition here).

He said: Do not try to climb Kilimanjaro.  It takes a long time and a lot of practice to get there.  Rather, find a path and move just a few feet off of it and you’ll be blazing a new trail.

Hearing this was a huge stress release.  We all have egos (especially doctoral students) and we all want that Nobel Idea.  But that is a lifetime achievement which, by definition, takes a lifetime to achieve.  We often get frustrated when our Big Ideas do not come to fruition, when we get tired of trying to climb the mountain, and many quit.  Good ideas are left to die by the wayside.  To hear that the expectation is not Kilimanjaro but rather forging through some new bush makes the task of research much easier and allows one to focus.

This advice applies well outside of academia, too.  Keeping focus and working on the achievable, building up to the mountain, can prevent fatigue and allow one to accomplish goals.

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