(Or, First Time Skiing in 2018!)
Today I briefly fled from the fog and rain of the lower mainland and headed north for an afternoon of skiing. The skies were bright and blue above the clouds, offering a spectacular view of a mist-veiled Vancouver.
I am a weekend skier. I enjoy green and blue runs–fun, with a bit of a workout. I’ll occasionally go down an “easy” black run for some added adrenaline, but I definitely prefer long runs, medium-sized challenges, and a nice view. Before leaving, I wanted to go on a trail with a sparking slope and a fun second-half. The problem was near the top–a section covered in moguls (a series of bumps that require the skier to make sharp turns). Not my favorite.
As I scanned the slope for a suitable route, I noticed a young flier take a tumble. Her guardian stopped nearby to make sure the girl was ok. The child got up quickly, but then froze as she surveyed the steepness and moguls ahead. I feel for you kid, I thought.
“I’m scared to go further!” she called out. The guardian responded, “Well, we can’t walk back!” They skied on.
The short interaction illustrated an experience many graduates students face in research. I’m worried/scared/stressed/unsure about the next steps. How did I end up here!? While I don’t have all the answers, here are a few takeaways I’ve learned skiing/studying in Vancouver…
- It’s ok to be unsure. But don’t stay stuck there! The unknown forces us to be innovative, collaborative, and more intentional. Ask advice from those around you (or ask Google)–there are lots of people on the slope.
- Before starting a project or ski run make sure that your next steps are feasible. You shouldn’t attempt a double black diamond when you are learning how to ski. The same is true for research. Make sure your project is doable. Ask for advice when planning an experiment.* Check whether others in your lab have attempted a technique/idea. Don’t spend your entire attention and energy on something with a very high chance of failure + little return.
- Graduate school provides a great opportunity to tackle major challenges and you’ll definitely experience fails and falls. Failing forward** can lead to unexpected feats, constantly backtracking results in expected frustration!
- A major goal of graduate studies is personal development, so don’t be afraid to push yourself (go for those challenging runs!) The upcoming path may be steep and a bit scary, but you might discover some awesome views, unexplored paths, and untapped grit. You may even have a lot of fun along the way!
Happy Exploring in 2018
*Thanks for all the advice Finlay Lab
**Hey Peter Paul–thanks for the reminder to FailFWd (https://www.failfwd.com)