As your PhD program begins in a week, I am writing you a letter that reflects on your journey so far and sets my expectations for future me; you. I understand that this journey you are about to embark on is a grueling experience fraught with uncertainty. I hope that this letter will never fail to fuel your spirit and will serve as a guiding beacon regardless of what life may throw at you.
If all you have is a moment, remember . Remember how you felt when you found out that you were going to be here:
I know that you don't like to dwell on your past, but as George Santayana said,
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.So, here are three of your most expensive and influential lessons:
The last eight years have been extremely trying for you, both personally and professionally. You failed in many things. You failed many people, none more so than yourself. Ironically, you failed the most when you were so afraid of failure that you didn't even try. Never fear failure.
You not only failed a lot, but you didn't learn from failure. This meta-failure ended up leaving you so broke that you couldn't afford to eat more than one meal a day. Although hunger is one of the greatest motivators, it is not fun to be always hungry. Never repeat a failure.
You went through all that, but that didn't stop you from getting to where you are today. If you can start there and get here, you can start here and go anywhere. Never lose hope.
No amount of contemplating the past will change anything unless you act and effective actions require deliberately set goals. Here's three that I have identified to be crucial for your success:
Health: What can I say that has not already been said about the importance of health? I hope that you are continuing to take good care of your physical health. But the real challenge is to maintain a positive mental attitude. Always be mindful of how you are feeling and never hesitate to reach out for help.
Career: You've always been in your element when you were solving a problem. So it's fitting that you chose research as your career. But to achieve your career goals, you need to maintain an impeccable work ethic, persevere, and manage time effectively.
People: This is perhaps your biggest shortcoming. Time and time again, studies have shown that having meaningful relationships with people is the key to happiness. So never neglect your relationships with your family, friends, peers, and mentors.
Though I wrote them as different categories, they are all strongly tied to each other. Improvement in one of these will have significant improvements in the other. Here are some examples:
Like I alluded to earlier, having good company is crucial for your mental health. You can always lean on each other in times of distress.
How people perceive you directly affects the kinds of career opportunities that you will get. So, learn to communicate effectively. This blog was a great initiative; I hope you are writing regularly.
If you have a consistent and healthy routine, you can endure the long work hours that a research career demands.
Wish you the best,