Monday, November 30, 2009

From a comment

MYTH:

If you love what you do, you'll rise to the top decile in any profession.

Anyone who has watched a reality tv show (take ANTM or Project Runway for example) knows that how much you love what you do has almost nothing to do with whether you will be in the "top decile".

Labels: , , , , , ,

16 Comments:

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Nat Blair said...

Wow, that is total garbage. For a vivid experience of this, just watch the movie "Anvil: The Story of Anvil"

 
At 5:43 PM, Blogger momphdstudent said...

I have to agree!

 
At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus. How are you still a postdoc? Are you looking for staff scientist positions or is that akin to settling? (At least the pay is better..?)

But back to your main point, science is clearly not a meritocracy, much to the chagrin of hard-working, earnest (and possibly delusional or misinformed) scientists

 
At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This myth is probably the single most damaging, soul-crushing contributor to burnout and neuroticism in passionate, hardworking and ambitious people.

Whenever I hear variants of this myth being passed on as words of wisdom, I cringe.

if you love what you do, you can probably get pretty far ahead relative to where you started. But to rise to "the top" - the higher you go the fewer positions there are and thus the more other factors and advantages come into play.

 
At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, considering that each professor teaches about 100 students, say, that may not be so far from the truth. You could be in the top decile and still not make professor.

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger FrauTech said...

I think that goes hand in hand with "Do what you love and the money will follow."

 
At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I am actually thinking that this coming year might be when I am going to throw in the towel. Academic research has got me down - and I am generally considered to be on top of my game. But without a decent publication my life is more or less over - I don't want to keep on being a postdoc hopping from place to place forever. I am beginning to feel the straw that's going to break my back.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger a physicist said...

An interesting short article that reminds me of your recent posts:
http://www.lifescied.org/cgi/content/full/8/4/265?etoc

It discusses microinequities in science, and also who we perceive can be a scientist.

 
At 10:46 AM, Blogger LMH said...

I've decided that if I love to do something, then I should do it. Doesn't matter if I'm "the best" because the metrics for judging that are nebulous, which you've discussed in some form or another in this blog many times.

Since the metrics are poorly defined and obviously changeable, then I might as well make up my own metrics and be happy doing something l like to do. Obviously, you want to try hard, and make the best effort you can, but when there are no rules, you just go with your best idea. The hard part is getting over the idea of validation from an outside source.

 
At 12:11 PM, Blogger whyme? said...

Wow, that IS a stupid comment. I danced ballet seriously and "semiprofessionally" (ie I got paid a pittance each year by an extremely local dance troupe)for several years in my teens. I loved it dearly and worked hard at it. My chance of making it in the top decile of ballet dancers were exactly 0%. I'm too short, have the wrong body type etc. And that's even before the intangibles like luck enter into the picture.

Similarly, for any career path there are certainly pre-requisite skills as well as luck that will determine whether a given person has a chance to be in the "top decile".

Working hard is good, but just because you "succeeded" doesn't mean that you worked harder or loved your work more than those who "failed".

 
At 12:19 PM, Anonymous labbrat said...

Oh man, that really hit home. I used to believe something similar to that sentiment, even as I yelled at the girls on ANTM for saying "I just feel like I deserve this because it's my passion!"

What other valuable lessons can we learn from reality TV? Maybe "I'm not here to make friends" can be adapted somehow. I'll have to think about how to apply that to my lab life...

http://fourfour.typepad.com/fourfour/2009/09/im-not-here-to-make-friends-redux.html

 
At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

decile, senile, penile.
*snort*

Your myth made me giggle more than a fortune cookie, and I didn't have to add "in bed."
jc

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Nat- I will have to look into that. Never heard of it.

Anon 8:26- Jesus has nothing to do with it. Jesus, in the great words of my hero Kathy Griffin, can suck it.

FrauTech- Indeed!

Anon 8:22- The question is how far are you from a "decent" publication. Just remember, your life is NOT over. You are still a person. I know that sounds silly, but it's true and worth meditating on what it means.

a physicist- That's a great article! It sounds like it was written by a blogger, or someone who reads Dr. Isis maybe?

LMH- that is the right attitude. The only problem comes when you realize you can't avoid a certain kind of "validation" from an outside source- the problem of how to make money (if you're unlucky enough that all the things you like to do will keep you poor forever).

whyme?- some of my best friends (and one of my former students) are former dancers. They are some of the most disciplined people I've ever met (oh yeah, and super smart, too!).

labrat- sadly, the "not here to make friends" is the OPPOSITE of what you need to get ahead in science these days (maybe not so true historically, but now, pretty much everywhere in all disciplines).

jc, I will remember that rhyme. I dislike all three of those words!

 
At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obviously, you want to try hard, and make the best effort you can, but when there are no rules, you just go with your best idea. The hard part is getting over the idea of validation from an outside source."

I often do this when it's possible to do, and everyone else can suck it. But at some point it's not sustainable especailly when it comes to having a legitimate career in academia and science. you do need to have "outside validation" to get things like grant funding and even a job in the first place. No job = no opportunity to do things your way. No grant money = no resources to do the things you want to do. For this reason I see many colleagues "sell out" in order to gain the all-important outside validation because without it, you are left high and dry with no money and no job position.

 
At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, modelling is not a profession. It doesn't falsify the proverb.

Apart from that the proverb is bullshit look at medicine, law, science... people have thrown their lives away working insanely hard out of love for what they do.

-antipodean

 
At 5:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather nice blog you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home