Ever heard of the Chinese phrase, “Outside of this mountain that you’ve marveled at or climbed, there’s a taller one waiting for you somewhere”? If you have, then you can most certainly relate to this blog post. That saying seems to be resonating through me as I write this blog entry. It makes me think about the different objectives that we pursue, not just in research but also life: it’s almost like life is this never-ending hike, with hill after hill after hill that we need to climb if we want to reach the top of the final mountain. Just like Miley Cyrus says in her song, The Climb. “There’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna want to make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m going to have to lose, it’s not about how fast I get there, it’s not about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb”.
Personally, the past few weeks have been filled with incredible triumphs (see my previous blog). I’ve just conquered the peak of data collection and analysis for my MSc. Unfortunately, there isn’t time to relax and bask in my glory and I’m sitting in the shadow of another looming mountain. That latest mountain is reporting, discussing, concluding and formatting my dissertation.
Few scientists choose this career because they like writing and communicating…. and I guess that makes me a typical scientist. I have been somewhat struggling with writing up my dissertation. I do believe that the brisk pace that I have been working at might just have an effect on that struggle.
Being the perfectionist that I am, I feel like there is a need to make amends for not submitting my dissertation last year. One way of doing that was to work on my document and submit it as soon as possible. That’s all well and good, but I reckon that one thing that I did not consider was that writing up in a hurry would affect the quality of my work. “It’s not about how fast I get there, it’s not about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb.” So it means the process of writing up is more important than just submitting.
You’d think that after years of listening to those lines, they would actually mean something to me by now!
Only after many attempts to submit my chapters to my supervisor and getting them back with lots of unpleasant red ink, have I finally decided to slow down, to pause and think about what I want to do before doing it. Because when I keep rushing rushing rushing to just put something – anything – on paper for her, I lose sight of my real goal; I’m getting somewhat lost. And I don’t want to keep wandering aimlessly, after all.
Just had a flashback of a book called “Think Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman that I bought a few months back. I haven’t finished it by the way, but I’ve read enough of it to grasp the concepts echoing through the book. Sometimes you have to make fast and instinctive decisions and, sometimes, you have to be reflective and more deliberative in your approach. The dark tunnel phase of my research has passed, the phase where had to move fast and instinctively. Now I need to slow down and be more purposeful in my approach, I need to read the results, be one with them and discuss them as they are.
Easier said than done though, right? Like I said in my earlier blog, not a lot of work has been done on Moringa oleifera seeds and egg laying chickens. This too is a mountain that I have to move. I guess it’s called “Masters” for a reason. It’s not about just feeding chickens and getting eggs but also about the scientific consequences of that. Because no matter how solid your research may be, if you don’t publish it, don’t grapple with the methods and conclusions yourself, then it’s as good as never having being done. In the scientific world, it doesn’t exist.
I’m a little bit of a twitter fan, so whilst I was there, minding other people’s business, I saw a post shared by one of my fellow student, Nobuhle Sharon Lungu. The post said, “We win every day but we don’t appreciate, we only celebrate when we win big”.
I hope this blog will change this mindset; you must celebrate every victory, every small mountain top that you reach. I had to take joy in finishing data collection, or else I would not have had energy for this current slog. So, yes, every peak you reach, celebrate it — even if you think it’s not too high; because it is those small hills that make us stronger to fight and reach the ultimate peak.