I have been comparing myself to established scientists within my field, and without exception, the result of my comparison leaves me thinking that I do not want to be like any of those people. I suspect this is mostly my naivety clouding my opinion, but there is a vital component to being a scientist which I currently do not care for. The essential component is producing papers and hustling to get noticed by the relative popularity of these papers. A lot of what you read in a paper is not crucial and usually is only there because publishers want a specific style to differentiate their journal from the others – classic business behaviour. I have extremely low motivation to try and get good at producing papers, and this is why I do not think I will be a good scientist. I have been pondering this for a while, and when I was re-reading Thinking Fast and Slow, I spotted these few sentences which, of course, resonated.
“I have yet to meet a successful scientist who lacks the ability to exaggerate the importance of what he or she is doing, and I believe that someone who lacks a delusional sense of significance will wilt in the face of repeated experiences of multiple small failures are rare successes, the fate of most researchers”.
Ninety-percent of the time when I talk to my colleagues, they will be the one talking about their project. It is not that I do not enjoy my project, because I do, it is because I rarely feel the need to tell people what I am doing. I would rather talk to them about non-work related stuff; I found this lack of wanting to show-off about my project even more pronounced when I went on a residential course with lots of other students. I was a shoulder to cry/climb on for people to moan and brag about their projects. I preferred to talk about them and get to know them. I love the problem-solving part of my project, the rest of it I could easily delegate to someone else if the option was available. I suspect if I had a big ego, or I had been damaged in some way so that I had this burning desire to prove the demons in my head wrong; I would be on a mad crusade to reach the top. Luckily for me, or maybe unluckily I do not have the ego or desire.
Reflecting on what I have said so far, I assume my thoughts will be a lot different in five years. I think this as my goals have changed drastically over the years, and I have no inclination that this trend won’t continue. I also realise that you could probably apply my particular dilemma to a lot of different disciplines, so I hope it has not been too narrow!