Jun 15, 2011

My path and career choice dilemmas

I have always felt that I'm destined to do great things. That my path has always led to a higher destination. That my life is there for a greater cause, a life far above average in every way. I don't know if everyone feels like that, I guess you never really talk about this because of what people might think: "don't be ridiculous!" Some might say. I don't really know why I have felt this way, perhaps because my parents inculcated it in me, unconsciously and unaware, by the way I was raised, by the way they talked to me, by the way they gave me freedom, by the way they encouraged me, by the way they treated me, perhaps they trusted me at a deep subconscious level with the dreams they could not achieve. Or perhaps I feel this way because I have felt not average, unfitting of my surroundings, maladapted to the environment I was born, socially and intellectually. I have no idea.

At school I did pretty average, I was never at the top of the class or the best student. As a matter of fact, during a time in high school we were graded with numbers and rankings were published every three months; my personal best, on a class of more than forty people, was a modest fifteen place and a couple of times I went way below average. At university I did not do any better, I was not at the top of the class either, just alright, I didn't get a Magna Cum Laude, I didn't graduate with honors. On the other side, however, I never had to repeat a year at school nor I failed a single class at university, which allowed me to obtain my undergraduate degree at twenty-one, an age when many European students are just starting to decide what to study. Not that it makes me a genius or superiorly intelligent.

I went to Sweden to start a PhD; I guess that alone does makes me a little exceptional compared with most Colombians of my same age range. In my lab in Sweden I was the youngest member for quite a few years, which could be considered a little exceptional too. On the other hand, I did not do particularly better than any other PhD student in my lab, I had five publications in my thesis, quite OK, but actually most of PhD students that graduated before me had more than five publications in their thesis. I did not publish in the best journals, I did not discovered anything particularly amazing either.

So why do I get this feeling? Why do I want greatness? What is this fire that burns within me?

I was having a conversation with my old supervisor in Sweden. I was telling him that soon I would start looking and applying for a job to continue with my science career after my contract in France ends. I mentioned a few labs I was aiming for, some of them were pretty famous labs (if there is such a thing as a famous lab in this world), or as he called them "super top laboratories". He implied that in order for me to apply to such kind of labs I should have been "mega successful" in my postdoc, to put it in his own words. I have done as usual, quite averagely... funny enough. He said to me that I should identify and know at what level I am and aim for that level and try to position myself there—sounds quite reasonable. He said to me that it is better to be a big fish in a pond with smaller fish than a small fish in a pond with bigger fish.

It, of course, has made me think and reflect a lot... what kind of fish I am? Am I a small fish or am I a big fish? What is my true level? What is the best I can achieve? What is my potential? How do I compare with most people? How do I compare to Einstein? How do I compare to Darwin? How do I compare to Beethoven? How do I compare to Shakespeare? Can I be like them? Do I have what it takes to be like them? Were they actually that different from most of us? What was about them that made them great? Do I have that in me? Can I handle the best laboratory on Earth? Can I come up with great scientific ideas that could change the world? Or am I just an average twenty-eight years old guy, destined to live an average life, to marry an average looking woman averagely smart, and live in an average house, send my kids to an average school so that they can have average lives and work average jobs? Is that what it is? Am I being foolish?

I refuse average, I reject average. I want greatness, I want the best, I desire it. I must not give up until my word has been heard, until my influence has been felt, until my full power has been exerted. Like the Japanese said, there is no genius that a disciplined, diligent, and hard working mind can not overcome. What I lack in geniality I'll made up in discipline and patience. If I’m not disciplined and patient then I'll become. If my personality gets in the way then I'll change. If I make mistakes I'll correct them. If my mind is too narrow I'll broaden it. If my resolve is too weak then I'll make it stronger. If I walk astray this path I've chosen I'll find my way back. If there are insurmountable obstacles I'll overcome them with immeasurable tenacity. And if I find enemies on my way I'll defeat them, because I shall not give up until I have reached my destination. I'll not give up, I'll never give up my dreams. I'll always aim a step higher, always a step higher. That is my way of life, my choice, my path.


  1. The questions is if you're following your own idea of greatness, or if you're buying into someone else's or the "traditional" idea of greatness. Who decides what's "the best" for you?

  2. Esto me lo compartio mi mama una ves:

    "Hay hombres que luchan un dia y son buenos. Hay otros que luchan un año y son mejores. Hay quienes luchan muchos años y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida: esos son los imprescindibles"
    Bertolt Brecht