Mar 9, 2020 | A wrinkle in time

Recently, I was invited to record a podcast for the PhD Career Stories series. My episode is not published on the website yet — but if you are interested, you can listen to my story before the premiere here.

The point of this episode, was to explain how I found myself in the place I am in right now, both career-wise and mentally. This is always an interesting question as most people—including me—are rather poor at assessing the real causes of events that happen to them. I was thinking for a long time about what I should actually focus on in this podcast. In the end, I took a little trip back in time, and I told quite a long and hopefully unbiased story about everything that happened ever since I was a primary school student. In the process of recording that episode, I also realized a few important things about how the past influences the present that I would like to share here.

  1. The signs. No one has a Guardian Angel to tell them in which direction they should develop. However, some people seem to have stronger intuition than others when it comes to navigating on the job market. Maybe they are just more sensitive to the little sings they see on the way! If you look into the past with an open mind, you will notice that the signs of what you should be really doing in your life, were actually present in your life all the way, starting in early childhood. These signs manifested in every little decision you were taking, in every little thingie that you either liked or disliked, in everything that you either regretted or were proud of. But for the most part, you were not paying attention to them. And then, many years later, all of a sudden you get enlightened — and sometimes, this means that you need to change your path completely. At some point, I started treating this problem in a scientific way, and I basically dug in my own past looking for evidence on behalf of each possible scenario. Then it turned out that I should probably be an entrepreneur.

  2. Influence comes from pain and pressure. When I think about people who had some influence on my professional development so far, I come to the realization that most of these people were actually treating me badly. Back then I was cursing these people, but now, in retrospect, I see that in the long run, I profited from hardship in one way or another. People who were nice to me had an influence on my sense of well-being but never really had a long-lasting influence on my way of thinking about the world. So, in the long run, some hardship probably useful or even necessary to get somewhere.

  3. All is connected. I know that some people prefer to see a clear distinction between professional and private life. But I still feel that in the end, everything is connected and that one area of your life will affect all the other areas. Sometimes, you feel that nothing works in your life. You do not feel energetic or healthy, you get the impression that you are surrounded by the wrong people who are not inspiring to you at all and pull you down, you feel frustrated at work, etc. And then, all of a sudden, you discover that you are on the wrong career track, you find out what to do with your life next, and then all the other little problems disappear one by one—they just take each other down like a domino. You just cannot be truly happy and healthy, and have the right people around, if you develop your career in the wrong direction.

  4. One year of going in the right direction will give you more progress than 15 years of going in the wrong direction. This sounds obvious, but I experienced my very skin how huge this difference really is. This is also why sometimes, it is good to listen to your gut and to change your career track into something completely different. At first, you are scared as it feels like you just wasted the last 15 years—while in fact, you are just winning the rest of your life.

  5. Calmness and clarity. If you find the right career track, you will also find some inner peace no matter how hard-working of overwhelmed you might be on the outside. There is a great difference between being busy and being stressed—stress only occurs when something is wrong with your decision making, or with your environment. If you embark on the right track, you’ll get inner confidence that you will be all fine, and that you don’t need to worry about the future. If you feel like that right now, this feeling might actually be a good indicator that you found yourself in the right place.

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