I realized today that I lack the two qualities described in the title. The underlying cause of this could be my long term obsession with hands-on problem solving, and the belief that the more personal effort I put into a project, no matter how ill-advised, the chance of success would increase. Having stayed in the corporate world for a while now, I have gradually come to a slightly different conclusion, and this is perhaps even more applicable in the academia. Ultimate we are judged not only by the quality of work, but also the speed in which it is delivered. The exact reward function is far from obvious, but another important dimension is reaching out to potential referees, collaborators, and even assistants.
I started researching the cause and cure of my perceived mental deficiency. Underneath I have always felt a sense of helplessness and dependency, especially since grad school. These negative feelings get accentuated usually as I start getting used to a new position. Perhaps I should take up some MBA or psychology courses that will rectify my future attitudes, or perhaps it is too late and I simply don’t have the luxury of time or patience required for such long term effort. All important personal resolutions or projects in the past have been washed away by seemingly more important tasks at hand, so that beyond what I do for work, there is little personal projects of longevity.
Speaking of sociability, an important component I am missing is the ability to say no, in it’s various guises and incarnations. When I first bought a book on the subject, I felt it had little relevance to me; I bought it only for its price. Now it seems that I shouldn’t take the title of the book so literally. Rather it stands for the ability to guide conversations, or social interactions in general, in the direction that suits one’s own purpose, in the grand scheme of things, rather than going with some casual sentimental aimless flow as my past conversations often disintegrate into. I always feel that those classmates/colleagues who came from abroad, especially of economically disadvantaged regions, are far better at cutting to the chase and dispense with overt politeness. The culture in this country has certainly cultivated an undue sense of humility, self-mockery, and disgusting insinuation in me, to the point where I become afraid of expressing my opinions, lest it offends anyone. Perhaps it’s the diverse ethnic and cultural composition that over-taxes my sense of political correctness. Despite my training as a math whiz, I cannot help idolize the pop media figureheads, all of whom must be excruciatingly sensitive in their speeches and conduct in public to maintain likeability and ultimately long term survival.
Perhaps discharging these self-diagnosis here is a good way to maintain my current level of humanity, before its gets awash by the obscene amount of coding/experiments I am imposed to at the moment. The latter however is completely self-imposed, due to incompetence of course. I don’t know when I started picking up the habit of being overtly rather confident but completely insecure inside. I simply do not have what it takes to make a sustainable research career, that is, one in which I can pace myself, formulate interesting problems that are appreciated by others, and perhaps most importantly, engage in academic collaborations that result in papers. While I can stay aloof and say that one shouldn’t be judged by quantity but quality, I suspect it’s just an old excuse to be lazy, anti-social, and over-estimation of my potential.