Monday Motivation #108 (6/20/22)
One of the stranger parts of the last couple of years has been “seeing” my dad every now and then when I’m teaching over zoom. He’s not actually there, of course, and most of the time when I’m teaching my focus is on the camera lens. But once in a while I catch a glimpse of myself onscreen, making an expression or gesture that’s just like Dad.
That’s not surprising, of course — in addition to all the usual ways that children learn to behave by watching their parents, my dad taught professional skills courses around the country for decades and I started tagging along at the age of 7. Growing up, I spent countless hours watching him teach. Eventually, I graduated from helping with logistics (like making sure everyone had a handout and a pen) to actually helping to present the materials and facilitate the discussions.
While I’m sure that my teaching has always mirrored my father in some ways, before the pandemic I almost never watched myself in the classroom. While the occasional class might be recorded, that was an ordeal requiring actual video cameras and tapes and tripods — and the time and energy to edit and duplicate the recording so someone could watch it later. Nowadays, my zoom classes are usually set up to record automatically and I end up watching snippets as I edit the files to share with folks who couldn’t participate live. And, once in a while, I “see” my dad in my expressions and gestures. It’s happened enough in the last couple of years that I find it more comforting than startling, a reminder of the time we spent together and how he lives on in a way through the people who loved and learned from him.
So, why am I sharing the sentimental origin story of my current career? Partially because we celebrated Father’s Day this weekend, so I’ve been thinking about my dad. But also because there is value in taking time to figure out how you got to where you are, and whether your current pathway is leading places you want to go. Sometimes our choices are the result of careful planning, and sometimes we find ourselves on the path of least resistance. Either approach can lead to wonderful opportunities — or to situations that don’t turn out quite as we expected. Taking the time to review and reflect periodically can help us figure out when to stay the course, and when it might be time to forge a new path.
Three Things to Try This Week
Make Time for Reflection — focusing on the tasks at hand is important, particularly if our to-do list is leading to a graduate degree. But it’s also valuable to take time to reflect periodically and make sure our current and future choices are still aligned with our goals and values. This article offers 100 different reflective questions to consider in several areas of personal and professional growth.
Figure Out Where to Focus — science tells us that we’ve evolved to favor the lowest-hanging fruit, even if the higher ones are actually sweeter. The path of least resistance is created in part by our environment, and in part by the structures and habits we create in our own lives. Consider this advice for figuring out which challenges and changes are worth the effort, and when sticking with the easier path makes more sense.
Reset Periodically — life in academia has natural starts and stops throughout the year, but there’s no need to wait until September or January to start fresh. Consider this advice for making a fresh start whenever it makes sense for you.
- Interested in building your own professional skills? Consider enrolling in CMSE 890 005 for Fall 2022, which covers communications, teamwork, leadership and mentoring skills in the context of interdisciplinary research. This course includes two separate certificate programs, is appropriate for all STEM graduate students, and (full disclosure!) is co-taught by me and Dirk Colbry.
- MSU CSTAT is offering a webinar on June 29 about data analysis, which can count as 1 hour of RCR training towards the annual refresher requirements for PhD students. Learn more and register here: https://cstat.msu.edu/event/ten-simple-rules-initial-data-analysis-0
- On June 25, Meridian Township (home to Okemos and Haslett) is celebrating the in-person return of its annual festival, which will be held near the Farmer’s Market in the north parking lot of the Meridian Mall. Learn more about this fun, free event here: https://www.meridian.mi.us/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/9883/