Surviving Discouragement as a graduate student.

This thread at the Academia Stack Exchange is marvellous, and full of sage advice, some of which I already have internalized, some of it not so much.

I'm just going to harvest the page for some quotes:

The fact is research is hard. It appears to consist primarily of staring at a problem for days and days and days without getting anywhere. Sometimes, rarely, I do figure something out and that feels wonderful, but the overwhelming majority of my time appears to be spent banging my head against a mostly figurative wall.

Yes. This. And it wouldn't be so damn tempting if those bricks didn't wiggle just a little bit every time I slammed my forehead into them. Sometimes I think my eyes must be playing tricks on me, what with the repeated cranial trauma and all. But then I remember how good it felt the last time my head actually went through the wall, and so I keep plugging away.

-- JeffE

The metaphor is apt, and the sentiment very true.

But it's the small sublime moments of joy when you realize that you've discovered something that no one else knows that make it fun. And the feeling, as time goes on, that you're immersed in a wonderful lake of , with beautiful new ideas around you as far as you can see.

p.s the advice you were given is very sound. Take breaks, find fulfilling things to do outside of work, and realize that everyone (even seasoned researchers) feel the same frustrations and highs that you do.

-- Suresh

A reminder that even successful people have struggled, and the reason why.

  • Failure is normal—and even to be expected. Just about nothing works exactly as you predicted it would. More importantly, if something doesn't go wrong, then your project has been badly designed, and in fact, I would argue that you're only doing development, not research!
  • Don't be afraid to fail! Failure teaches you lessons that you will never learn from success. I needed a few really abysmal grades in college to get me on the right track—the proverbial kick in the pants that allowed me to realize I couldn't coast through college the way I did through high school.

-- aeismail

This is one of the lessons I need to take more to heart.