The 2015 Challenge – Entry 9: Challenges Still Ahead

Last week I met Brian for a dinner. He was my partner in a class last semester. I went fishing with him several times (actually I watched him fishing and did little else). He told me that he’s ready to quit PhD for a full-time job. I was stunned for a moment. I knew he had been struggling for a while, but still it made me realize PhD is not for everyone. PhD is not college, not even close. It is tough to do your own works and overcome your own problems most of the time. Clearly Brian was not prepared for the change, even though he got a degree from the number 1 electrical engineering program in the country.

Fortunately, I will remain to continue, at least for another year thanks to the funding I recently received from my advisor. But that does not mean much in my 2015 Challenge. I created the Challenge not with the funding, but my self-improvement as the ultimate goal. Everything was going okay until I caught a cold during my visit to Dallas, and I was in a bad physical condition for the last two weeks. My research did not go as fast as I hoped, not only because of the cold, but also because the problem was getting harder.

Today I’d like to discuss about two aspects in my life that I’m working on. I believe if I make significant improvement in these two areas, I will finish the 2015 Challenge on a high note.

The first issue is sleeping. I have not had enough hours of sleep each day. After a few years I realize that I actually need a full 8 hours of sleep a night. However, my bad time management during the evening, my habits, and some personal issue collectively prevented me from getting to bed on time. I am still too attached to the computer, and the time I spend surfing web has occupied nearly the whole evening. I have done the first step as I have opted out of Facebook. I also force myself to read and practice playing an instrument, 30 minutes of each activity per night. Of course, getting rid of a nearly 10-year-old habit will be challenging. At least I have experienced the amount of energy I should have after an eight-hour sleep last week. That will be the motivation for me in the upcoming month.

The second issue is related to the first: I need to have the energy to battle the problems in both research and books. It demoralizes me each time I read a problem and have no idea how to solve it, although I think I understand the book chapter well enough. I often worry that I will never have enough time to conquer the problems and to gain the insight of the topic in question. And that means I will fail to catch up all the smart students in my research group. Nevertheless, I know I have to keep working and make progress, step by step. I know too well that if I avoid suffering now, undoubtedly I will regret later. I determine not to repeat my mistakes in the past. Everyday I will remind myself that I need to suffer now and reap the rewards later.

(Image source)

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Author: Tri M. Cao

Music with my beloved HD 650 headphones.

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