I’m not remotely a scientist, nor will I ever be, but I picked up Letters to a Young Scientist by biologist Edward O. Wilson at the library the other day, possibly because of its shiny green cover but more likely because it sounded like a book that would offer good advice to a young person, and I like to consider myself a young person. The science part was somewhat irrelevant.
Still, I learned some interesting tidbits about the field of science as a career (specialize, specialize, specialize) but felt Wilson’s message could be applied to other fields as well. This passage struck me:
“Where would you like to be, what would you most like to be doing professionally ten years from now, twenty years, fifty? Next, imagine that you are much older and looking back on a successful career. What kind of great discovery, and in what field of science [or insert your passion here], would you savor most having made?
“I recommend creating scenarios that end with goals, then choosing ones you might wish to pursue. Make it a practice to indulge in fantasy about science [again, your passion]. Make it more than just an occasional exercise. Daydream a lot. Make talking to yourself silently a relaxing pastime. Give lectures to yourself about important topics that you need to understand. Talk with others of like mind. By their dreams you shall know them.”
I don’t know about you, but when I have been asked to think about what I’ll be doing professionally ten years from now it was always during a job interview. I always had the right answer ready, but I don’t know that I ever thought about my true answer–the authentic one that probably wouldn’t have gotten me the job. It’s never too late to think about goals–professional or otherwise. So that’s your homework. Think about your future self and your goals. Learn topics you’re afraid of but that will help you (Don’t be afraid of math, he tells scientists), and watch that future self manifest.