Five important things to remember in science

blackjack by banspy

Avoid the career virus!
[Via Naturally Selected]

When we come down with flu, we do everything we can to get rid of the virus and get better. But when we come down with mind viruses—or ideas that harm us rather than help us—we often just accept them as “how things are,” doing nothing to counter their damaging effects.

There’s one mind virus, particularly acute these days, we should all pay attention to:

Science is a real struggle. It is a dog eat dog endeavor, and if you aren’t hyper competitive, super smart, and working 80 hours a week, you won’t succeed.

This mind virus was highlighted by the recent case of the postdoc poisoning his colleague’s cell cultures, because he was afraid she might be getting ahead. Not only was the act itself borne of this mind virus, but so were many of the comments following it. “That’s just the way it is in science these days,” was a common refrain in the blogosphere.


Such ultracompetitiveness often does more harm in science than good. Pushing yourself may help sometimes but viewing everything as a zero-sum game where the only way to move yourself forward is to harm others is not a long-term successful strategy.

Because science is a small world and it gets around when you abuse others. Your brilliance may be enough to overcome the distaste of others but you can find yourself quite alone when you need help the most.

Here are the 5 things Morgan suggests that can help:

  1. Learn to live “in the moment” and enjoy every moment. If you’re in the moment, then you’ll realize that you have great power to make things happen. Some people refer to this as “mindfulness.” It works.
  2. Don’t focus on what success others are having, or what you haven’t achieved yet. Focus only on your own success and what you want to achieve.
  3. Help other people rather than being afraid of them. The more you help others, the more it will come back to help you. his doesn’t mean giving away your results to a competitor—but it does mean helping a lab-mate or a colleague whenever you have the chance.
  4. Get enough sleep. Many of us academics think that the only way to get ahead is to spend long hours working, while depriving ourselves of sleep. That’s like driving your car without enough engine oil. You can get away with it for a while, but eventually the engine blows out.
  5. Realize that the only thing you can control in your life is what’s in front you, here and now. You can’t control the competition. You can’t control whether your experiments will have the outcome you want. Make the most of what you can control, by doing the right work at the right time—and ignore the rest.

Not only will your life improve, but very likely you will be more productive and a lot happier. Work towards win-win and things will be much better. There can be more than one blackjack at the table.

The conversation I moderated

On September 14, I moderated a discussion between Ash Awad, Vice President of Energy & Facility Services at McKinstry; and Daniel Friedman, Dean of the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington.

The topic was A Conversation About Sustainable Design and the Seattle Channel videotaped it. It was a fantastic evening and I had a wonderful time sitting between two great speakers.