李丁DLog博客

相关:李丁聊天室Podcast

邮件订阅 | rss feed image rss feed
6 August 2018

WB #1. On Readiness

by 李丁

想要第一时间收到李丁未来的的创作,请邮件订阅

The past month must have been the most hectic month I have ever experienced. 

Less than a month ago, I was still struggling to finalize my job search process, deciding my next career move. Three weeks ago, I sold my TV and couch in the midst of working on my thesis defense presentation. Two weeks ago, I shipped away a dozen boxes totaling more than 1000lbs and managed to sell/recycle/dump all the furniture/appliances in our apartment. Made it just in time to move out of New York city. Since last week, I’ve been working tirelessly on my dissertation revision and my conference talk — both are due in a week.

Will I be ready for the revision and talk? Not so sure. Probably not.

Will I deliver the revision and give the talk in time? Definitely. No doubt that’s going to happen.

Same questions can go for my job search, my defense talk, my moving and etc. Was I 100% ready for all of these? No. I wish I had more time to prepare for my job search, to figure out a better research vision, to practice more technical questions to pass the coding screening. I wish I had more time to polish my defense slides, to come up with a more coherent thesis storyline, to make better visuals — The list can go on and on.

The problem is, there was no more time.

I was not 100% ready. Everything just had to happen no matter what.

I still remember my anxiety for my first-ever coding phone interview because I was not completely ready. There were coding questions on my list I wanted to review, but I ran out of time. I did ok. Not too bad, not perfect, just okay. The world didn’t collapse.


Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Most people are not ready for what’s coming.

There are the internal and external reasons. 

On the internal motivation side, some would feel they have to keep improving as long as they still can. Take academic publication deadline as an example. In my research field (computer graphics), there are a conference track and a journal track — they work very similarly with the biggest difference being the deadline. For conference track, the deadline is a fixed date in January; you make it or miss it. On the other hand, there is no deadline at all for the journal track; you can spend as much as time you need to work on your project until you are ready. Here is what I observe on the time difference between the conference and journey ones. 

With a journal submission, both the students and professors tend to spend far more time on wrapping up the research. My guess is they always feel they could do better. When they’d reached 80%, they aim at 90%; when 90%, they strived for 95%; when 95%, they wanted 100%. As we all know the law of diminishing return, at some point, the team will decide to move on and finish the journal submission. Usually this self-fulfilled quasi-readiness comes much slower than a strict deadline imposed by conference submission. In the end, you may spend more time, but is the quality much better? I am not sure.

When we think about external factors, this becomes even more obvious. Even in the rare case that you feel you are 100% ready, it is very likely some other people (especially the senior and the experienced) will still feel like you are not ready at all. This has happened to me. I remember working on my first ever talk. I spent at least two months on it and felt it was a satisfactory talk. After my confident rehearsal presentation, I was swamped by criticisms and feedback on how to improve my talk. In the eyes of the experienced, I was simply not ready.

In retrospect, the external factors are so prevalent. I feel it was not ready when I re-look at my undergrad senior thesis & slides. Experience alone can contribute to the gap in readiness. No matter how hard you try, to some eyes, you are not ready. What should we do if we can never be ready?

Those who dare to step up when not ready are the fastest growing ones.

Since we cannot be always ready, what can we do? We either back off or gather what we have and step up. I believe those who dare to step up will grow the fastest.

Allison Tolman, one of the leading actresses in Fargo (if you haven’t watched, you should.), shared her audition experience for the show in an interview. She was working on a temp job while waiting to hear back from her audition. When she got the congratulation phone call, she wasn’t sure whether she qualified and whether she should take it. The producer convinced her that she’d do a great job portraying the police officer role. Her doubt was that she’d only worked in theaters where rehearsals are a must for every scene. But in this TV show production, most shots are done within 1~2 takes without any rehearsal. It took her a while to get accustomed to the new format. In the end, she turned out a great TV actress. 

She didn’t think she was ready. But she gave a try and it worked out nicely.
How much difference is there among you and your peer colleagues in term of technical skills? I would guess everyone at your level is more or less on par. 

Who will be the one to stand out after a series of projects? 

Those that constantly step out of the comfort zone and overcome the unreadiness. In a workplace or any professional settings, modesty is not always the best strategy. Sometimes, one needs to be confident and believe that he/she can do it. It is not easy. You have to trust that it will get done; if not by you, then by someone else with very similar qualifications. Why not boost yourself and give it a shot.

Not ready != Not well-prepared.

The line between ready and prepared is blurry. I think of well-prepared as the more physical aspect of the preparation. For example, to prepare for a marathon, one has to go through a tough training process. Get your body in a proper state to be physically possible to run 42 miles. Possibly eat on a diet to keep yourself in shape. All these can be thought of as a nice preparation for the marathon.

As you get closer to the contest date, you will ask yourself, “Am I ready for this?”. Hopefully, you feel ready. This readiness comes more from the emotional side — based on the tireless training, your body is ready and you are informed that you are ready by all the signals throughout your training. 

No one can get a good job done without any preparation. 

Consider Allison the actress again. Although she doubted herself for a second, she was actually very well-prepared for the role — her degree was in theatre performance and after graduation she had already spent five years in a local theater to perform. When the opportunity came, she simply needs to transfer her knowledge into a seemingly unfamiliar domain. The key is she is well-prepared when an opportunity presents itself.


Even though I am sure I will get my talk and thesis done, I still want to make the best possible deliverables (internal motivation 🙂). Back to work now.

tags: work |

想要第一时间收到李丁未来的的创作,请邮件订阅




评论: