Ask, and You Shall Receive

You’ll never know if you don’t try.  The biggest regrets you’ll have in life are risks you don’t take.

There are a ton of cliché lines I can throw at you – but instead, I’ll share with you a little story about taking risks and receiving better-than-expected returns.

I started my master’s only a couple of months ago – I was excited about the prospect of starting some cool research in a new lab.  However, as time progressed, I began to realize that the work I was doing was far off from my expectations.  I found myself becoming less and less motivated, the sparks of interest that I had lit at the beginning of the year began to die out one by one.  I reached a point where I thought I only had two choices – call it quits, or suck it up and go through the next couple years drudgingly just to attach the three letters “MSc” behind my name.  Little did I know that the answer to my troubles was a simple knock on the door away.

I decided (after much encouragement from my peers) to brave the “talk” with my supervisor – to go to her office and tell her the whole situation (which basically meant going in and telling her I wasn’t happy with the project, and that I did not want to continue with it).  Needless to say, I was terrified.  But I reluctantly dragged myself to my supervisor’s office, prepared for the worst.  I sat down in front of her desk – mouth dry, hands quivering (note: I’m not the best at confrontations) – then I spilled.  I told her everything I’d been feeling since I’d started in September – and all the difficulties and frustrations just began to pour out.

My supervisor listened intently and much to my surprise, instead of getting upset, she was very sympathetic of the situation.  Not only was she completely understanding, she gave me options that I didn’t know were available.  After talking through the situation together, we devised a game plan through which I would be able to work on a new project that lined much more closely with my interests.  All-in-all, the results were much better than I expected.  (And now I’m much happier with the work that I’ll be doing with the next couple years!)

Here’s the reality – research can be awesome if you are really interested in what you’re doing.  Research can also be extremely mundane if you’re doing it just for the sake of doing it.  And beyond that, even if you do enjoy your research, you will likely have times when there are things that “just aren’t going right”.  In those situations, it’s important to not be afraid to step up and voice your needs and concerns.  Most of the time, the biggest barrier is ourselves.  Once we get over the hurdle of fear, we become able to confront difficult circumstances.  And you’ll find that more often than not, the returns will outweigh the risks.  


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