Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trial and error .....and error......and error......

One of the hardest things I've had to learn to deal with so far in working in labs is the fact that not everything works on the first try. When I express frustration, others tell me that that's just the nature of lab work, and I shouldn't worry about it. The thing is, I can't help but let it frustrate me, as I view myself as a competent, capable and smart lab worker, and so when things don't work it ends up being a bit of a kick in the face.

I guess my problem is that I beat myself up for things that are not my fault and are beyond my control. Nevertheless, if I continually make mistakes and get nowhere, then eventually things start to look less like random chance and more like a systematic problem - a systematic problem known as me - and so I shoot to avoid this problem altogether. But when you aim for 100%, then even 95% is a failure.

The rational me understands that everything does not always work out when you run experiments, but the irrational me does not. The irrational me expects that I should be accomplishing everything perfectly from the start through to the end and so sets himself up for disappointment.

I have been known to actually blow experiments by rushing too much, often following one or two rounds of wrecked ones, as impatience begets errors. This sort of thing can turn into a dangerous spiral, and one must remind themselves that not all problems are their fault. My supervisor from this summer put it quite nicely on my review at the end: "Sometimes slow is fast enough"

I guess I just have to stop being so hard on myself. If not, grad school will be really interesting.

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