Along with the University’s team, I attended the final of Engineering YES 2015. The post event talk was given by Lord Digby Jones, former head of the Confederation of British Industry. One of his central pieces of advice to the audience, comprised mainly of PhD researchers from Universities around the UK, was “whatever you do (professionally) commit to it”. The stated implication being there are then two possible outcomes: 1. success; 2. failure; but at least you can sleep well knowing you gave it everything you had. In Lord Jones’ words “people who do not fully commit get what they deserve”.
Some professional development gurus profess a belief that “good effort gains poor rewards”, whilst “excellent effort (also) gains poor rewards”. It is only “outstanding effort” which gains truly outstanding rewards.
This highlights a dilemma for a PhD researcher in approaching their career direction. Is it better to:
a) focus solely on one option; or b) keep one’s options open? An example might be a PhD researcher who is thinking about a career in research/academia, but has not focused down on this and so is keeping an eye on other career options. An obvious rationale for this is more opportunity, allied to a risk that if one narrows down to just pursuing an academic career then the intensively competitive reality means there is a risk of coming away with nothing.
Perhaps the key message comes from those same professional gurus, who advocate a three step process: 1. know what you want; 2. know why you want it; 3. take massive action to make it happen. The out comes of this action can then be tailored by what Tony Robbins calls the “ultimate success formula”: 1. take action; 2. use your sensory acuity to determine cause and extent of success or failure; 3. modify in accordance with 2, and take action again.
Or put more simply – commit, and act upon the commitment.