“Short cuts make for long delays.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Last week was the Canadian university football final (Vanier Cup). My University was playing, its 8th final since 1999 (won its 7th!). For the past 10 years, they have been the dominating team of their division. Not bad for a team that did not exist until the middle of the 90’s (and for some was doomed to failure). It is a model of success. Attendance to home games now averaged 15000 peoples. This number is small compare to US college football but is 2 to 3 times higher than most Canadian university program. Of course, this helps the program, money-wise…
This story serve a purpose. This team is now regarded with envy by those who are unable to reach that level. Instead of regrouping and doing the necessary hard work, they whined… The team philosophy is also interesting. When recruiting “star” players from a previous level, the only promise is the opportunity to show themselves in practice with the others. Every starting position is on merit and hard work; No shortcut to attract these “star” players. The payoff: be a better player (an individual) in the long run by playing with and learning from the best and, as a bonus, play 3-4 games more per year (because of the finals!) – over the five years eligibility period, this translates to 2 “extra” seasons of play experience.
Sure, when looking at successful researchers (or a football team) it would be easy to say they are lucky, they are richly financed, and so on. You can be lucky once in a while, but there is no such thing as continuous luck. If you ask those who have been in the game long enough, you will find that they did not chose the easy road and had to earn everything.
Let’s face it, it would be nice to skip a step, cut a corner and still get the best of everything. The truth is there is no such things as an effective shortcut in the long run.
In reality, to get long-term success as an independent researcher, the necessary ingredients are few:
- Clear vision.
- The ability to stick with the important stuff.
- The capacity to say no.
- Having fun at conducting research (it should almost be a hobby)
- Last but the most important, hard work.
So set the highest standards and stick to them 😉