In the famous riddle, you are supposed to connect all the dots with four straight lines. You can sweat and try as long as you like but you will always be just one line short from connecting all of them. Unless you look outside the box, and make yourself space beyond the limited area of the square - then, all of a sudden, everything becomes easy. The point is: as a scientist, you are pressed to do multitasking as well: as opposite to industry, in academia, you need to prove yourself in multiple different roles every day, and the collateral stress is inevitable whenever you are a good or a bad worker. So, how to deal with stress?

I observe two contradictory trends in academia these days. On one hand, experimental researchers flock together into bigger and bigger consortia, in order to collaborate in large groups in order to be able to conduct complex experiments that are so labour- and knowhow- expensive, that it would not be possible to approach them in a more traditional fashion based on an individualistic achievement. On the other hand, anyone who is connected well enough and talented enough, can formulate a research question, search out for the open datasets, conduct a computational study, report the results and post them in a form of a preprint, and then spread the news through the social media.

As a scientist, you are doomed to live in a shadow of deadlines, short contracts, and mutual dependencies as you are by definition bound to a dynamic web of people, some of whom might behave differently than expected. The collateral stress is inevitable whenever you are a good or a bad worker. And if you ask your family and friends about what to do with yourself in such conditions, they will all tell you: go for a walk, meditate, go to spa, relax, go to a therapy, grow flowers, stare at the blue sky, listen to your favourite music. All these activities are superficial and do not solve the true problem.

Initially, I was hesitating for a long time if I can even manage to supervise a student. Namely, if I will be able to catch some good vibes and keep on going regardless of little bumps on the way which naturally pop out during research: you try and fail, and then try and fail again and again… But now, I must say that supervising students is a wonderful experience to me, and I consider it – so far – the most fulfilling part of the PhD track. 

Researchers have their personal styles of working, and some of them are more like craftsmen, whereas others are more like artists. And the irony is: in order to produce a novel scientific study and publish it well, you need to be an artist, but you also need to be a craftsman - and these two qualities are rarely to be found in one and the same person.

So, when I found myself in the Silicon Valley, I realised that I had heard about almost all the new trends in business and industry, and almost all the influential figures in the Valley - from YouTube, not from press or television. This means what whatever is more or less popular in real life, becomes also popular online. Or maybe even the opposite?

This evening, I was sitting at the Didirion Station in San Jose waiting for a bus to Los Angeles.  It was a Monday evening, 11pm. I just finished a goodbye dinner in a good restaurant with my sister.  I was at the station from where the cheapest buses to Los Angeles were taking off, and I was there mostly to taste some folklore; just to try some simple life from time to time once I am on travel. 

It seems to me that the whole Uber phenomenon is ephemeral as in a few years, cab drivers - especially here, in Sillicon Valley - will most probably be replaced by self-driving cars. However, it is interesting to observe this phenomenon from the psychological point of view.

Cryptocurrency market, often referred to as fin-tech and originating in 2008 with the birth of bitcoin, is now a growing branch of finances. It is still a controversy whether or not the digital currencies will ever displace the traditional currencies, or whether or not they even have any value at all.

A visit to California is an eye-opener, as the Dutch job market could not be any more different from the American one. Namely, it is way easier to get funding in the Netherlands when your project or your company is eco-friendly, employee-friendly, and has a societal impact or just supports some minority. Therefore, high working culture and societal impact are an important part of any business pitch in the Netherlands. Here in the Silicon Valley on the other hand, the thinking is. ‘First make your customer happy, and then your workers will be happy too’.

Los Angeles has such a rich religious culture. From scientologists, through the Unitarian Universalists, to shamanistic associations. Every time you start talking to a new person, you can end up with a private lecture on a completely unexpected, spiritual topic in this place. This time, two folks whom I accidentally met at a cheap hostel at the Hollywood Boulevard, took me to some workshop on self-development. ‘Self-development in Hollywood might mean anything’ - I thought, and I was very curious about it.

‘Yes, people do become successful after reading motivational books but the thing that made them succeed is the same thing that had driven them to read the motivational book in the first place - The desire to succeed.’

I noticed that there are lots of similarities between the life of a scientist, and a life of a DJ. DJs spend their whole days on creating music in the studio, behind the closed doors, on their own, and then go out to the crowd to play the new pieces during huge events. Once you are successful, everyone expects that you will only produce high-class hit songs from now on. Can you then still be faithful to the rules you vowed to yourself at the start of your scientific career in such a situation? Once you go under more and more pressure, you just need to develop that thick skin in order not to get overwhelmed and depressed.

There are two types of things: important things, and urgent things. Unimportant and urgent things should be delegated. Unimportant and non urgent things should be postponed (or delegated). Things that are important and urgent should be prioritised. Things that are important and non urgent, are the crucial ones and should be taken care of on the regular basis.

Passive income became a popular key term over past few years. It comprises all the possible ways of making money which you initiate and then can let go, so that the money, in a word, keeps on producing itself. Most of the time, passive income relates to online activities, such as writing e-books and selling them on Amazon Kindle website, releasing an online course which can be downloaded at a price, releasing popular youtube videos so that you can capitalise on advertisements, affiliate marketing, Fiverr freelancing (which means that you can offer any service at a fixed price of five bucks), launching an online business that can be automated to a high extent such as an online store with one or two employees, etc.

These days, I was thinking a lot about all the factors that hindered my development during first three years of my PhD. Every time I deliberate on this topic, I come to the same conclusion: the biggest problem I had was being driven by fear. I have 13 courses completed, much more than necessary. And now, finally, the time has come: I need to learn some genetics. And I have a strong resolution to do it without opening a single textbook.

I could not understand how people can deliberately abuse their own freedom. I guess that people are naturally afraid of decision making, which might explain why reducing choices to the minimum might soothe them a little bit, and give them some comfort of not being obliged to take a decision.

What does the competitiveness come from? It is not a very prominent feature of the Dutch society -  this society is more about equity and cooperation. No wonder: once you look at the educational program at the Dutch primary schools, the first class they ever have is ‘working in teams’. Which is very much in opposition to Polish schools where they were always telling us to compete.