my name is natalia. I am a Phd candidate at the radboud university nijmegen medical centre, nijmegen, the netherlands. in daily life, i do research in computational psychiatry. in free time, i go dancing, hiking, investing and blogging.

Luck

The popular belief is that people who perceive themselves as successful and lucky, are those who just take opportunities – notice the money lying on the street and take it. Or, those who interpret some events as lucky whereas others would rather perceive the same events as unlucky. For instance, if you were stolen a wallet, and the wallet was retrieved with a credit card missing but all the documents in place, would you interpret this as misfortune or luck?

I was trying to verify this popular belief by observing people in their private lives, and came to the conclusion that it is only partially true. Namely, in 25% indeed, good attitude to little obstacles on the way makes a difference. But only in 25%: the remaining 75%, it is, unfortunately, the luck factor that determines success. I met some people who are very successful even though they never had to make any effort to find themselves in the point where they are now: finished studies they liked, accidentally found themselves on a suitable PhD track, with a topic that was relatively easy to publish, finished studies in time, got a good postdoc, have a colorful private life and a long publication list, and still can enjoy a lot of spare time next to all of this… I am wondering how it happens that I always bump onto highly challenging projects that might have no solution at all, and then I need to struggle. What is the point of all this suffering? I see no point at all: life is now, and constant thinking of the potential benefits you might have one day after going through all this suffering is just a pie in the sky.

But at the moment, I also do not see clearly how to solve this problem. Developing interesting and safe projects is a skill that one acquires for years or even decades, and I am not sure how I could possibly improve my temporary life in a different way than by counting on other, more experiences people’s abilities to design a project. The only thing I can do is to get track of projects which I observe around me, and try to predict which projects will work out and which will not, so that I will have a better gut feeling for the future. But still, the question is: do I even have any future? If your PhD project does not work out, you have little chances of proceeding further – this is the beauty of hierarchical systems like academia. Of course, I encounter a lot of people who have a different opinion. Some of my supervisors claim that grant writing is about introducing a clear, genuine idea and convincing the reader that you are The Person who can pursue the project. Namely, that the long list of publications does not guarantee success on its own, therefore making it your complex and focusing only on healing this complex will not help. I guess that with time, I will find out better where is the sweet spot. Or maybe I will find a fountain of luck, who knows. 

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Happiness is not forever