Born to do it
I always had a tendency to procrastinate by watching and reading lots of materials dedicated to self-development, investing, business and entrepreneurship. I never had any particular reflection on why this was the case; I just felt that watching self-development materials on YouTube works better for my long-term personal growth than watching random shit-shows, and makes me feel better about myself, overall. Whenever I self-educate myself, I never get this itchy feeling of wasting my free time. Funny enough, according to some research, this tendency to spend time on self-help literature correlates positively with life-long success. Obviously, correlation is not causation, and it is hard to determine whether people who self-educate themselves become successful because this knowledge contributes directly to their development. Or rather, they become successful because they are naturally ambitious, so that their internal motivation is the common cause to both life-long success and to a tendency to feed yourself with self-help materials. Anyways, one insight I remember from all these materials is that, entrepreneurs always underscore how difficult it is to go against your relatives and friends when it comes to risking, investing and dropping day jobs on behalf of starting new ventures. They typically declare that going against their family’s expectations, was a big mental burden throughout their careers as entrepreneurs.
Recently, I have found myself back on the job market again, and I started to think about what to do next. At some point during my PhD, I realised that there is so much to do around academia that it is probably more useful for the rest of the world if I turned most of my attention to making little contributions to the global improvements in this area, rather than working on just one more method for data analysis to show off my competences as a researcher, to feed my academic CV and to append a dictionary of thousands of available methods existing on the market already by one more item. I also felt that I started floating away from the original, focused goal to become a professor of neuroscience in a natural, organic way. Namely, ever since I got all the time in the world to plan my day, it rarely becomes a ‘research day’ or a ‘programming day’; most often, it turns into a ‘writing day’, a ‘networking day’ or a ‘logistics day’ instead. I badly wanted to be a scientist ever since I was 6 years old. This means that I was fixated on one vision of what I am going to do with my life for the past 27 years. Now, I am in a phase when this vision is slowly falling apart, with some other talents, desires and interests coming to the surface instead. And I am confused. It feels a bit like a very long term relationship coming to an end: trains of thoughts come to your head every day. Why did it happen? Whose fault was this? Is there anything good still waiting out there? How to deal with the grief? How to proceed so that the next time, everything works out just perfectly? Is it better to focus on self-development for now, or is it better to start something else immediately?
And here comes the joke. In my case, family and friends react completely differently than in most cases I ever heard of: instead of persuading me to get myself a stable job and start ageing with dignity, they try to persuade me to go the opposite direction and to become an entrepreneur instead. My mother, my father, my grandmother, my friends - all of them claim that I am simply not a type of a payroll worker and I would suffocate if I became one. I also talked to some people I know, who are in their fifties and sixties, and who managed to develop successful careers as professionals hired at public and private institutions. Many of these people, although undeniably successful, hide some deep regrets that they never tried the dangerous yet exciting entrepreneurial path. And, they try to persuade me to try as well. For more, no one knocks at my door saying that they would be willing to employ me, but instead, plenty of people knocks at my door saying that they would like to partner up with me or work for me. All this makes me even more confused as I feel that plenty of people I personally know, project their own buried dreams onto me. Entrepreneurship is an extremely difficult and stressful job, and Elon Musk famously compared developing a company to eating glass and staring into the abyss. And when you search online, it turns out that not everyone is happy about the fact that they became entrepreneurs. It is a difficult path and it could simply not work out in the end. It is actually much more likely that it does not work than that it does …
And so, this is it: I am standing on the crossroads in the middle of nowhere. A lot of voices in the back of my head, but nothing looming on the horizon. And, I am standing up there for a while now, so, it is time to finally make some decision and go one way or the other before it gets dark.