How To Juggle

One of my heroes, Seth Godin, describes in one of his books why people struggle when they learn to juggle. Wannabe jugglers focus so much on trying to catch balls that they don’t throw them enough. They want the catch to be perfect so they hesitate. The secret, as he shares it, is that you need to throw the ball a lot more and not worry about a perfect catch. Better to start the action first before worrying about how you’ll complete it. Seth’s really talking about projects, and fear, and hesitating before making something good. Every project is throwing the ball from right hand to left, a chance to do something well.

PhDs unfold over a long period of time. A PhD is like a big project, but it’s wrong to see it as a single throw of a ball. There’s so much more involved. Like juggling, you get good at doing the PhD by doing it. Reading more, writing more, doing more. Each step is a single throw. When you’re near submission or the viva you’ve caught the ball a lot. You must have become good at doing your research. You must have become good at being a researcher.

The viva is a big deal. It’s normal to be nervous. If you’re feeling uncertain, reflect on your skills. Reflect on your progress. Reflect on what exists now that didn’t exist when you started your PhD. Your thesis didn’t just happen: you’ve made a lot of catches.

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