Practice & Luck

The harder I practise, the luckier I get.

Quote Investigator explores the story of this little phrase, which I only encountered recently but which has clearly been around for a while. Long time readers of this blog will know I don’t believe in “luck” – but I appreciate the sentiment here. The more you invest in your research, your skill, your knowledge, your thesis, your practice – the more you invest in yourself – the “luckier” you are when you encounter tricky situations.

Preparation is needed for the viva, but don’t forget you’re drawing on years of practice when you meet your examiners. You make your own “luck”.


Flashback to one of the earliest posts in this blog: “You’re fortunate, you’re not lucky.

A tricky question, a tough correction, a difficult discussion – none of these are unlucky. They happen for a reason. You missed something. You made a choice that didn’t come together. You had a lapse of concentration. Some of these things may or may not be beyond your control. But still, you’re not unlucky – that would mean that your PhD and viva were just random events.

You’re not simply lucky if you pass; you’re not simply unlucky if something doesn’t work quite right. And given that a massive majority of viva candidates pass the viva, it’s not likely that you would be unfortunate either.

What’s On Your Mind?

Probably a lot.

101 questions, about life, the state of the world, what you’ll be doing in six months, what you’ll be doing next year…

What’s for dinner, what will happen in that show I like, should I call so-and-so, what am I forgetting…

And then you think about your viva.

Now 1001 questions.

What will happen? What will they ask? What do I do? What can I say? What do I say if they ask about that question or topic or thing I don’t like? What should I do? What could I do? Will they like it? When will I know?

And at the root of it all: Am I ready? Am I good enough?

Don’t drown in questions. Get them out. Write them down. Tell someone. Ask someone to help. Ask someone for information or advice.

But at the root of it all: Are you ready? You can be. Are you good enough? You will be.

Slow & Steady

Don’t rush preparing for your viva.

You’re busy, of course. You’re stressed, at least a little, most probably.

You only have so much time and you want to make sure you’re ready.

Start sooner rather than later. Do what you can. A little each day will help.

A little reading. A little writing. A little thinking. A little talking. A little practice each day.

It all adds up.

For viva prep, slow and steady helps you be ready.


…you’re talented.

…your thesis is done.

…you only have a little way to go.

…is not like your first year.

…you’re at the end of the journey.

…you’re able to think clearly.

…you have experience.

Whatever first year, second year, third year was like, now is not then. Now you’re on the final approach to being done. Now you’re the expert.

Now you can be ready for your viva.


My wife and I really enjoyed the Daredevil show on Netflix. For those who don’t know the character, Daredevil is a superhero who is blind but has super-senses. His hearing, sense of touch, smell and so on are so powerful that he has an advantage over people who can see. Of course, there are some things he can’t do, because despite his super-senses he still can’t see.

Nathan, this is a blog about a vivas and PhDs and stuff!

Oh yeah!

The character of Daredevil got me thinking about the viva. If you’re on your way to the viva you have a similar situation: you’re blind to what’s coming your way. You don’t know how long it will be, you don’t know what questions are coming, you don’t know what opinions your examiners have formed. There’s a lot you don’t and can’t know.

But like Daredevil you have an advantage: you have the experience of doing your PhD. You have 3+ years of work and thinking about your research, not just the thesis. You can’t see the question coming, but when it comes you know how to tackle it. Why? Because you have superpowers.

(Again, it’s no accident that you’re at the viva)