“There’s No Miracle People”

Today is the centenary of the birth of Richard Feynman. Since I first heard about this Nobel-winning physicist/mischief-maker/inspiration I’ve not stopped looking for documentaries, books and more about him. He was, quite simply, an amazing human being and researcher; he made an impact that will be felt for generations.

I have a lot of favourite Feynman stories and quotes. One that came to mind thinking about today, and thinking about the viva, is from an early-1980s BBC short film, right from the start of the programme:

…I was an ordinary person, who studied hard. There’s no miracle people. It just happens they got interested in this thing and they learned all this stuff… There’s no talent or special miracle ability to understand quantum mechanics…that comes without practice and reading and learning and study…

You might not be studying quantum mechanics, but if you’re a PhD candidate then Feynman’s observation holds true. You got where you are because of what you did: all the practice and reading and learning and study. You’ll get through the viva for the same reasons.

Letting Go

At some point you have to let go of your thesis. At some point it’s as good as it’s going to get. You can’t anticipate every comment you could get from examiners. You can’t write things in an effort to prevent questions. It doesn’t work that way.

For any kind of creative work – and a thesis is a creative work – there comes a point where you have to stop, be happy with what you’ve done and move on. Moving on after submission means preparing for the viva, using the solid foundations of your research and thesis.

Let go when you submit. You’ve done as much as you could possibly do.