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Saturday, April 16, 2011


I've always wanted to the be top specialist in my own subfield. I realized at a certain point that I will never know if I have achieved that, because there is no official list, but that by having that as my initial goal, I have made sure that I am a name that must be mentioned in the conversation, at least. A somewhat grandiose goal helped me to achieve a modest amount.

If your goal is modest, that is fine, but generally speaking people come up a little short. I think a goal should be realistic but still a bit ambitious. That way, if you don't quite get there, you'll still have come further than someone who didn't try to do very much in the first place.

You might have to attempt to publish three articles a year in order to average one and a half. If you goal is three, you will probably publish one or two, but if your goal is one, you might not publish any. (If your goal is twelve, you might not publish any either. There is no point in setting a goal that's impossible.)

I realize most people don't think being the best person in a field is a correct goal. It sounds too competitive. Feel free to think in terms of non-competitive goals if you want. I'm just wired that way.


profacero said...

It's not too competitive. Reasons to be best in subfield are what that means about how you get to spend your days. That's not even about ego, it's about interest and pleasure.

My goals, as we know, were originally survivalist and I was dissatisfied with that. I actually thought that was how academia was and that if you wanted more you had to do something else. And, you had to constantly adjust and renounce, I was taught. Bad advice, I think.

profacero said...

But I think people should be encouraged to think more about goals. Mine, for going into academia, were entirely too modest, or were articulated in too modest a way:

1. it was a job I was sure I could do - wasn't sure about others;
2. if I had a career I wouldn't have to depend economically upon a marriage (what was expected then);
3. it would mean interesting activity and research travel.

profacero said...

What they really were, and I wish I'd articulated them earlier and also had more info on whether academia was a good fit for these goals:

- fast paced career in large, active research organization
- urban life
- foreign travel
- lots of social contact, teamwork
- writing, presentations, etc.
- impact on policy

...and, as one can see, this fits some of academia but not all, and it fits the think tank profile much more