Focus — Your Lab Superpower

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This is the Happy Scientist Podcast.

Each episode is designed to make you more focused, more productive,

and more satisfied in the lab.

You can find us slash Happy Scientist.

Your hosts are Kenneth Vo, founder of the Executive coaching Firm,

Vera Claritas, and Dr. Nick Oswald,

PhD Bioscientist and founder of Bite-Size Bio.

Hello, this is Nick Oswald welcoming you to this bite sized bio webinar,

which today is a live episode of the Happy Scientist Podcast.

If you want to become a happier, healthier, and more productive scientist,

this is the place for you. With me, as always,

is the bite-sized bio teams, Mr. Miyagi, Mr. Kenneth vote.

In these sessions,

we hear from Ken mostly on principles that will help shape you for a happier and

a more successful career. And along the way, I'll pitch in with my,

with points from my personal experience as a scientist and from working with

Ken. If you, if you have any questions along the way,

put 'em into the questions box on the side of your screen,

and I will put them to Ken today.

We will be discussing Focus Your Lab superpower. Okay, Ken, over to you.

I stepped on your intro there, and that I may have,

I may have made a little noise there, little lack of focus on my part.

So we're gonna, we're gonna deal with that right now. Focus is a, uh,

is, is important in, in any, any career sense,

any business sense, any, uh, operational sense.

But it's particularly important in the laboratory.

And I, I, I realize that's not news to any of y'all. Um,

however, you,

there are certain people in your world that are really good at focus and

in there are other people that are, are not good at it at all.

And unfortunately, they span the gamut as far as what,

what positions they hold.

So you can have an extremely focused lab assistant,

and you can have a very unfocused pi, you know, or, or,

or PhD advisor or whatever, you know, or,

and you may look at yourself that way and think, I don't know.

Is focus really a thing for me? Am I good at it? Am I bad at it?

Am I capable, but I'm unwilling? Um,

do I find focus to be an imposition on my creativity

and my, my opportunity to, to look outside the box as it were?

Or is it something that is just absolutely essential to be effective

in your job and in your career? So, that's what we're gonna talk about today,

focusing on your superpowers in the lab.

So the, the first question to ask would be, why focus?

W Why should you bother to focus?

So to give you an idea why you might wanna do that,

allow me to throw out some, some synonyms for unfocused,

and see if any of these sound familiar to you.

And if you're experiencing any of these, or, or if these show up in your world.

Chaos, disarray,

disorganization, confusion,

mayhem, bedlam, frenzy,

turmoil, disruption, upheaval,

and my favorite anarchy. Now,

if those are common things in your world, there,

this is what being unfocused has wrought. This is where it came from.

Focus is actually a solution to any and all of these things.

Now, it begins with focus, helps you clarify your priorities.

Because if you're unfocused, it's,

it's hard to tell what's important and what's not. Whereas if you're focused

importance of one thing over another becomes very, very straightforward.

Now, once you've focused on your priorities,

then focus starts to attract things that are supportive of those priorities.


and you've probably already experienced this in your life many times and in many

ways, where when you start giving something attention,

all of a sudden it starts showing up and you start seeing ways

to, um, accomplish things. You start seeing tools that will help you.

You start seeing problems for the first time. And by the way,

that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing,

because an unseen problem is a disaster,

but a seen problem is not, now it's in your awareness.

Now you can do something with it. And finally,

I'll say that focus draws things progressively more strongly.

That is,

it starts to take priority over other things that are happening in the

environment. And a lot of things happening in your environment can be very, um,

you know, they, they can demand attention. They can be very noisy,

they can be very pushy.

Whereas focus will help you to filter that stuff out and not

be bothered by,

by the noise and the bright lights and the shiny red things and all that.

So this,

this is the case I make for why you should focus

now, now that you've decided, okay, focus is gonna work for me, it's useful.

I think I wanna do that. Um,

I wanna key on the notion of focus versus focusing.

Now, when we add i n g to a verb,

it makes it the present imperfect tense.

And I realize you probably didn't wanna a language lesson right now,

but bear with me a second.

Here's the issue with present imperfect tense. It's,

it's something that's, that's ongoing and incomplete.

So there's big difference between focus and focusing.

Focus is complete. You are focused, it's done. Mission accomplished.

Focusing is incomplete. It means you, you're still working into it,

you're still dialing it up,

and there's nothing about any, uh,

present imperfect tense that requires you to actually finish it.

You can remain unfocused because you're focusing.

See, now focusing on progressing, you know, the,

put that in air quotes is a trap,

because the problem is anything can be labeled as progress, right?

So there's really no incentive or any,

any necessity to ever complete anything.

So the what do you do with that now, okay, if you're,

if you're in a situation where you've got a complex task to get done, or even a,

a whole set of tasks to get done, if,

if you try to focus on any individual thing,

you might forget about other parts of it, right?

You know that that's the excuse we use. Well,

I have to pay attention to everything.

The problem is we can't really pay attention to everything all at once.

So what we have to do is we kinda have to do triage on it.

We have to decide what is in this moment, where's my focus gonna be?

That's gotta be it. You can't be focusing on six things at once.

It's not possible to do that. The focus,

the focus is an an individual event, right?

So rather than focusing on progressing,

what you need to do in that situation is, is to start to set interim,

interim goals, to set milestones that have to happen. And now,

and your focus is not on the big picture at that moment.

Your focus is on a particular accomplishment that needs to happen,

a particular task,

something that has to be completed before you can move to the the next task.

So this is why you wanna be all about focus rather than focusing.

Because if you're focusing, you're patting yourself on the back,

you're telling yourself you're accomplishing focus, but you're not,

it's not actually getting completed.

And it really matters that you can get completed.

So the end point of this is, what are you focused on?

Are you focused on problems? Well, that's one way to approach things.

Are you focused on barriers? That's another way to approach it.

Are you focused on failure? Now,

I presume that if someone focuses on failure,

it's not because their intent is to fail.

The problem is they're worried about failing. So

if that's where you put your attention, then

that's what you're gonna draw toward yourself. As we discussed earlier,

your focus is gonna draw things. Your focus is very powerful.

And you know this from personal experience. This is not news to you.

You've been doing this your whole life and you've seen it happen. You know,

when you're a little kid and you got on that two wheeler for the first time,

and you were scared that you're gonna fall down and you focused on falling down,

guess what? You fell down, right?

And you have the skin need to prove it, right?

You want to put your focus instead on moving forward.

Focus requires you to ignore the panic. It requires you to,

to set aside the worries. And the anxieties

focus is actually about gathering your will.

And if you think about it as your free will is all the choices that

you're making and how you're gonna approach what you're gonna do,

that is the reason why you have that, that position in the lab,

because you are capable of exerting your will.

If you had no, if you had no,

no power to exert your will, you wouldn't be much use to anybody in the lab.

You wouldn't last there very long. And it,

and that's true of any position that requires somebody to be intelligent and

experienced and capable. Um,

we have to exercise our will. Now,

there's another interesting thing about focus. It, it's at your option.

You get to choose what you're gonna focus on. Now, it's true.

You may have an advisor that's trying to lead you to focus on certain things

or, or, you know, a lab manager that's,

that's trying to apply their will to what you should focus on.

But the fact is, it's still up to you. Now,

I realize at some point you may look at that and go, yeah, right? I, I can't,

I can't not do what they, they what the PI says.

I can't not do what, you know, what the, the study leader says. Like,

and I wanna say to you right now, of course, you don't have to listen to that.

You don't have to do anything. Now,

I'm not saying that there's no consequences to that. You know,

when you tell some, when somebody's complaining about their job, and you say,

well, why don't you just quit? And they'll tell you, well, I can't do that.

They're like, yes, you can. Of course you can. You're not a slave.

They don't have to sell you in the marketplace. No,

that doesn't mean it's not without consequences.

It doesn't mean now your children, children won't go hungry.

And some of those consequences can be pretty ugly. But there's still,

it's still an option. You still get to choose where, where you're gonna,

what you're gonna do. And the same thing is true with focus.

So at the end of the day,

focus is about assigning importance.

And you get to make that assignment.

And if you make good choices there, your,

your career progresses well. And when you make bad choices,

if you learn from that, you make better choices going forward.

And now you're,

you can wield your focus in a more powerful fashion.

So there's, there's one last notion I wanna put out there,

and perhaps you've heard the about, um, be,

do, have.

Those are three ways to look at the world is what are you being,

what are you doing? What do you have? Now, people at the most

basic levels of self-awareness, they're focused on what they have.

They're focused on the stuff in their world. They, they care about, you know,

what car do I have? What clothes do I have? What house do I have?

What job do I have it the having is what's the most important to them.

But if you get a little more effective at this,

you will move from have to do. So,

you start thinking about how am I gonna do my job? How, you know,

what am I gonna do in my, my career, in my world, in my relationships?

So you change your focus from what you have to what you do.

And you may even redefine who you think you are.

When you get to the third step, you focus on what you're being. So

when you think of focus, you probably, you might think of, maybe I have focus.

That's, that's not bad. But if you do focus,

if you decide where to apply it, that's even better. But how about this?

What if you can be focused? That's not normally how we think about these verbs.

We talk, think about having or doing them,

but you do have the option to be focused.

You can be a shining example of focus.

You can be someone who's, who's incisive,

um, understanding of things is apparent to all around them.

That kind of focus is gonna take you far and it'll open your

eyes to all kinds of things that might not be available to people who are

doing focus or having focus. If you can be focused,

you're gonna do much better and have more opportunities.

And it's gonna be very expansive for your career.

And in the laboratory specifically,

especially when you have things that could be dangerous,

you have things that could be, um, you know, where the,

you could make very big mistakes, expensive mistakes,

time consuming mistakes. Focus is truly key. So,

any, uh, any thoughts you'd like to add there, Nick?

Yeah, I'm scribbling away. And, um,

I saw Wish I'd you, you, I'd seen this thing when I was, uh, in the lab.

This is actually of what, of all of the things that you've, that,

that I've heard from you. This is one of the most applicable to,

to what's going on in cul in the lab culture as, as I've, uh, you know,

as far as I've seen and I hear from other people. Mm-hmm. Um,

and it's that you start off, well, for me anyway, I started off inspired to do,

uh, a a worthy job, to be a scientist, to, um, to,

to help to do, uh, good work, um,

to build a career and so on. And then I,

then my focus switched to something else,

which made me not want to be a scientist anymore, or not enjoy it anymore.

First of all, then limp along and limp along,

and then not want to do it anymore. And the switch was various things.

Like, and this is what I was scribbling away. It's, I switched from,

um, focusing on what inspired me.

I switched into in that instead, I, uh,

I switched into what annoyed me, you know, what,

what kind irritated me about that job. Um, um,

I switched from, um, what is my ultimate path. I want to,

um, you know, focus on what, what is my ultimate path?

And instead of that, I switched to, you know, what did I want to be as a site?

What's my aspiration? What's keeping me going here? And instead,

I switched to how much my supervisor annoyed me. And he was, he was a bully,

and he was this, and he was that, you know, and instead of, well, okay,

he's a bully, but I'm still, this is a, there's a bigger picture here for me.

That's what I could have done. I switched to, um,

from focusing on what is working and what could work.

And instead, I focused on what, what is not working? You know, what,

what experiments were weren't working.

And to kind of convince myself that I just wasn't good at this,

but it's because I was focusing on, you know, being pulled down the rabbit hole.

It, it's interesting. It, it, it's quite timely.

I was reading a book about this yesterday about what you focus on is what you

get exactly what you're saying here. And the ultimate one, again,

it always comes back to,

is you go in as a scientist to ask questions,

and you end up focusing on getting results.

And that changes the whole perspective. And yeah, well,

everything comes back to that for me in these things. But that, that's,

that was, um, quite illuminating. The, the,

the is the culture to, um,

not just in the lab, but 'cause the lab's quite a crucible environment,

you know, it's quite, it's quite intense. Um,

then it's quite,

it seems to be quite easy to flip that focus into, into negative is,

which then reduces your enjoyment, reduces your output, and, and,

and, and whatnot.

Sure. Well, you know, if you're working in a lab,

you have chosen a, uh, a hard road. You,

you, you've decided to do something challenging. Yeah. And, you know,

don't forget, you made, you made that choice a while at some point,

and you made that commitment. And by the way, you deserve praise for that,

that that awesome. A lot of people don't do anything hard in their lives,

or they do everything to try and avoid it, but you didn't do that.

But now, now that you've made those choices,

you can still backslide into that notion of just focusing

on problems, barriers and failure, you know? Um, and of all,

if that's all you worry about, if that's where you put all your attention, it's,

it comes back to you. And again, this, this notion of our,

our focus will create our world.

We are always seeing things from a certain perspective. But you can,

you can mold and control that perspective because we can't see everything

that's happening all at once, all the time. It's, it's not practical.

We have our limitations. We only have so many, so much bandwidth,

so much brain power to, to apply it any given moment. And if it's like,

um, folks that have photographic memory, that they've been,

they've been studied,

and what they find about people with photographic memory is not necessarily what

you th what you'd expect a lot of us think, man,

I wish I had photographic memory. I just get frustrated when I forget things.

'cause Well, the, the problem is,

what actually happened was you focused on something.

People with photographic memory have difficulty focusing on anything.

They have a hard time seeing what is important in their view.

I'm looking around the room right now, and there's a lot to see here,

but the only thing that's important right now is the computer that's in front of

me. I need to see the slide that I'm showing right now.

I don't need to see the paperwork that's lying behind my computer.

I don't need to see the other stuff that's on the table here.

None of that matters. But somebody with,

with photographic memory would have a hard time picking out what's important in

any given moment. So presuming you don't suffer from that as a malady,

you do have a choice. And, and you can make that work for you.

And it can be,

we can be really be drawn to focus on the negative things. It can be,

it can feel really compelling.

But if you give yourself the chance to focus on things that

are positive rather than negative, and I don't mean just in a Pollyanna way,

but when you can start looking for solutions and start looking

for, for, uh, uh,

ways around things and through things and past things,

that is a far better place to focus your attention.

Because if you can protect yourself from failing,

there's no guarantee you'll succeed. You'll just, you'll just see,

just protect yourself from failing. And by the way,

you won't perfectly accomplish that. You'll still fail sometimes,

but how likely are you to succeed if you don't give some attention to it?

Some focus to success. It is not likely to happen. You know, there,

there's a saying that every once in a while, even a,

a blind to squirrel finds a nut. Is that really how you wanna live your career?

You know? Or only every once in a while, you, you make some progress.

You get to some, to some place you wanted to get to,

you're better off just to,

to constantly looking for ways to succeed with some occasional failure sprinkled

in there. They, they're unlikely to kill you. You're gonna get past them,

you'll learn things from them, and they will feed future successes.

But focus is the tool you will use to get there.

Yeah. Uh, I just, uh,

it just popped into my mind that, uh, we as well,

that the book I was reading yesterday, it's called the,

the su, the Subtle Art of Not Giving an F Star. Star star, dunno if you've seen,

but it keeps popping up in my audible all the time. And, and I thought,

you know what, I'm gonna read that and, um, or listen to it. Um,

it's quite an interesting take one thing, but one of the, uh, one,

one of the things that pops out here, right? And, and again,

I'm just applying this to my experience of being a scientist for

10 years and starting off with massive aspiration and off we go,

and then allowing myself to be worn down by the negative side, right?

And Sure. And, and missing it. You know, I miss, I miss the,

the part of me that still want, would like,

follow that aspiration kind of does miss that. But anyway, what they say,

what he says in that book, one of,

or one of the things he says in that book is that, um,

you always have problems, right?

And all you can do is convert your problems from bad problems to,

to slightly better problems or, or better problems.

And that's what you're trying to do. And

Better quality problems.

That that's, that's,

I think that might be actually the phrase he uses higher quality problems. And,

um, the analogy he used was that people who,

uh, are are, you know,

got a six pack and all this stuff and super fit people and all that,

they have had the focus on the result that they want from that.

But just as importantly,

they're willing to bear the pain that it takes to get there.

And so then they convert their problem from being unfit and feeling bad about

themselves and all that stuff into having a workload and a certain amount of

pain to deal with. But they're,

they're prepared to accept that pain that is what's allowed them to get there.

And so, part of what's going on, uh, so, so there's an,

there's an aspiration and then there's a pain,

a workload and a pain load to get the payoff. Okay?

And you have to accept all of that, right? And the,

the analogy that I would see is that for, for myself, I have the,

and as a scientist, I had the aspiration to be a scientist,

but I wasn't willing to accept the,

the pain threshold that was required there to achieve that. And, and, and I,

I or I focus in the wrong way that made the pain more acute or something like

that. What do you think about that? That

Well, yeah, if we focus on pain, uh, I,

I guarantee you, you're gonna stop whatever it is that's causing that pain.

Yeah. And that may not be in your long-term interest. You know, if,

if all you're focused on is you're sitting there as you're pounding away on that

stationary bike is, I'm not enjoying cupcakes right now.

I could be having a burrito. You know, you're,

that suffering is gonna stop you. Yeah.

Whereas if your focus can be on, okay, what is,

I'm enjoying the, the zone I'm in right now, I, I feel the burn.

I feel the, I feel like I can, I can manage this.

This is, this is a, this is a level that I can take. It's worth the cost.

I, you know, we can,

that inner dialogue is something we do have some say so over. Now,

one thing about it is that inner dialogue just shows up.

It's not like you sit there and, and decide which thought's gonna show up.

Mm-hmm. But when a thought shows up, you do have, you can then make the choice,

do I gonna, am I gonna foster this? Am I gonna nurture this?

Or am I gonna tell this to, you know, hit the showers? You know,

I don't wanna listen to that right now. I'm not gonna,

I'm not gonna sit here and, and whine and you know, I'm not at McDonald's.

Instead I'm at the gym. I, I don't wanna do that. So you let that one go,

something else comes by and it's like, I'm feeling sweaty and gross.

It's like, yeah, don't worry about that right now, either or.

And then a thought comes by like, you know what? I, I think I can keep going.

I'm, I can, I can do another five minutes. You know, you,

you start making those choices. And as you make better choices, you know,

things improve and focus precedes that.

First you have to focus on what is the thought that's coming by.

And then you have to focus on what is the impact of that thought.

'cause some thoughts, the impact is detrimental. Some thoughts. It's supportive.

It it, and it's up to you to choose that You get your inner,

inner world and inner dialogue is yours. Nobody else,

nobody else can tell you about that. It's yours. You don't,

you don't have to listen to anybody else's opinion about it.

You get to do what you're gonna do. And you will build more strength,

more power, more will to,

to approach the things you find to be important. And, and that's,

that's up to you. And focus again, is, is the tool you have to apply.

'cause if you are unfocused, things will get chaotic, things will get disrupted,

they'll get disorganized. And that, that is not,

not the way to get things done.

Yeah. Uh, so I, again, I, I'm applying this to the, being a scientist, you know,

my own experience of, which is all I have, well, and speaking as well,

I suppose, is, you know, start off with aspiration, inspiration, off we go.

And you're, you're doing things. Um, the two things that,

that kind of really ground me down were, um,

you working with supervisors who didn't do things the way that you thought

that I thought they should do. Okay. And so then I get fixed,

fixated in my head. I don't want to work with people like this.

I don't want to be in this industry. I don't wanna work with people like this.

And I can focus on that, which is what I did.

And then it kind kind of ground me down over time. Or I could switch over to,

look, this is a necessary pain. And the same is,

I don't want to listen to the drill instructor telling me that I need to do

another 30 press ups. But if I want to get fit in a certain way,

then I have to do that. And, and the aspiration is more important. You know,

part of the aspiration is, or achieving that aspiration,

that accepting that there's, that, that that's a payoff, you know, and,

and being okay with it and, and, and enjoying it. Maybe if you can, as you know,

the people who enjoy the gym or whatever. Another thing for me was,

and this is an interesting one, is, okay,

being confident that I can do this stuff, I'm, I'm intelligent enough.

I've done all the, you know, I've passed all the exams and whatnot,

but then experiments don't work. And so experiment doesn't work.

Okay? And, and you can just, instead of thinking, well,

that's just what happens, just get back on, do it again. Figure it out,

do it again. Do it again, and perfect it, perfect your craft.

It's easy for it to go into a, well, I I'm not good at this. You know,

you start putting yourself that negative dialogue so you then spiral up for

yourself so that, um, you are

convincing yourself that the, the the put, the, the,

the negative focus is the more important, the more real one maybe,

or more, um, more important one.

Boy, that's, that'd be a all topic for a whole podcast right there.

How I always say that, uh,

optimists never claim to be realists,

but pessimists always claim to be realists.

Guess what? They're not. And neither one is,

realism is something different than pessimism or optimism.

But optimism certainly has its benefits and pessimism.

It's hard to make a case for it being valuable other than, you know,

it saves you from the worst at the worst moments.

That's about all it's got going forward, you know? And,

and it doesn't necessarily do a great job of it either. Because again,

focus is a, just a,

is a neutral tool is great.

But focus that is using some of these other characteristics. Like,

how can I be more realistic in my focus? And how can I be more,

more optimistic in my focus? There's benefits there,

but rarely are you looking at things going,

how would it be more beneficial to be pessimistic in my focus?

It's just not gonna be. So, you know, don't, don't waste the tool.

You should trial 'em in Scotland. That's the ultimate pessimism,

as you know. Anyway, uh, I'm sure there's worse, but, um,

yeah. So how do we, unless anyone,

if anyone has any questions that they want to put in the chat box here,

in the questions box there, I think, uh, but feel free to do that.

But I think we will wind this back round towards,

so what is some actionable advice for people who are on,

who are listening to this live or, or recorded, um,

to how can they apply this to, to, uh,

to improve their, their achievement in their career,

but also their enjoyment of their career science? Sure.


I think one of the points that we were making here is understand the

difference between focus and focusing.

Don't get caught in, in the, I am trying to focus, I'm,

I'm, I am focusing a little more than I was a moment ago.

Instead of just focus, be done. Don't,

don't just do it a little better than you were before when you weren't doing it

at all. You know, start looking for endpoints.

Drive things to their completion, take it to the next step,

and then, then keep going. Then do the next one and the next one. And,

and another thing to do is to, to listen to your inner dialogue. And is,

is your inner dialogue being a supportive friend?

Or is it being a, a naysayer? Is it, is it being a heckler from the crowd?

What is it actually helping or not? And,

and then make the choice whether or not you're gonna allow that to keep being

the way it is. Now,

I'm not saying it's necessarily easy to let go of the heckler,

'cause some of these heckler are quite insistent,

but if,

if you develop the habit of telling them,

sit down and shut up, they will. And, you know, because it's just,

you're just having this conversation with yourself. You know,

I'm not saying you should,

you should be doing this with your boss or with your peers, but, um,

with yourself. Yeah, absolutely. You know, yourself, you, it's all about you.

You get, you get to be in charge of that.

So those are some of the things that come to mind off the top of my head.

So we have a, a question from Barry who's saying that, um,

since there are a lot of things to focus on,

what should we focus on most when we're in the lab?

Wow. Well,

I would say that that's something that you should have done before that question

came up.

And the thing you should have done before that is choose your priorities. Now,

once you have your priorities set, now it becomes clear, well,

what should I focus on? Um, 'cause that, that'll call out.

This is what matters right now. Now, you may have a,

a setting where we really need to focus on safety. That's a high priority.

We need, we need to focus on, on, um,

protecting our materials or,

or our tissues or whatever it is we're working with.

'cause we have a limited supply. Um, when you have that focus in mind,

it'll become clear, well, I gotta be more careful here. I gotta take more time.

I've gotta have more safeties in place. I gotta ask more resources. Um,

I've gotta,

I've got to inform other people about this so that they don't ab you know,

accidentally stumble, stumble into causing harm. You know, that'll,

that'll call your priorities then will call focus into mine. Now,

if you don't have that nec necessity like that, if you can be more,

more freewheeling, more discovery focused, more creative about it,

while knowing that that's an option, now you are free to,

uh, to allow your focus to be, uh, operating,

uh, to operate in a, in a, a larger environment.

And when you know you have that freedom, well now you know, you can,

I can reach out. I can't think outside the box.

I can ask for other involvement from people that have different perspectives.

You know, that all of that will help inform where your focus should be.

But in the moment, sometimes, like, look,

I'm in a restricted environment and I had, I have to pay attention to that.

And so none of it's good or bad. It,

you could have a very open environment and a very close environment.

You could have a very safe environment.

You could have a very dangerous environment. Um,

you could have a very risky environment. You could have a very safe environment.

None of the, none of the environments are automatically good or bad.

They're just what they are.

And being aware of them will help you choose how to focus.

Okay. So we have another question then from,

I might be able to answer this one. How to, how should,

how can you focus on writing your PhD thesis if you've already started your new

job? I did exactly the same thing. Started a new job before writing my thesis.

And it was a very difficult, it took me a long time.

It was a very difficult thing to do.

And I was gonna say to Barry's previous question that you're talking about mic,

not micro focuses, but in the moment, focus, focus. Mm-hmm. And, and those are,

that's really important. But I also think, you know, looking at this for myself,

it's maintaining a macro focus where you're like, why am I doing this?

And, and then when something presents itself,

am I willing to bear the pain? Am I willing to do this as a necessary pain?

I'm going to do it just like I'm training for a marathon.

So I'm gonna have to run a certain amount of miles to be ready to run the

marathon. And am I willing to bear that pain? And for all this, for all this,

um, uh, question there,

how to focus on stay focused as in how to, how to stay motivated,

I would say is stay focused on why you want to finish that thing.

You know, why did you do this? What is the bigger thing? And then,

then ask yourself, are you willing to bear the pain that is gonna take you?

And like the, the, the answer probably is that you are,

it probably will be that you are, 'cause you've got this far,

but what will hold you back?

'cause what held me back was complaining about it all the time that I don't

wanna do that. But if you, if you say, well, this is a, if you say to yourself,

this is a pain I'm willing to bear to get to this end result,

then you can do it. And unlike me,

I had to make myself drag myself over the finish line by eating lots of

chocolate biscuits to convince me to stay at the computer.

Had a really bad side effect. So don't do that.

Well, one thing about this is,

is understanding the difference between making a choice and making a decision.

'cause if you're constantly reevaluating your choices,

now you, you chose to work toward a PhD, that was a big,

big choice, a big commitment in your life. So now though,

you don't reassess that commitment every time you need to work on,

on your thesis, thesis that that's already decided.

You already decided I'm working toward this PhD. So now it's just decision time.

Do I have the, do I have the resources I need? Do I have the,

do I have the focus I need? Do I have, and you know,

is this a good moment for me to be doing this?

Because sometimes it isn't a good moment,

but if you find yourself telling yourself all the time, well, I'm too tired,

or I've got a headache, or I don't have all the materials I need. Or I,

if you're constantly giving yourself excuses, you're,

that's not, those are not great decisions. So start,

start looking at yourself with self-respect and go, you know what?

I'm a a person of commitment. Mm-hmm. I made a commitment to a big project here,

and it is a big deal to get a PhD. Well now that being the,

being the the committed person you are, what would I do right now?

What decision would I make right now? And maybe it's like, you know what,

I'm gonna go take an aspirin and I'm gonna go, I'm gonna get to work on this.

I'm gonna gather the materials I need. I'm gonna head over to the library,

I'm gonna get on the internet. Whatever it is you've gotta do in that moment,

I've gotta talk to the people I need to talk to.

Take a step in the direction you wanna go. Now maybe you're telling yourself,

I've gotta write this thesis. Well, that's a pretty big picture.

There's milestones along the way. And maybe right now,

the next step is all you need to focus on.

The only thing you need to do right now is turn on the computer.

The only thing you need to do right now is make that phone call or send that

email, pick that thing out and then finish it.

Don't, I'm writing the email. No, write it, be done.

Hit send, move on. And then, and then ask yourself,

what is the next step, the next task in front of me.

You're not worried we're at that moment about the finished product. You,

you made that commitment a while ago. That's already done right now.

You need to focus on what's the next step. That's all

I, I always think you can learn a lot for these sort of things from professional


'cause there are people who have committed to something and they are overcoming

the problems that stop most people from doing that level of

exercise. Right? And so, one, one of the,

the things that always springs to my mind, I always tell my kids as well, is a,

a cyclist, uh, he was a s cyclist, and one of the things he did was,

so you wake up in the morning at six o'clock and you have your training session

to do, and you can then make the decision. You make the decision,

uh, am I going out or not? And if you're lying in bed, you,

it is much harder to make the decision to get out. So what his, what he,

all he made himself do was every morning he got up and he put his whole

cycling gear on, got the bike, went outside, sat on the bike,

and then decided whether he was going or not. It took away the whole,

um, took away the whole, uh, you know,

the lazy part of you that wants to just go and watch something on TV or

something like that instead. So if you can get yourself a routine all have for,

um, you know, scheduling your writing for a, you know, the,

the same time every day or whatever you can, and just get a routine that says,

what I do is that I finish work and it's six o'clock to nine o'clock. Uh,

that's my set aside time for writing or whatever it is.

And all I've gotta do is sit down, turn the computer on, get everything ready,

start and then see how it feels and, and, and, and, and go,

that's one way to overcome this sort of initial barrier.

Yeah. I think Tim Ferris wrote about that, you know, he was,

he needed to finish a book and he was talking to a, to a,

an experienced writer friend of his,

and this friend of his told him that my goal is to write,

and I forget the exact number, but it was like a thousand s****y words a day.

That was his phrase. It didn't matter that it was good,

it was meant just put 'em down, put it down on paper, put it down on the screen,

I'll fix it later. But for right now, until you do something,

until you start writing, you can't fix it. And if you're,

if you're just noodling in your head how to say it perfect, how to write,

write it perfect. You, you're never gonna get there. Write it imperfect.

Start there and you can perfect it later.

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. What, okay.

And I'll just throw in that a little tangent to that, not much of a tangent,

but there's one of the best writing pieces of writing advice I've ever had,

which was, when you're writing the first draft, draft, just write Don't stop.

Yeah. Go back and fix it because you,

you hold yourself up so much by thinking about every nuance and detail and

whatnot. Yeah.

Don't worry about punctuation or spelling or grammar, any of that.

Just dump it out there.

Yep. Okay. Oh,

Lose focus Nick.

No, I'm just reading. Just put another thing and I'm just sitting in.

Yeah. Okay. So go is saying that, uh, sorry, is saying that, uh,

currently she just feels so much that it's like a trial trials in chocolate.

I I know the feeling. Um, and not so much focused work on the thesis.

The more she tries, the more she becomes frustrated. This seems like a,

you question, Ken.

Well, I heard a couple of things in there. Um, well first off,

the notion of trying,

if you wanna really solve the problem of trying,

I try so hard and I don't get it done.

Replace the word try with fail. When you tell yourself,

I'm trying to write my thesis, tell yourself I'm failing to write my thesis.

Wow, look at that. It's true.

I am failing to write it because trying again, it's got that i n g on there.

It, it doesn't get completed.

And you can succeed at trying without actually succeeding.

'cause I tried, didn't actually get anything done, but I tried.

Forget about trying. It's, it's, it's like yo had to say, you know,

it's either do or do not do.

I see you're st stringing into you.

Yeah. But you know,

the other thing is what story are you telling yourself about this? 'cause it's,

I'm trying and I'm suffering as I try and it's so hard when I

try that that whole story takes on a life of its own,

and it becomes the most important part, but it isn't the most important part.

It, it, it isn't, isn't important at all. In fact,

that story can completely go away and be replaced by a different story.

So the, the story is, is not critical. So you gotta ask yourself,

what quality of story do I wanna listen to all day?

And especially when you're the storyteller, you're doing it to yourself. Right?

And I'm not saying that to be judgmental or mean about it,

it's just to realize I am writing this story.

I get to choose how the story goes.

And then sometimes it does feel good to have the story,

have a bunch of challenge in it,

and excitement and be on the hero's journey and all that. You, that that's,

that, that's not necessarily bad, but just be mindful about it and choose,

make, make your focus.

Be on a story that will support you and will,

will help you accomplish your end goal.

Yeah. You can do it Olga, or you just, uh, believe in yourself.

You can do this.

And no, sometimes that sounds a little trite. Oh, just believe in yourself.

Like, well, you know what?

You have had moments of believing in yourself and it worked out well. Mm-hmm.

Because I, I, I know for sure you learned how to talk, you learned how to walk,

you got some fundamental things. You gotta figure it out.

And there are occasionally some people that don't figure that stuff out.

And of course, you've taken it far, far and beyond that you've had many,

many accomplishments. Anybody that is working on a PhD or has got a PhD,

I'm sorry to claim that you're unaccomplished is ridiculous.

Tell yourself a better story. You've accomplished a lot of things.

And look at those, look at those examples and go, well,

how do I apply this next? How do I apply this in what I'm facing right now?

When I'm gonna, I'm gonna focus and in my focus,

I'm gonna apply a good story and I'm gonna take this forward.

Right. Okay. Well,

I think that if there's no more questions, then, uh,

I think we'll just wrap it up there. That was a really interesting one.

I always find it funny when it's kinda like, oh yeah, I wish I'd had that one.


Well, and by the way, this is why we're doing this.


Nick started bite-sized bio because of all the problems he saw that people

were encountering in the lab,

and he felt like there was nobody out there helping them. Well,

bite-sized bio was born to help you. So here it's,

Yeah. And then I realized that half those problems are me. So there you go.

You have to, but I have those,

but that's the same as true for everybody who's on the listing end of this.

So don't, don't feel bad about it. Don't look at it and say, well, uh, it,

if it wasn't for me, I wouldn't have this problem. Yeah.

You and a bunch of other people. Yeah. Yeah.

That's the good news is that doing things like this where you,

you can take heat of what you're saying here and switch around the,

the what you're focusing on, for example. Yeah.

Then a lot of those problems will disappear. Um, yeah.

But it does take some practice.

Yep. Well, exactly. So exercise the muscle.

Okay. Thank you, Ken. That was, uh, very, very insightful. And, uh,

thanks to you, the audience for listening in,

whether that's live today or on demand later. Uh,

we hope that you find some benefit from the episode. Uh,

you can look out from more,

from more Happy Scientist episodes in the coming months.

You can find them listed on events bitesize bio com and at the Happy

Scientist Facebook page at uh, Happy Scientist podcast.

Or look up the Happy Scientist Podcast on any of the streaming platforms to get,

uh, the, the podcast version. And there's lots of other,

I don't know what episode this is now, but there are many,

many wisdom packed episodes in that, uh, catalog now. So,

um, but until next time, until we do the next Happys Live,

which I think will probably be in a few weeks, uh,

good luck in your research and goodbye from all of us at Bite-Size Bio,

including Mr. Mgi.


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