In a lot of ways, this is an extension of yesterday's post, though an important one.
Many of us are self-motivated. This ability to push oneself even in the absence of an immediate boss figure looming is probably a factor in drawing people to academia. "Academic Freedom" (in both its good and bad connotations) is supposed to allow faculty to do their work without people getting in the way. Whether this happens in reality can be debated, but I would argue that most PIs have a day-to-day freedom that many professionals don't. Because of that, the ability to push oneself is important to long-term success.
As the new member of the department I hit the ground running. I was filling the lab with stuff, writing grants training students, etc. I didn't need anyone to tell me that this stuff had to happen, I wanted it done more than anyone else. I worked like hell to get a functioning lab together and had shit up and running in a couple of months. We produced our first bits of data in less than 6 weeks from me opening the door to an empty room. It was good.
I haven't stopped working with that same intensity, but how many times have I looked around at all of the stuff I have to do while holding some form of rejection (grant, paper, request for an autographed picture of Alan Thicke, whathaveyou) and said to myself "Fuck. This."? More than you might think. I am not saying that I'm going to walk away one day and fulfill my life-long desire to become a trapeze artist, only that maintaining a decent level of motivation in the face of consistent rejection is not an easy thing.
But it is critical.
Everyone's experience will differ depending on who is around them, but my experience has been that the people in my department are quick to say "you're doing all the right things. Don't worry, something will come through!", which is nice... Maybe too nice at times. The reality, at least for me, is that I don't want to be too comfortable with how I am doing until I get some money in the door and papers out the door. I'm working on that, but it doesn't hurt to have people around to say "Dude, sack the fuck up. No one cares that Reviewer 3 was an know-nothing blowhard. Fix it, submit again." Just as effective is seeing others going through just as (or more) difficult a time and still getting up every time they are knocked down.
A tolerance for being told "no" is important, but the drive to keep knocking until someone says "yes" is the only way to get things moving. When you are balancing things at home, teaching, travel, trainees, and keeping your research going, it is incredibly easy to say "I'll just submit one proposal this round instead of two." Honestly, most people in my department either would be fine with me doing that or not know or care one way or another, but I know I need to submit the two (or three in the case of this July) and so do the many people I have met through blogging who I never would have met in another way.
Directly or indirectly, the people who I interact with through blogging keep me motivated when I want to let up a bit. This has been really important for me, particularly in the last 6 months and is the second biggest way in which blogging has helped me. Tune in tomorrow for what has, to me at least, been the most surprising and important effect of blogging.
47 minutes ago