Before you read what I have to say, I would like to mention my motive for writing this blog. It is important to prepare yourself for victory or awards, and know when you are not ready. Through this defeat in my life, which I tell you about in this article, I learned a few important things that I thought about sharing. So read through and I hope it helps you some way.
We celebrate victories while learning from the losses. Life has been very kind to me in both scenarios, which have come quite often to me. In the last 10 years, it has been a roller coaster of a ride, with many highs and lows in both my personal and professional life. The highlight was undoubtedly the moment when I defended my Ph.D. thesis, back in September 2020.
It was even more special because I received my Doctorate with a distinction award, which meant that I had the opportunity to be nominated for the Prime Minister’s Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis, here in Poland. After a few months waiting when the application procedure started, I received a lot of encouragement from my department and my collaborators. Finally, when it was confirmed that my ‘Thesis’ is ‘Formally Nominated’ for this prestigious award, I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time. On the one hand, I was happy to be nominated and on the other I was quite nervous because the competition level is enormous.
Expectations and Doubts – That was me overthinking 🙂
Being nominated itself was an achievement for me, as I did not expect or planned it. A few years ago, an outstanding researcher (Dr. Jakub Nowotarski) from our Department of Operations Research and Business Intelligence at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology received this award. I wanted to be the next!
Once the nomination was passed, the wait began, and so did those thoughts of merit and inferiority. I followed up on my work and did not discuss this much with anyone. I wanted it to be a surprise for my friends and family if I won it, rather than raising their expectations and disappointing them in the end. Somewhere deep down, I had my doubts! However, being an optimist, I never lost hope. Furthermore, after receiving the award for “Best International Ph.D. Student in Poland 2020”, I can say that I had more than just hope.
The results were announced – Not the good news
On 16 October 2021, I saw a social media post from a senior researcher (Prof. Wojciech Czakon) who won the award in the senior category of research, and it was time for the reality check. Browsing through the document with the names of the winners, one by one, was nerve-wrecking. Unfortunately, I reached the end of the list, and I DID NOT make it.
It was a very different feeling. I had experienced loss before; however, it took me some time to understand exactly what I felt about this one particularly. It was weird. I thought I would be sad, but I wasn’t. Definitely not happy, so I was still sane. But, knowing myself, it was important that I clarify what I was feeling. In May 2021, a research grant application was rejected after reaching the second round, and I was dejected! I really had clarity about what I felt about that result. However, not this time. It took me more than a week to realize what it was.
I concluded, I knew it
After thinking about that for a week, I realized that I wasn’t sad because I knew this would happen. Hope, at times, could create an illusion that results in lasting disappointments. I hoped, as I mentioned earlier, however, that I was aware of my work and that IT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER! Therefore, I could accept that I was not among the winners, and it did not make me sad. What it did was motivate me to improve myself. I have a lot to learn and a lot to unlearn. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it would not present itself again, in the SAME form. But there would be others.
What I learnt
- Aim high and prepare yourself for competition, right from the beginning.
- You don’t win great prizes, just by chance.
- Know the worth of your work, and at the same time know the bar set by the best, before judging yourself.
- Once in a lifetime opportunity – could present itself in other forms to you in the future.
- Being an optimist is good, but balancing it with a realistic mind set is important.
- Know what you feel, why you feel – retrospection of your own self couldn’t be enlightening
- Finally, you are never bad; others are just good. You can be too (or even better) if you want it and persevere to achieve it.
- Never stop moving forward.
I hope this article was worth the time you spent reading it. If you have any feedback or comments, feel free to write to me at contact@yashchawla