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Productivity, Burnout, and Survival of the Fittest

Discussion in 'Real Life Discussion' started by Solfege, Apr 2, 2019.

  1. TMD

    TMD Professor DLP Supporter

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    I'll share my experience, having just graduated from the #2 ranked Med School in the UK, which included a year at Harvard. I'm 24 years old, I have a publication in Lancet, multiple other publications in top journals, multiple national prizes and I often feel like i'm on the border of mediocrity and failure.

    My secondary school (Age 11-18) was one of the most prestigious private schools in the country, it was the type of place that dates back to the 1500s - we had literal peacocks walking around the school grounds at their leisure. David Attenborough, various ambassadors, the Queen and other Royals were regular visitors and speakers. It was the kind of school like many of you have described, cut-throat and a world away from your typical state school. The first day back of Year 12 (Age 17), our form tutor asked every member of the class to announce their average GCSE percentage score for all 11 subjects. Not a single one of us had less than 96%, with at least half having 100%. That was the theme that continued throughout, whether you played music or sport at an international level, or won gold medals at Olympiad, that was just "your thing" of which everyone had at least one. Naturally the environment focused on breeding an unhealthy sense of arrogance and elitism into each of us. We all believed we were the best and deserved success compared to the 'ordinary plebs'. The only thing I regret from this time was that I got swept along into this mentality, because being in such a bubble environment it was hard not to. I strongly suspect if I had followed my peers to Oxbridge and studied something other than medicine, I might have continued in that vein for longer - as several prominent politicians (and alumni) that lead our country clearly have.

    When the time came to university applications, getting into a top medical school wasn't a challenge despite the competition that people from the state sector found insurmountable. Those kids were working part time jobs, looking after relatives and studying with whatever time they had left just to try and remain competitive. They never had a chance compared to us, who came from educated and wealthy nuclear families and hadn't a disadvantage in the world.

    University was the first time I was exposed to ordinary students from ordinary backgrounds. I very quickly abandoned false feelings of superiority when they became my friends, and when I was dealing with the sickest patients in society day-in and day-out. But the fear of 'mediocrity' was ingrained too deeply. This is where my experience will differ vastly from Blorcyn's - his is more typical of a northern non-London/Oxbridge medical school:

    There were two clear tiers in the cohort, those who wanted to just get through and become doctors, and those of us for whom anything less than a distinction was failure. Some wanted to dominate the competition and secure one of very few posts in neurosurgery, plastic surgery, cardiac surgery etc. (in January, I ranked #6 in the UK and did not secure one of 3 neurosurgical jobs). Some wanted to make a name for themselves immediately in academia, and start climbing the fast-track to professorship in various fields. Some had grand ambitions in related areas, medical law, biomedical engineering, pharmaceuticals, etc. 'Optional' Prize examinations had deadlines for application because of how many students would apply and every winner's name would be well known throughout the university. The political competition for Presidency of major societies like the Surgical Society or the Trauma Consortium was intense. I've talked about my year at Harvard before so I won't repeat it, save to say that the 100+ hours were not more than I was used to - only that they were mandated by the institution as opposed to "optional" (a misleading term, since everyone at home was doing them). It so happened my experience, and subsequent utter disgust and disdain for the American healthcare system killed the ambition to move to the USA permanently.

    Now having received my results and passed, i'm free until August 1st when my first job as a Doctor starts. This is supposed to be a time of complete peace, rest and relaxation - but the years of conditioning mean that I just can't. Since my exams finished on the 22nd of February, I've completed the process of setting up a registered charity, continued work on 3 separate research projects for publication, and started planning to take post-graduate speciality exams. When I was revising for finals, several times I saw a cool new game or TV show and I made a note of it saying "after exams i'll play/watch this". Now that time has come, and I just can't do it, within 20-30 minutes the deep ingrained feeling that i'm "wasting time" crops up and I have to do something 'productive'. It's made worse by the fact that in the past when I have let myself relax and only put in 60 hours a week rather than 80-100+, it's resulted in some form of failure every time. I only have 5 publications, peers have 10+. I've only won 4 national prizes, peers have more. At Harvard, I didn't achieve anything meaningful, peers there in the same length of time did things which impacted the world. I only ranked 6th in national selection and so didn't get the neurosurgery job at Cambridge. I am still too far from where I should be with my political ambitions.

    I'm lucky that despite all of this, and my continued failures and deviations into mediocrity, my family remain supportive and accepting. Above all else, I would attribute this as the biggest reason why my mental health has never deteriorated. I compare my experience to several individuals with very similar stories but parents who have not achieved as much as mine, and perhaps therefore have stricter expectations for the children whom they are living vicariously through; one committed suicide after failing a clinical exam in 4th year, and others suffer with anxiety/panic disorders/depression.

    We had these, both at my home university and at Harvard. They were a mandatory waste of time. The pressure on us to 'succeed' - whether put there by ourselves, or others, or both - is far greater than any counterbalancing desire to care about something pitiful like our mental health.
     
  2. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Not to diminish what you all have done/are doing, but I'm really glad I was raised to the idea that you work to live, you don't live to work. I'm perfectly happy earning a comfortable but not extravagant wage, in a job which affords me the time to pursue my interests and doesn't leave me particularly stressed at any point. I can afford to indulge my hobbies within reason, and have plenty of time to do it. I could jump ship and double, or even triple, my salary if I wanted to. I've had the calls from recruiters, trying to convince me to go for their jobs. But I know the increased salary would come with the 60+ hour weeks, the expectation of always being at the end of the phone no matter the time, the pressure of tight deadlines, and metric tons of corporate bullshit. The idea of living that life revolts me, it seems like such a waste to spend all your time working and pressuring yourself to achieve the next big thing in your life.
     
  3. Longsword

    Longsword Slug Club Member

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    My problem with studying these days is a bit different than those mentioned above, but related to productivity.

    Went into bachelors with great confidence and managed the first two semesters well, but got sort of lost while taking up credits for my electives. Once performance started slipping my motivation to do well kept on dying till I started getting a C every semester, which distorted my overall grade point.

    In my third year I realised that all the dead weight grade loss I had gained would be very hard to get rid of if I messed up even a little going forwards.
    What bothered me, and continues to bother me, is that each semester became a self contained unit which I would soon forget.

    My forgetfulness isn't even related to not remembering every little problem and assignment I did, which would be a silly expectation, but that looking back I describe how any of the grinding added to my understanding of the field that I once really loved.

    Now I am trying to finish off my masters thesis within time, all the while feeling that the last four years were a waste of time and energy.

    Having stuck my foot into academia out of my desire to to do some "real" work in a field that fascinated me since before I even knew the underlying mathematics, my prospects now seem really bleak.
    Knowing that I must produce a certain number of publications every set number months is a lot harder than my old ways. My productivity keeps suffering.
    I would have gladly taken being burnt out over this absence of published material. At least I used to know that after being burnout I would have my grade.
    This made me even more despondent.
    Not many in my field published 10+ papers. Have no idea how people can publish things like a machine, I am having enough trouble writing 70-80 pages of meaningful, original ( if you squint ) content.
    I wish I had 5 good papers. It would have made me hopeful about my PhD applications to professors who I actually wanted to work with.
     
  4. Arthellion

    Arthellion The Chosen One

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    For those feeling despondent, I encourage you to reevaluate your values. Do some deep seated self-examination.

    This is not to devalue all the work, but remember there are things that are more important.

    Helping and loving another human being is of far greater value than killing yourself for “just one more trophy.”
     
  5. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I should add my university experience. I went to a fairly good uni, it ranks in the top 5 in the world for universities under 50 years old, but I had (and @Nazgus was shocked when he heard this) 3 mandatory class hours each week. And each of those got maybe 20-30 minutes of prep. 3 essays, each 2000-3000 words long, due each semester. 3 presentations. And 3 final exams. That was it. I had to learn how to manage my time to get those essays done without anyone reminding me to do it, I had to know what week of the semester my presentation was in and make sure I turned up prepped for it. I spent most of my time developing really quite good social skills, without which I wouldn't have my job now, and getting involved in running a student society. That society has given me a huge network of life long friends across the country.

    I learned valuable soft skills at university, all of which are relevant to my career. But its the combination of the skills I learned directly through the classes, indirectly through the learning style, and then separately in the social life that my free time enabled me to have, that has let me get to the point I'm at today.

    I'd have failed miserably in a situation like lots of you are describing. I'd have been absolutely miserable the entire time, and would have devolved into complete unproductiveness. But even if I'd succeeded in that sort of environment, it wouldn't have let me grow into the person I am now, and I wouldn't have found the path I'm on. And I doubt I'd have found a career path where I was as satisfied as I am now, no matter the prestigious qualifications or prizes I got on the way.
     
  6. sonder

    sonder Third Year

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    My area had a mix of very wealthy kids going on MDMA benders and poor kids not having enough resources to get to school so it was definitely to combat that. I've been lucky that only one of my uni professors demanded it. He took off 5% of your overall grade for every unexcused absence. Absolutely awful imo.
     
  7. Nazgus

    Nazgus Chief Warlock

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    So I wrote a bunch of words, then deleted everything. Then I wrote some more words, and deleted everything again. So yeah, looks like I won't be sharing tonight, or probably anytime soon.

    But I did want to thank everyone who has shared for doing so. Having tried to share my own just now and failed at doing so I have an even greater admiration for those that managed it. It's honestly been helpful to see that many from many walks of life are struggling or have struggled with many problems that resonate with my own.

    The most I can bring myself to say, is that I had a very privileged upbringing that leaves me feeling like I don't deserve to struggle. That anytime I fail, or my mental health falters, it's my own fault for not trying hard enough. For being an apathetic piece of shit with no appreciation for the advantages I've had who refuses to take the necessary steps towards achieving my potential. So yeah, probably not the healthiest attitude.

    There were a number of things that happened in my personal life in my final semester of high school and first year of college that wrecked my ability to establish a good foundation for my university studies. It set me back on my class schedule, left me feeling like I was constantly struggling to catch up to my peers, and overall wrecked havoc on my mental health. This was all made worse because I went to a project based charter school, so while I'm really fucking good at scoping projects, managing people, making presentations, and other very useful skills, I came in with no study skills, and very low math and science knowledge. This is a Problem because I'm studying an engineering degree (where those are more than a little relevant), so that's really not the case for 95% of the people on my major. I was left feeling like it was my fault that I couldn't keep up, and it took me a long time to realize I came in with a much weaker knowledge base. Also doesn't help that my school is famous for having high expectations and no chill, depression and suicide memes are probably the single largest sets on our meme page.

    But even though the few friends I've confided in about all the shit that's happened in my personal life agree that it's unreasonable to expect myself to have weathered it all without problems, it still feels like I should've managed it somehow. I'd hoped that going abroad for a semester would somehow fix everything, but that really hasn't been the case.

    Honestly the saving grace of it all is that my high school left me really well prepared for working actual jobs, so I've managed to get informal/verbal return offers from both places I've interned at, and left both places with a number of close contacts that I still keep in touch with. So yeah, kind of just have to get through one more semester and then hopefully things will get better.

    I'm definitely a lot happier over the summers working than I ever am during the semesters. Looking forward to more of that stability.

    Hey look, I did manage to share something after all. I'm gonna press post now before I delete it all for the third time.

    P.S. As an amusing anecdote from a previous draft, a professor at my university recently went viral for suggesting every student can succeed in his classes if they just follow his 80 hour work week schedule. He's on the far end, being internally infamous having assigned weekly problem sets for one of his classes that were taking 30 hours to complete (brought down to 20 after the students revolted), but overall I'd say the average student is definitely pulling 50-60 hour weeks most semesters.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  8. Silirt

    Silirt High Inquisitor DLP Supporter

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    You had it worse than I did, then, though a fair few of the kids who went to my high school could get doctor's notes from their dads. It led to some amusing scenarios where people would have doctor's appointments around lunch every damn day of the week. A friend of mine had chemical bronchitis, it would act up for weeks at a time, and he ended up missing so much school he'd have had to repeat if he weren't some kind of super genius. The school believed him when he said he was sick.
     
  9. Alistair

    Alistair First Year

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    None of this really echoes my Uni experience.

    Here in the UK, the challenge is more around admission to a good Uni. I worked relatively hard (probably averaging 40 hours a week) through Sixth Form, got my 3 A's and an A* at A level and applied for Cambridge, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh. Got offers at Cambridge (Biology), Bristol (Medicine) and Manchester (Biochem) and chose Manchester on the basis that I don't like people enough to be a good doctor and whilst Cambridge looks good on a CV, it's a horribly boring place to live as a student and honestly, I only applied there to please my grandfather.

    Anyway, once you actually get in, Uni is still very much a social experience. Ultimately I did a degree in Biochem at a Russell group uni, so I guess relatively high pressure and did well, but even in third year I probably averaged 25-35 hours most weeks, maybe 40-50 for the month before exam time.

    Effectively, you can rock up to your 22 hours of compulsory lectures (or sleep in and podcast them later), do your 10 hours of labs every other week, turn in assignments as required (say 1 10,000 word essay every couple of months, so maybe 30 hours total on each), show up to tutorials a couple times a month and spend the rest of the time at the pub. For first and second year the work load was probably closer to 20 hours a week so I held down a part time job (12 hours a week average) for beer money, but at no point in my degree was I consistently doing a full time jobs worth of hours, let alone 70 hours plus.

    It might be different if I wanted the highest grades on the course or whatever, but really, once you're working who gives a shit, so the priority was 'First Class Honours' on my CV. I got 70.8% overall (70%+ for a first), so basically did the bare minimum to achieve that and otherwise focussed on enjoying what is supposed to be the best three, or in my case four, years of your life.

    I chased the money after Uni and walked straight into a well paying job with very little relevance to my degree, thanks primarily to my sandwich year in industry and now work much, much harder, but hey, I've still got my friends and memories to show for the doss times at Uni and very few regrets. I'm also doing a part time Master's at Nottingham after work, but again, probably 4 or 5 hours a week max and I'm on for a First again in that.

    Uni is only hard if you want to be the very best. Doing really quite well isn't a great challenge.
     
  10. Solfege

    Solfege Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    I should preface by saying I appreciate all of you sharing. I read your experiences and recognise myself in you, and you are fam. These topics I've dealt with extensively, having been on both sides of the track — as a plebeian overachiever in a decent public school and then a scholarship student at an ivy feeder. Like many of you, I’m a failure. I say objectively and without denigration, as one who has failed to fulfill the promises of childhood potential.

    Unlike most of you, and most of my peers also, this judgement comes of a different paradigm, wherein I was roped to a sapling of precocious awareness even in my darkest hours. Those hours made up years spent confronting, successfully, burnout and depression. Of course it seems a universal rule that one’s twenties must be full of confusion, sound and fury. The naive young man is eaten away by desperation to prove his worth. But I've always been one to compress stages in life, and as I prematurely exit this adolescent decade, I'm gratified to’ve reached some epiphanies that I hope can be of general benefit.

    So to a few points as caught my eye.

    The degree as signaling mechanism of a general ability to stick-it-out and navigate-byzantine-bureaucracy is pretty much the case in markets where labor is commoditised. Otherwise it depends on the industry, and company. Consider the difference between big tech, startups, and general IT... the interviewing standards will be different. At the end of the day, securing that interview opportunity and passing its specific requirements as the most likably proficient candidate, inconsiderate of your schoolwork, is what counts in the marketplace.


    Issue with the recession here was contraction of the job market and, correspondingly, a shift of market power to employers who realised there was a surfeit of degreed candidates to be had on the cheap. It was a bad market for most everyone; and I can assure you that those who chose to delay entry by taking on additional student debt in, for instance, law school, found it a terrible bet when they came out to an extra mortgage's worth and still no prospects to speak of. The lesson is to understand your markets and develop the skills necessary to navigate them, in addition to any credentialing that may or may not be relevant.


    College is much about social capital formation; for most students it'll be the first time in their lives that they're amongst peers worth knowing. There's a binding principle to sharing the same formative experiences under duress. It's in this vein that "making it" into strategic consulting or banking is less about a career than a general finishing school experience, at least for the first couple years in training rotations with your cohort.

    Those two years, for banking, are critical for even more exclusive recruitment into private equity and hedge funds. But generally, consulting and banking will expose you to a variety of industries from their respective perches; and in either case the dispersal of your peers into real career tracks means you’ll have eventual high-level contacts across that spread. Perhaps one of your ex-consulting cohort will be your next med-tech stealth startup investment opportunity?

    You needn't fear settling; it's enough to be determined. But mediocrity by whose measure?


    I developed very early on, back when I was in the middle of a self-formulated five-year plan to gain entry to a specialised junior-high school, an allergy to contentment over letter grades. The standards were so far below mine that what mattered was not whether I got the A (I did) but the ease, speed, form with which I got it. I learnt to gauge these characteristics and their principle motivating components much the same way I would analyse any athletic endeavor.

    What mattered was not the grade but the information extracted around a narrow frequency band of performance. The most consistently valuable lessons would come from moderately rewarding and moderately punishing experiences. And this runs counter to the fundamental principle on which our entire educational edifice rests: a superficially positive reinforcement that places she who scores higher than her competition as “more deserving,” dead stop. This logic is not only mediocre administrative convenience (which the colleges recognise, else they'd not have such difficulty calibrating “what an A means” between different high schools); its systemic perversity is obvious in retrospect.


    If you're conditioned from birth that obtaining the higher score = greater deservingness = prestige pedigrees = high-status, well-paying jobs by which money is just another means of measuring deservingness and keeping score… is it any wonder we have hedge fund managers who only feel alive when they finally know at year’s end that they’ve scored $100k in returns over their competition?

    It retards the ability of students to experiment from different angles and develop heuristics that truly can accelerate learning; methodologically stress-test their boundaries to rapidly iterate on tolerances and standards. This I was free to exercise because “earning the A” was mediocrity. I was, moreover, already conditioning to acknowledge my general human state of ignorance. Thus unencumbered, I moved freely.

    Sarutobi let out a snort of laughter. “Naruto is too busy cleaning up after his mistakes to worry about his status,” he said, chuckling. “He can be a clumsy boy, foolish at times.”

    “Very foolish,” Danzo agreed, taking another sip. “What young Shinobi uses the God of Shinobi as a measuring stick against his skills? To compare himself to such a man, it would keep any Shinobi level-headed.*”


    The two sat in comfortable silence, sipping their tea.

    * I am a fan of the J. S. Mill educational treatment.


    If I later fell into a deep depression, it was because I failed to preserve my freedom of manouever and work towards that qualitative vision of genuine personhood. Confronted with a world that was, and is, utter mediocrity, where even the standards of exclusive prep schools are adequate at best and by no means wholesome, I despaired. Luckily I am not insane. I have met a proof of concept: someone who stared into the same abyss and, unlike myself, came out the other side intact and to spec. And that renews me.

    In any case, I’ve recently learnt to embrace strategic mediocrity. Pers is right that blowing out at 100% is foolhardy, particularly when we have to live with balancing multiple maxima in a complex reality. There's moreover a good evolutionary argument that mediocre mediocrity is the real test of the fittest. And besides, who are you to judge my mediocrity when it’s your very standards are mediocre and self-delusory? What relevance are a few personal accolades when compared to the immensity of structural market changes as affect the greater geopolitical landscape, and those of us who would, however fruitlessly; however impossible; seek to influence that?

    Sauce, if your fear is mediocrity as determined by popular, status-driven metrics, my fear is being a credentialed fraud of the kind Perspicacity puts to pasture. Given the choice, I’d not be a talked-about Elizabeth Holmes "success" story [even if I could get away with it] but rather bide time and marshal resources in a respectable but mediocre position at the strategic forefront of the economy.

    Worth pointing out also that the most impressive students I ever knew were two undergraduates in their early-30s who built the most ambitious electrical engineering senior project our professors had ever seen. One spent a decade in industry before coming back to get his degree, and wasn't long after he started his PhD that Bezos personally recruited him for Blue Origin. The other had a genuinely notable appreciation for learning and the money, admittedly, to chase classes and projects at various institutions... he finally graduated with degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, math, and physics, now completing a neuroscience PhD. Nontraditional undergraduate experiences are undervalued. I hope you know that and, what's more, believe it.


    I’d say rather that by collapsing multiple experiential dimensions into a single overriding feature — the fear of imperfect grades — we beggar students by denying them the full range and intensity of what it means to be human, the tools and expressions at their disposal... it's my bias for not putting much shrift on emotions.


    @Paradise I know those empty glacial afternoons. Sundays were the worst. A different me might have contemplated as you did, but the dissonance at the root of my depression was… particular. That kernel of self-awareness lent a faint but omnipresent conviction of eventual payoff for my life experiences, so that I had no recourse but to endure.

    A couple of general notes: the conscious mind is a weird animal. I’m inclined to think of it as a “passenger” vis a vis Worm, riding atop a far more complex, highly evolved unconscious mind. There’s benefit in better aligning that “conscious you” to optimise with your physical and overall well-being, whatever your present limits are. Some people have already given useful tips.

    A good part of my coming-to-terms was in exploiting the duality between experiential versus remembering selves. By mining and refactoring the informational value of prior experiences, I overrode the last undesirable remnants of memory, though of course the distance of time helped.

    Consistent with my personal understanding that it's not this mediocrity of a human society that presents real barriers to my "success." My true opponent is myself. Also, don't try harder (what an American thing to say) but try differently.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  11. Arthellion

    Arthellion The Chosen One

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    @Solfege good stuff. To clarify, when I say happyness and joy, I’m not referring so much to the emotion, but rather to the state of being. Contentment and satisfaction in where I am regardless of whether I am a success or a failure.

    The following scripture verse means a lot to me in my own life as a method of living.

    “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
    ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    Far too ofte’ that last sentence is used by Christians to justify accomplishing great things (see Tim Tebow). And to an extent, I believe it is true but the context of that verse is one of experiencing weaknesses, pain...burnout.

    I know I’m in the minority here when I state that God is my source of contentment and happiness no matter the circumstances, but just because that is where I find my source of contentment doesn’t negate what I believe to be a deep need within the human experience.

    Humans need to learn to be content in all circumstances if we are to live to our fullest potential. I find that contentment in God, but for those of you who don’t, I still can promise you that you won’t find it in the insanity of what is being described as a common experience of our value being based on what we achieve.

    We must learn ourselves and then teach others that our value is not based on success, but rather it is based on our intrinsic value as human beings. Once we learn that, so many more tools open up to us to experience the best life.
     
  12. sonder

    sonder Third Year

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    I just finished up a long day and I have a little time to reflect on it. I started chip making at nine. If we take nine to be my official start time then I’ve been “on” for about fourteen hours now doing work or being a professional whatever. I took a look at how many hours I’m “on” per day and it’s about ten to twelve.

    Hindbrain likes shiny things as rewards so I’m going to do my best to no get sucked into buying some cool rocks.

    @Arthellion That’s some pretty amazing stuff. I haven’t had the best interactions with Christianity but reading that really makes me think I got the worst kind in my life. Looking forward to hearing more.
     
  13. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I think the biggest difference in the UK is that the UK system is not set up to recognise academic excellence to nearly the same degree. During school, there is no "extra credit", you can't take university classes early, etc. You can do extra reading into the subject to deepen your knowledge, but there will be no official recognition of this apart from what it reflects in your grade.

    Similarly at university, UK degrees are not really customisable. You don't pick classes from a menu and load yourself up with as much as you want. You pick a subject and are automatically assigned the classes which constitute that subject (with some small amount of choice between options within that subject area). Sure, you can attend extra classes if you like... but there will be no record of you having done so. It won't show up on your transcript. You won't even be permitted to take the exams.

    Coming out of a UK university, the only real way to stand out from the crowd (other than achieving a higher percentage) is involvement in extra-curricula activities. But honestly, these days employers care much more about genuine work experience than having been the president of so-and-so club, which everyone kinda knows is a bullshit non-job. Let's say you have two candidates for a job:

    A) Above-average academics, one or two extra-curriculas, some relevant work experience.

    B) Excellent academics, a mountain of extra-curriculas, no work experience.

    In the real world, all other things being equal, candidate A gets the job.

    My advice to university students would always be to ditch the unnecessary extras (do one sport and one social to demonstrate you're not boring, everything else is superfluous) and use the time spared to do some actual work in the industry you want to enter, even if you're literally doing the printing. It's a foot in the door.

    The funny thing with on-paper high achievers is that half the time they turn up for the job and for all their qualifications, diligence and intelligence, they have no idea how to behave in an office environment, how to interact with colleagues and clients, or how to just act like a normal person. Every single job has a hidden requirement which is never stated, on top of all the official requirements: don't be a knob.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  14. Nazgus

    Nazgus Chief Warlock

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    This resonated. I'm in a not so great place mentally right now so my post reflected the darker turns of that, but one of the other reasons I've struggled so much at Berkeley is because I often think that it's not worth it. I do the best I can because that's what my parents taught me to do, but the demands it places on us are just so large sometimes that it feel impossible to meet them and still have time to do the things that make me happy. I can count the number of times I hung out with people per semester without shared homework or a quick lunch as justification on my hands with plenty of fingers left over, and I'm just not someone that can be happy without relaxed, no-stress social interactions.

    Something I forgot to mention in my half-asleep state and desire to just post something, is that at my latest internship at a tech company I found myself working less than half as hard as I do at Berkeley, and being paid boatloads of money to do so with very strong reviews from my managers. This played a large role in my attitude towards school spiraling down this past year, because it makes me feel like there's not really much of a point to killing myself to do as well as I was doing before. What was the point of trying so hard for so long, when the work I'm asked to do in industry doesn't come close to putting what I learned to full use? Couldn't I have taken it easier, maybe had a lower GPA, not pushed myself to go for that graduate class, and just enjoyed the past four years more?

    I have very mixed feelings towards my school. I've met so many amazing people who I think will be lifelong friends. The classes... are a little mixed. While the workload often feels like too much, the professors themselves are for the most part amazing people who really know their shit and are happy to answer your questions and do whatever they can to facilitate your learning. I definitely feel like I've gotten a top tier education in my field, and can honestly say I've enjoyed the absolute fuck out of pretty much all the programming projects we've done.


    I don't know. It just feels like my experience in industry last summer really made it seem like I won't be pushed like that again. I'm hoping this next one disproves it and I can find some really meaty problems to sink my teeth into. If not, then I'll probably do a few years in industry to pay off my debts, and go back to the National Labs. Pay may be a lot lower, but at least the work took everything I had and served a purpose beyond lining some rich asshole's pockets.
     
  15. awinarock

    awinarock Fourth Champion

    Joined:
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    3,127
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    I can't say I know what y'all are going through. I've been failing at life since pretty much day one so I've long become used to the idea of never meeting anyones expectations lol.

    All I'll say about this is that having observed my community, family, and friends, I've found that happiness and contentment is determined by the people you surround yourself with, not things or titles. I'm happier than I've ever been in my life despite the fact that I'm currently making minimum wage because I realized I was actually capable of love.

    I don't have much in the way of material wealth but I have my family and so long as they're safe and happy, I could live in a gutter for all I care.
     
  16. BTT

    BTT Headmaster

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Messages:
    1,191
    Location:
    Cyber City Oedo
    I don't know to which measure my education can be considered "high performance, high expectation", but I can provide another European perspective, at least.

    My childhood had some of the hallmarks of what American users have posted about - I swam, though not on a competitive level, I played the sax. However, it also lacked some of the others. Like Taure said, there's no formal recognition of things you do outside the school here. I won an award for graphic design once but no one at school really gave a shit.

    I did take up the course package (best translation for the Dutch "richting", IMO) that taught both Greek and Latin. This was one of two of the prestigious packages you could take, the other being 8 hours of intensive math and a bunch of science on top of that. I wasn't pushed to do this by my parents, it was just what I liked to do.

    The most important difference, though, is that Belgium doesn't have a ranking of the unis. At least not one that I've ever heard about which isn't just about "where are the best parties". (Leuven, FYI. Worthless place otherwise but good partying.) When deciding on the uni, you were largely faced with three questions:
    • Does it teach what I want to get a degree in?
    • How far is it from where I live?
    • If the answer for the second question is sufficiently far, do I go live in a dorm for five days a week?
    For me, the answers were roughly "yes" and "20 minutes by bike". The university's price, status, etc. didn't really come into consideration.

    When you've chosen a degree you want to work towards and where you want to do so, then you just head to that uni on a specified date, you register, and that's it. One exception is for medical studies, where you need to pass a fairly difficult entrance exam. But you can get past that automatically, if you do two years of a different degree.
     
  17. TMD

    TMD Professor DLP Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2015
    Messages:
    433
    Location:
    London
    Several people have posted the old adage now, about happiness being more important than meaningless titles and metrics of career success. Naturally, the people in this thread are capable enough to recognise those arguments as fundamentally true - and as mentioned when talking about the 'wellness' classes some of us have been offered, or from parents/family who've been through this process to achieve their own success, we've heard this advice throughout our lives. I had a palliative medicine rotation when I was a medical student, and I frequently took some time to sit down with those dying patients who were still lucid and lonely, both to give them company and because I felt it would be a shame to not learn anything from 80+ years of human experience that would soon vanish from the world. An overwhelming majority of them, while talking about their lives, discussed their regrets at working too hard, chasing meaningless luxuries, and overall not doing what made them happy. This is not surprising.

    But just knowing the merits of the argument, and agreeing that yes on paper it's more important to be happy than 'successful' - that doesn't make it easy to achieve. Maybe i'm a fundamentally broken person and will be alone in this here, but bar a few fleeting moments of contentment or happiness at a success, being fundamentally 'happy' or 'content' like @Arthellion describes is an alien idea. I'm not depressed, nor unhappy - I run the usual gamut of emotions - but my default state of being is just...being. I spent months during med school trying to soul search and figure out what my passions were, what made me 'happy', and came up with nothing. I have things I prefer doing more than others, but that's about it. The same doesn't hold true for other people though - perhaps like @Perspicacity and his theoretical physics work, or artists with a love for the music they create, people who are aware of a passion and strive to make that the focus of their life simply because it makes them happy. I decided a while ago that since I am unable to find any meaning or passion in my life and my achievements, I could at least dedicate my life to theirs by becoming an exceptional doctor that is able to keep them alive and healthy. My meaning became the enablement of theirs, and if it means I have to be 'always on' to get there, then that is sufficient for me.
     
  18. Genghiz Khan

    Genghiz Khan Order Member

    Joined:
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    810
    Location:
    Darujistan
    I really really get you @TMD. That lack of passion kinda really feels like a part of myself. At some point, though, I really hope I find a place where I feel it and become passionate enough about something to want to do it till the day I die. Everything I’ve done till now has just told me what I wouldn’t be happy doing, not what I will be.
     
  19. Zel

    Zel Professor

    Joined:
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    Brazil
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    Well, studies in neuropsychology indicate that motivation (and I'm drawing a parallel with passion since the two of them walk close to each other) is not something you 'find', but build.

    Until you condition yourself to follow a routine, and then progressively create a positive relationship with whatever activity you're focusing on - be it by rewarding yourself every time you succeed with a small treat, the pleasure of a job well done, the recognition of your efforts by someone else - it's likely that you won't find purpose in that activity. After an unspecified amount of time reinforcing it, that sense of fulfillment and purpose has a greater chance of coming since you associated that activity with a positive state of mind. The default state of the brain is of conserving energy, so stepping out of our comfort zone can be pretty daunting, but if we reinforce this attitude day-by-day, results may come.

    With that said...I know about these facts, I know all the activities that would increase mood, sense of purpose, focus and all the things I could be doing to improve my life in general.

    And, so far, it's worth jack-shit.

    I'm not an over-achiever like some of you guys; in fact, I've been underachieving for years - about ten years now, I think. That never really threw a wrench in my life. Even in high-school, when I was going through a hell of an insomnia issue, barely had the energy to get out of bed, much less pay attention to class or crack open a book, my grades didn't suffer. By the end of it, I had the grades to get to top universities (well, top Brazilian universities, but my point stands lol) but I had recently turned 17 and had no fucking clue what to do with my life. I settled for a private university in my home-town; a pretty good one still, but far from where I could've gone. In between the supportive comments of my mom that made me leaving seem like high-treason and my dad being the ball and chain to everyone's lives, I, the seventeen-year-old, was the stabilizing influence of the family.

    Even so, I felt a little relieved, because I didn't know if I could've fended for myself in another city. I had no life-experience at all.

    After much hounding, I went to law school. I hated it, and somehow I hit a lower point than back in high-school, despite it being considerably easier. No one noticed a thing. I changed courses on my sister's suggestion and started psychology. I...didn't dislike it. The routine was the same; try to keep eyes open in class and before test ask anyone around who looks like they studied what it was about.

    Now I'm 23, graduated nearly a year ago, and to be honest, I'm much happier these days. Good friends, a better family situation, I can even actually sleep. Unfortunately, as I started caring more about...everything I guess, I also started feeling like a disappointment. I could've done so much better, so much more. I know I have the potential as people have told me over and over again, but so much time was wasted and doors closed, and there are so many options ahead I can't decide what to do with my life...again.

    Fuck, I'm 23. I shouldn't feel like I wasted my life.

    And I can't even put into practice what I know about how to deal with these situations, because I just get distracted by something else. I've always been good at escaping reality for some time. Building my passion didn't have much success either - and what I always wanted in life was a sense of purpose.

    Anyway, I finally said 'fuck it' and finally looked for professional help. Hopefully this time it'll stick, because I don't want to go back to those low-points.
     
  20. Erandil

    Erandil Minister of Magic

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2008
    Messages:
    1,227
    Location:
    Germany
    Wow, you guys are a depressing bunch. If that is the cost of ambition and excellence I guess I should count myself happy that I never aspired for anything more than mediocrity nor experienced anywhere the pressure from family and friends that you seem to have grown up with. I come from a relatively well off middle-class family and while there was always the expectation that we wouldn't be a total failure there also wasn't the expectation of us being high achievers. And once we finished with school, me and my siblings did reasonable well but by no means amazing, all that my parents really expected us to do is finish university and/or find a good job and otherwise really left us alone (well my father was somewhat unhappy when my brother decided against university and for a more manual career but that doesn't seem to come anywhere near the level you guys describe.)

    Part of it is that my mother was once a highachiever herself and after getting top grades everywhere ended up as a judge but really hated her job and was happy to give it up when I came along and is now much happier managing the holiday apartments on our farm. Coupled with another few similar CV's in our family/friends there always was this general awareness that there is more to life than money and power.

    I mean I know that I could have probably accomplished more with my life if I studied harder in university and did more networking etc. but I never really regretted that. I can be reasonably sure that I will have a comfortable life with enough wealth for some (small) luxuries and I actually enjoyed my "youth" and as it stands as long as I have a good book to read or good movie to watch and some friends to do stuff with I am content and happy. The nearest I have to a purpose is to enjoy life...
     
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