I would probably prefer to write another blog on the sense of entitlement that seems to be permeating through the ranks of today’s graduate students. However, unlike some pseudonym-wielding bloggers, who hide their identities behind closed doors in order to espouse vile and spiteful comments, my own blog is of course an open book. Meaning that there are many interesting and significant issues about which I would like to blog, but will be forced bide my time for now.
So as I pondered life on my way through my treadmill routine at the gym a few mornings ago, I had the opportunity to witness a phenomenon that I occasionally see every couple of months. In the row in front of me, a middle-aged man set his sights on an elliptical machine. He was decked out from toe to ear in the very latest and most modern sports gear: fancy training shoes, socks, shorts, neoprene shirt with matching wristbands and headband. All of his clothes were still creased in the manner they must have been stocked on the store shelves—just a day or two earlier.
But that’s not all—no indeed—not by a long shot! Additional accouterments included the latest Ipod and earbuds, and a full 3D audio-visual display. He set up an Ipad of some sort, something that resembled an external speaker, and an Iphone to check e-mails and make calls. Fully assembled and ready-to-run.
In contrast, when I began a formal exercise regimen some years ago, it took me 2 years until I decided to purchase even the most basic accessories—light shorts that don’t chafe the thigh (as opposed to cut-off jeans), and finally an Ipod. For over a year I battled slow wifi to try and listen to songs on UTUBE. I only caved in when all the fiddling with the BlackBerry nearly threw me off the treadmill.
Thinking about this gentleman and his 3D audio-visual (and he looked as though he hadn’t ever seen the inside of a gym), I couldn’t help noticing the degree to which I am judgmental. Psychologists spend many long hours with patients counseling them on how to let go of their judgmental attitudes (Just breathe, and accept, breathe and accept)—and here I am making a snap judgment about this man 30 seconds after his arrival and before he has even pushed the power button on his elliptical.
So making judgments about people in this manner is not going to increase my serenity, acceptance and mindfulness. It may even increase my stress levels. BUT, I have a feeling that this psychologically-incorrect behavior pattern is one of the most pertinent skills that a group leader needs to develop or have in today’s world of science.
The skill set for a PI definitely encompasses being able to accurately judge people—often on short acquaintance a PI needs to calculate whether a potential student, post-doc or technician will be an asset to the lab. Whether this person will be honest, responsible, determined, reasonable, hardworking, organized and disciplined, easy to get along with, and much more.
How did I become good not bad at making such snap judgments? Was it experience with a bipolar parent that helped? Or service in the military that honed my antennae? Or as a novel writer have I developed a second sense for judging character, and become a connoisseur of human nature? My two novels certainly harp on these themes, but I don’t have the answer.
So while I won’t win any psychological points for being non-judgmental, I reserve my right to judgment. Without it I’m dead in the water as a scientist.