Tag: SelfReflection

Self-reflection, ‘jack-of-all-trades’ vs ‘specialist’, & now more planning

So I’m a little over a week into my fourth decade and still working on answering the question: which hobbies, passions, and interests will fall under the jack-of-all-trades umbrella, and which will fall under the specialist umbrella.

This question evolved from my ‘self-reflection, planning, and yet more self-reflection’ post where I was trying to answer the question of who I wanted to become over the next five plus years.

While for some this is probably a quick question to answer—I’m still slightly struggling with for two reasons: 1) imposter syndrome—since I’m wanting to transition out of academia and into industry, there are times when I feel like a ‘fraud’, even though I know everyone’s journey is their own and that no two paths are the same—also no one has the same history, likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses, and personality traits that I do. The second reason is that at times I’m still in an somewhat academic mindset, which has a somewhat “clear ladder” on how your job grows—you graduate with your PhD, you do a couple of postdocs, you then get an assistant professor position, and then work your way up the ladder to associate, full, regents, emeritus professor along with possibly going for department head, or positions as a dean.

Since I’m still not sure which direction I want to go in—therefore there is no “clear ladder”, and even once I decide on a direction or directions to go in—there is no guarantee of a “clear ladder” or straight job trajectory in today’s society. Therefore I’m on a mission to create a mix of things that not only fall under both categories (jack-of-all-trades and specialist), but also encompass all aspects of life.

Through self-reflection, I realize that the times I’m happiest and in the ‘flow’ are when I’m both learning and relaxing—in other words when there is a balance between things. This is something that I had lost over the past decade or so—actually, this was something I closed off when I thought I wanted to go down the academic route—I pushed aside enjoyment, relaxation, and balance while focusing on just one small area for ‘learning’.

I’m thinking that the best route will be something that allows me to both—work for a company, but also be an independent freelancer as well. This way I can juggle different hats (under the umbrellas of jack-of-all-trades and specialist), and hopefully never get bored.

Boredom for me is like the kiss of death for the job—and one thing I need to work on is asking for change in the job when I start feeling boredom sneak in—because if I don’t ask for a change, I know I will start to get a little laid back in things and let things start to slide—which is something that I want to avoid moving forward.

So that brings me back to the question: how am I going to divide up my hobbies, passions, and interests into the categories jack-of-all-trades and specialist?

One area can be quickly filed under jack-of-all-trades currently, and that is crafts. These include knitting, sewing/quilting, learning cross-stitching, making my own jewelry, doodling, and hopefully at some point painting. The time I spend on any of these varies—knitting is usually done only in the cooler months, I currently don’t have a sewing machine, and the others have had very little time spent on them.

Therefore until I start spending a good amount of time on any of them during the week, they will be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ topic. These will be things that I write about maybe once a month or every couple of months on the blog. I have ideas on how to try monetizing some of them (knitting, jewelry, and cross-stitching), but haven’t spent any time trying to work up the plan or even a few showcase pieces.

There are other hobbies that I spend more time on: bird watching, photography, reading, and at times journaling/writing. These are areas of my personal life that I could slowly start working on more and move to what I would consider ‘expert’ level.

In terms of bird watching—seeing how many species in North America I can have identified by a certain age. This would then also allow me to include traveling, being outdoors, hiking, and photography as well.

In terms of photography—I can work on becoming a better nature photographer, and also start learning another form (say architecture or portrait photography). I would consider myself an expert if I then start selling my prints (either through my own site or another site, and/or have a small photography business on the side).

In terms of reading—start writing book reviews and posting them on both the blog and where I purchased the book, in addition to promoting books as well on my blog and social media sites. This way I could also then start possibly reviewing advance-reader-copies (ARCs), in addition to maybe working through affiliate programs—earning a little money, by referring people to buy different books.

In terms of writing—there is quite a bit I need to work on (and actually can be applied to all areas that I would like to become an ‘expert’ in) to get better at writing. The first thing is scheduling time every day to write/brainstorm/outline. Saying I want to become better at writing does nothing unless I also put in the work to become better at writing. So what are the things I need to work on?

            Time management

            Brainstorming, researching, writing, and editing—on a schedule

            Publishing my writing (in more places than just the blog)

            Asking others to read what I’ve written and give constructive criticism

            Different types of writing

                        Creative/Fiction

                        Scientific

                        Non-fiction

            Creating a portfolio to highlight my work

So in terms of my passions and interests—which should be jack-of-all-trades and which should be specialist?

If I look to my scientific background that has spanned a little over two decades I’ve noticed that I can focus on any of the following: recombinant cloning, recombinant protein expression and purification, sequencing, HPLC, MALDI-TOF, NMR, transcriptional and translational assays, small RNA biology, plant biology, cell culture, yeast, bacteria, fruit flies, the cell cycle, and bioinformatics.

If I had to chose areas for jack-of-all-trades those would include: bioinformatics (data science, programming, and data analysis), cell culture (basic mammalian and insect), sequencing, HPLC, MALDI-TOF, and NMR. These are the more technical things—though cell culture isn’t very technical, I just didn’t do that much of it through the years.

The areas I would chose for specialist would then include basically everything else: recombinant cloning, recombinant protein expression and purification, transcriptional and translational assays, small RNA biology, plant biology, yeast work, fruit flies, bacteria, cell cycle and almost anything that falls within these categories.

If I looked to other topics that I enjoyed during college—these were classes in social sciences and humanities (history, anthropology, sociology) that I got good grades in and never really stressed out over the exams (unlike all the other science classes).

So I would probably include some of those topics—medieval history, art history, anthropology, ancient North/South American history (prior to the arrival of the Europeans), archeology, and paleontology within both categories depending on the amount of time I could give to each area.

Other interests that could probably bounce between being jack-of-all-trades and specialist include spirituality, personal finances, and health/fitness.

These are areas that I’m interested in gaining more knowledge (finances—getting out of debt, saving more, retirement, multiple streams of income), becoming the best version of myself (health/fitness—completing programs, getting outdoors, and setting fitness goals to achieve and celebrate instead of spending money), and embracing (spirituality—I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m more spiritual than I am religious, therefore I want to become better at reading tarot/oracle cards and be able to meditate longer than say two to four minutes).

Therefore within the next five to ten years I would like to become a more well rounded person and scientist—this means over all balance, some days may be more science than crafts, more time at the computer than behind a camera—but also more days crafting, reading, and meditating. It is time for me to forge my own path forward that allows me to embrace all aspects of who I am, my strengths (learner, intellection, input, achiever, deliberative/ideation/arranger), while also working on my weaknesses.

The next step will be creating a plan that will allow me to slowly start moving in that direction.

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Self-reflection, planning, and yet more self-reflection—all in one question.

Question that I was thinking/meditating on for the month of August: Who do I want to become over the next 5 to 20 years?

This has been the question plaguing me for the past few months (and actually if I’m honest about my transition plan—probably the past two or three years), as there at times is conflicting advice on whether or not one should have a solid plan for ‘x’ years down the road or going after ‘y’ job title/position—mainly because we don’t know what will happen in the future (right 2020), and if we become so narrowly focused, we could miss or pass by an opportunity of a lifetime.

Though the same can be said for not having a focused plan or idea of the future. If I’m totally truthful with myself—I probably fall into the latter category of not having a totally focused plan. Up until probably five years ago, I had thought that I’d be able to handle doing the academic route (post-doc for years, find an assistant professor position and work my way up to full professor)—but what I use to consider fun (putting in somewhat long hours in the lab to try to answer part of a question), was no longer fun and I no longer had the energy to try to fight my way into the academic arena.

This has also left me slightly disillusioned when it comes to figuring out where I want to be in say five to twenty years—what do I want to do? Do I want to stay in research (my comfort zone)? Go in a different direction and apply the skills I have in a slightly different manner? Then I get more pressing questions—like will I still enjoy the work?  Will I still be willing to make the sacrifices needed to move forward to the next promotion? Or will I become disillusioned again?

One thing I’ve realized is that I could handle anything that was tossed my way as long as I kept true to the following: 1) I was always learning. While I was getting slightly tired of school by the end of my undergraduate career (I will take full responsibility for taking 7 years to earn 2 BS degrees, a minor, and being able to graduate with 0 student loans)—I did enjoy the ability to take classes in different areas (though now I wish I took a few more business courses), and I enjoyed the time working in various labs as an undergraduate research technician. 2) I stopped doing school work/studying at a certain time so I could unwind before bed. 3) I tried to keep the weekends homework free (for the most part), so that I could enjoy being outside and getting a little natural vitamin D.

I was okay with having to bend number three every so often in grad school (sometimes experiments needed to be finished or started on the weekend), and even a little during the later positions. What I shouldn’t have bargained with was number one—always learning. It wasn’t so much during grad school (I did enjoy focusing and diving deep into a single subject area that is still growing today), but later positions. If I wanted to learn or read on something that was outside the scope of what I was doing on the job—I was told to do it on my own time (which I mentally took as well, now there is less time to unwind before bed). So what did I do—I stopped looking at other subjects that interested me— and I did the bare minimum needed for the job and that was it.

It has taken me a couple of years to realize where and when that mindset started—I actually feel more comfortable knowing a little about numerous different areas, and quite a bit about say one or two areas—but I don’t want to become a narrow-focused specialist.

So, winding back to the main question—where do I see myself in 5-20 years? I see myself as someone who has been able to balance being both a professional blogger/online entrepreneur and holding a normal 9-to-5 job. My industry position is within health economics, medical/scientific writing, or possibly market research, or market communications. Since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic—for the normal job I’m finding it better to have a couple of different options to look into.

I’ve probably rebranded the blog, and have also managed to launch several different e-courses/tutorials covering different science topics and starting to branch out into different social science topics as well. Staying true to my multi-facet nature, having numerous pages to the blog has actually been one of the key successes to my online presence. I’ve stuck with the areas of personal/professional development, lifestyle (crafts, money management, minimalism), and fitness/nutrition (encompassing all three areas of health—mental, physical, and spiritual). In addition, within five to ten years I will have worked up the nerve to launch a podcast (a YouTube channel will be launched between years three and five).

It took quite a bit of soul searching during the pandemic to reach the point to where I could state that I want to be both a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and a ‘specialist’. The major work will be trying to figure out which areas of life will be focus of ‘jack of all trades’ and which ones I will become a ‘specialist’ in. In addition, it will take work to build up a solid following on social media (One area to work on is getting better at posting on various social media sites), and then move forward from there. The next soul-searching question would be “what do I want to be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ in and a ‘specialist’ in”??

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Capricorn Full Moon Goals

So we’ve entered July, and there is now only 180 days left in 2020. Hopefully, they’ll be more (or less) uneventful days—I’d say we’ve had enough excitement already for 2020. The moon is moving into Capricorn today (or tomorrow, depending on where you are in the world), and it is also going to be another eclipse—viewable (maybe) from the southern part of the US; so if I stay up late enough I may be able to see it (also depends on if there is cloud cover or not).

So looking to book “Moonology: working with the magic of lunar cycles” by Yasmin Boland—what are the questions that can be asked during the Capricorn full moon??

Have I been ambitious to the point of ruthlessness?

Have I been obsessed with work to the detriment of my personal life?

Have I been hard headed, hard-nosed, or just too hard on others?

I have allowed my head to overrule my heart?

Have I been planning my life enough? Or have I been planning it too much?

So if I were to number the above questions 1-5, my answers would probably be as following:

  1. No, I haven’t been ambitious to the point of ruthlessness. I may be a little indifferent towards certain things or people—but I’m not ruthless. I would say that there are parts of society today that act ruthless towards others (especially the idiots that refuse to wear masks in stores). Truthfully, I’m not an overly ambitious person—all I would really like to have in life is a decent amount of money (I don’t have to be a millionaire) to live on, a nice, safe place to live, and being able to spend time with friends, family, pets, and doing other things besides working.
  2. Well, this could almost be considered a trick question. For one thing, I’m currently on my “reboot break”—I resigned from my position at the beginning of December to take time to relax and then really figure out what I want to do with my life. The second reason why this could be considered a trick question—with the pandemic, there was the work from home mandate, and not to mention a lot of jobs that were lost due to not being “essential”. Also during this time it is really hard to have a personal life, when you can’t get together with people or travel anywhere.
  3. This depends on the issue—for the most part I’m easy going and I usually don’t interact with that many people right now anyway (hello, self-isolation). But, I will be hard on others in terms of wearing facial masks in public—we’re in the middle of a damn pandemic, and it has been shown that wearing a mask can help slow the spread of the virus. If we’re wanting to get out of self-isolation, and being able to travel again (because, hello the EU has banned Americans from entering their countries for the next few months, since we can’t seem to handle the virus here at home)—we need everyone to wear the damn masks!!
  4. Not recently—looking back at the same questions from last year, I was wanting to adopt a puppy for quite a few months before I went ahead and adopted Chaos. Truthfully, right now I’m just taking things a day at a time. I know that I should be planning long-term goals, but with the current atmospheres (political, environmental, social, and health) it is difficult at times to think five, ten, or twenty years into the future.
  5. No I haven’t been planning my life enough. This is currently due to several things: the pandemic—travel really is a no-go right now (unless you drive places, and I don’t drive), networking and interviews are probably going to be done over the computer, and I should probably think of investing in a decent external microphone for the computer (for better sound quality), and truthfully I still have no damn idea of what I want to be doing with my life (I know that trying to have informational interviews will help—but again look back to the needing a microphone). Also I have realized that I’ve been stuck in the “fear zone” (that zone between the comfort zone and the learning zone) for too damn long—overthinking leads to anxiety which leads to not doing much which leads back to overthinking—I’m actually going to be trying to break this damn cycle over the next few months.

So the Capricorn full moon is also going to be traveling through my third house—or the communication zone. This zone deals with both communications with people that you would see on a day-to-day basis (more or less): friends, co-workers, and possibly family; but it also deals with other things as well: to-do lists, self-expression, and so forth. While it is a time for communications—the communications are best done when people are in “good” moods—you don’t want things to spiral out of control and a disagreement started because someone took something you said the wrong way.

Currently, I’m not in the middle of any type of major disagreement with people that I talk to on a day-to-day basis, which thanks to the self-isolation mandates are my parents (since I’m living at home still). There have been one or two disagreements on Facebook, but those have been resolved with either party pressing the unfriend button (and sometimes the block button as well).

So what are my goals for the Capricorn full moon period?

Continuing with Morning Meltdown 100 (I should be at day 54 at the end of the month; and day 57 by the next full moon).

Work on creating a new long-term goal list; the pandemic threw quite a few monkey wrenches into my latest 101 goals in 1001 days, plus I never really got specific about the industry position. So the goal is to have an least a rough outline of the major goals for different areas (health/fitness, finance, career, personal/professional development, spirituality, and living space).

Continue reading through my huge to-be-read digital pile. I think that I’m currently up to a total of 367 (since there are ~10 books on the list that I consider to be more of a reference book). I started this list in 2018 (or maybe late 2017), and it only had ~80 books on it but has now ballooned to almost 400—and between the start of 2018 and now—I’ve read about 50 of them so far; I’m averaging about 20 non-fiction books a year. This means that if I don’t add any more books—it will still take me about another 16 years to get through the list of books. Though some of them may fall into the “reference” book pile.

And of course remembering: Progress not perfection.

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Not quite the “learning zone”, not quite the “comfort zone” and a book review to top it off

So I’ve been doing quite a bit of self-assessment over the past couple of weeks. This has basically been looking back over all the notes that I’ve taken over the past year or so—and I can say that my NSV (non-scale victory) is admitting that I’ve been stuck in the “fear zone” for basically the past five years or so (maybe less depending on the aspect of life).

So where does this “fear zone” come from? I decided to look into “ideas” on how to get from the “comfort zone” into the “learning zone” and saw an image that showed there is actually an addition zone between those two—and that additional zone is the “fear zone”.

So the Comfort Zone is basically where everyone feels safe, content, and in control of their situations. Everyone says that you need to get out of your comfort zone in order to learn and live your best life—which is great, but what no one ever mentions is that between the comfort zone and the learning zone is the fear zone.

I recently realized that I’ve been stuck in this “fear zone” for quite a while. The “fear zone” is where you’re worried about what others will think of what you’re doing, you have a feeling low self confidence (since you’re stepping out of your comfort zone), and you’re more than willing to find excuses to get out of things.  So looking back at things—I have to be totally honest in that I’ve been in the middle of the fear zone in several different areas of my life:

            Health and fitness—I had managed to lose quite a bit of weight in 2013 (and early 2014), only to have life throw numerous different curveballs at me. Instead of hitting (or punting) or catching the balls—I used everything that came at me as an “excuse” or roadblock that I just sat and stared at for years. Now, that I’ve acknowledged that I’ve allowed myself to be stuck in the fear zone—I’m going to move into the learning zone. It will be slow, and I may slide back every so often—but I need to keep moving forward. It has taken me basically five years to pack on the pounds—it will take me months, if not a couple of years to get rid of the weight (and to keep it off) the healthy way.

            Career—I’ve given my time in academia (it has been almost ten years since I graduated with my PhD), but have realized that I am not willing to put something first (the job) over my health (especially my mental health). To make it in academia these days, you basically have to put in twelve to sixteen hour days six to seven days a week. To be considered for an entry-level professor position, you almost have to have the resume of someone who has been in the field for twenty to thirty years longer than you’ve been alive.

                        This has been a hard mindset to get out of—I’ve been raised in an academia household (my father is a professor at my alma mater), so I’ve been around the whole academic professor job field my entire life. I remember when I was younger, I wanted to have my own lab and be doing marine biology research—well, obviously that didn’t happen. Being honest with myself, the main reasons for my stagnant job transition is a lack of self-confidence in being able to compete with others for the jobs (I also know that this is really just imposter syndrome talking), and the opinions of others (basically them wondering/inquiring why it took me so long to either a) decide to leave academia and b) to finally manage to leave academia).

I can also then tie in my anxiety and depression somewhat into the fear zone as well. Though to be honest, the depression isn’t totally tied in with the fear zone—2018 was a horrid year (we lost three dogs, two within a span of four days) over all and I spent most of 2019 slowly working my way out of the deep depression dip I found myself in. I’m not totally out of it—but I’m further than I was three or four months ago.

So I want to now move into the “learning zone”—which is the zone where you are acquiring new skills, extending your comfort zone (while hopefully shrinking the fear zone), and being able to deal with challenges and problems that come up day to day. How am I going to do that? Simple—small, baby steps until them become routine and become bigger and bigger steps into the learning zone.

Starting with small things, and at times possibly silly things for me is the best way to show myself that I can deal with various different things. It has been shown that having a disorganized, clutter environment can have a negative effect on your mood and health. So I’m going to be slowly working on organizing and decluttering various parts of the house—I’ve actually started this over the weekend, I’m working on my bathroom. Once I have that room cleaned and organized I’ll move on to another (while slowly working on my bedroom at the same time). I’m actually trying to embrace the idea of less is more—i.e. semi-minimalism.

I just finished reading the book “The 12 week year: get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. One of the things that I’m going to be doing is trying to implement the idea of the 12-week year starting in March (I decided that I probably will need about two weeks to work through the exercises and plan things out)—but having a written plan will help more than just my usual winging and hoping that things fall into place.

So the 12-week year is the idea that instead of trying to set annual goals—and having no way of knowing if the processes will work four or five months down the road, you have your larger “why” or vision. You then break the goals down to ones that you focus on for 12 weeks at a time—not every goal, but one or two. At the end of the 12 weeks, you gauge where you are at in terms of how you performed over the past 12 weeks, and how much closer you are to the larger goals. Then during the next 12 weeks, you focus on the next task or two that will continue to move you towards your larger goal.

One of my problems has always been setting future goals, but at the same time not always breaking them down monthly or weekly. The only one that I think I’ve broken down that way is the step goal (and currently I will be having to rework that one, since I’ve been sedentary more than I would like to admit for the past six weeks or so).

This way I will be able to focus on different aspects of life (career/job transition, health/fitness, personal/professional development and crafts) at the same time—knowing that I’m going to be going after the little steps that will merge several of the paths into one. The next few weeks will be trying to figure out the best metrics for measuring the success of moving forward in the job transition (I already have ideas for how to measure the other areas), and then writing out the first 12-week year and my first weekly tracker(s).

Hopefully by implementing the idea of a 12-week year, I will be able to move out of the “fear zone” and into the “learning zone”.  I know that I will probably have a week or two where I slid backwards—but with the tracking, I will know and then be able to readjust and continue moving forward. Because one of the quotes for the year is “progress not perfection”.

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A review of August’s Aquarius Full Moon Goals

So the moon is going to be transitioning into Pisces either last night (which makes it a full moon on Friday the 13th) or tonight—but it all depends on where you are in the world. So September is almost halfway over, and in a week or so I’ll be staring down my last year of my thirties.

But for now, it means looking back at the goals that I set during the Aquarius full moon, and seeing how I did with each of them.

My goals for the Aquarius Full Moon included:

            Evening meditations

            Getting back into a workout routine

            Working on my reboot break and transition plans

So how did I do with each of them?

I’ve been okay at doing my evening meditations, even if it is only for two or three minutes, though there might have been a night or two that I skipped my meditations. I’m slowly being able to focus more on my breathing than the thoughts racing through my mind. Though I’m still working on the length of time I spend meditating—there are some nights where I can’t seem to focus and that’s okay. Still working on trying to find the quiet spot at work that I can go, sit and just be for a while (without anyone really knowing where I am, but at the same time not leaving campus). So this is still a minor work in progress.

Currently my workout routine has been mainly walking either on campus during the week, or walking around Boomer Lake on the weekends (the temperatures are finally decent in the mornings for a walk). I still want to get back into a resistance/cardio routine, but so far haven’t figure out the best timing with only about an hour and half between getting off of work, getting home, doing chores and then dinner time. After dinner, I have my evening routine before winding down before bed. So—yes I know that there are twenty-four hours in the day, and that I should easily be able to carve out thirty to forty minutes for a workout—I just haven’t figure out that time period/point yet.

In terms of my reboot break, it should be starting in roughly ten weeks—this is the approximate time in which my current job contract ends. Ending a job (without another set up) right before the holidays may seem strange and crazy—but that is exactly what I need to do. I need to mainly focus on myself and things that will help me go forward, and while I could probably gain a little more expertise in my current position (by taking on more responsibilities), there are no promotions or career movements within the position.

The first week of the reboot break will be semi-relaxing (mainly towards the end—which is the holidays), but at the beginning I’m going to try to get some of my storage unit in order (start repacking boxes that are falling apart), and seeing what I can maybe get rid of or sell. At the same time, I’m going to try to start paring back on the belongings I have at my parents’ place—that way when I do find a job, it won’t take that long to move the other belongings to storage unit (and that way easier to get on the moving truck).

After getting things in order, that is when I plan on devoting more time to personal/professional development and my transition plan. I have ideas of what I would possibly like to do outside of academia—I have a list of different skills for each of those areas, and have actually started to highlight what I think are the skills I should possibly try to start learning on my own.

The biggest thing though is going to be starting to network and be more active on linkedin, and figuring out where I would like to live and work (biotech hubs), and go from there. I’m hoping that by mid-December I’ll have at least three different ideas down on paths I would like to possibly take—and then I’ll have to start working my way on the three paths and see where they lead me in 2020.

So small steps were made with all three goals this past month. I’m thinking that I might start trying to track things in a journal again, but limit what I have listed daily. That way instead of trying to tackle four or five different areas everyday I can focus on one or two, and then the next day a different set. This will help curtail both the boredom that at times arises, and also the anxiety of trying to get too many things done in a very short period of time.

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