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  • Writer's picturePingtao Ding

"Getting Stuff Done": A Chat with Fellow PhD Students


Today, while surfing the internet, I came across a video clip as shown above from Twitter. It was of former President Barack Obama sharing his number one career advice for young people. What he said really spoke to me, and I felt a need to share my thoughts with all of you, hoping to encourage each other as we venture through our PhD journeys.


Obama said, "Learn how to get stuff done... I'm always looking for someone who, no matter how big or small the problem, steps up and says, 'I'll handle that.'" Simple advice, right? But when you think about it, it carries a lot of weight, especially for us in academia.


We all know that life as a PhD student can be tough. We're always trying to unravel complex things, to get to the heart of the matter. But Obama's words remind us that it's not just about understanding problems. It's about rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on fixing them.


This idea reminded me of the old Chinese proverb "滴水穿石" (dī shuǐ chuān shí), which roughly translates to "Dripping water penetrates the stone." It means that even small, consistent efforts can lead to big results, kind of like moving a mountain by carrying away small stones, as Confucius said.


So, what's the takeaway from all these wise words?


First off, they tell us to be action-oriented. When we face a problem, we can't just stand there. We need to jump in and say, "I've got this!"


Second, they highlight the importance of a positive attitude. This kind of can-do spirit is not just good for our PhD journey; it's a great life tool.


And finally, they celebrate our shared experiences. No matter where we're from or what we're studying, we all face challenges. But guess what? We also have the power to overcome them. That's what "getting stuff done" is all about.


So, to you, my fellow PhD students, and to myself, let's remember this: Our journey, in PhDs or in life, isn't just about understanding problems, it's about showing we can fix them. Let's face any challenge, big or small, with a 'get stuff done' attitude.


The words from Obama, Confucius, and the wisdom embedded in "滴水穿石" aren't just encouraging, they're a testament to our strength and resilience. At the end of the day, it's not just about the papers we publish, the degrees we earn, or the awards we win. It's about who we become in the process. So, let's keep growing, learning, and yes, getting stuff done, together.

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