I bit the bullet and purchased a domain name. The blog has now migrated to http://howardpchen.com/blog.
You are 30 years old. You smoked for 10 years but quit last year. You started getting a dry cough recently and becoming strangely short of breath when walking long distances and you can hear yourself wheeze. A search for “cough with wheezing” on Google returns a very long list of medical words – some you know, some you don’t – like asthma, emphysema, bronchiolitis. And then you come upon some heavy-weight diagnostic jargon like “allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis,” “acute respiratory distress syndrome,” and “bronchogenic pulmonary adenocarcinoma.”
Now you are really worried.
Welcome to the world of medical information overload.
In Part 1 I argued that career satisfaction is built, not found. The implicit problem is that if expertise tends to precede true passion, and world-class experts spend at least 10,000 hours honing their crafts, where along the trajectory of career development can we say, “I have given it a fair chance, and it is time to move on”? Continue reading “Why “pursuing your dream” is wrong (2/2)”
In 2005, the late Steve Jobs delivered a memorable speech to graduates of Stanford University partly on the theme of career dreams. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle,” said him, adding that “Money will come.” After the housing bubble burst and lots of dream-chasers their lost jobs in 2007, I stumbled upon a 2008 Business Week article titled “Personality and the Perfect Job.” Books titled along the same themes, such as Do What You Are follow a similar paradigm as well. For those who needed a faster fix, the internet offered solutions too. Stuck in life? Oprah has a 28-question quiz to find who you really want to be!
The implication is clear: if you failed, it’s because that was not your real passion; pick another dream.
Over the past year, I began to wonder whether the endless pursuit for pre-existing passions is missing the mark altogether.
Photo Credit: Urbanesia.com
Not long ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a medical research project. In broad terms, the researchers developed a virtual tool to evaluate the skills of doctors on a particular procedure without performing on a real patient, and they needed people at various stages of proficiency to test the training program. Since I was a total novice, it made me an ideal subject – I was expected to stumble and burn. In fact, I was so clueless that I had to ask the experimenter to repeat the instructions for the simulation. Then, through either sheer luck or innate talent (ha), I scored near the top of the chart.
Shortly after the study concluded, I was notified that after discussing with the co-researchers, the research team has decided to discard my data-point because “the instructions were given twice, which gave an unfair advantage over the other participants.” I wanted to reply, “But if a complete novice can score like this without knowing how to do the actual procedure, doesn’t that say something about the quality of the virtual evaluation?”
More interestingly, if I had scored much lower than the average novice – making the results look even better – would the research team have thrown out my data-point all the same? Continue reading “Great Storytellers of Our Moral Decisions”
At work I routinely saw patients who suffered from substance addiction. Addiction is a powerful motivator – it is heart-breaking to see patients forgo buying life-sustaining food, water, and medications to “save up” for the next cocaine fix. Traditionally science has pinned the mechanism of addiction to biological molecules. However, over the past few decades, scientific studies began to show that behavioral neuropsychology – the intermingling of biological molecules, behaviors, and how the brain ties everything together into an experience – is a far more complete way to think about addiction. This intermingling of different fields also shed light on addiction as a disease of a general, even beneficial, motivation pathway. Continue reading “On Habits, Good Ones and Bad”
The fable of Buridan’s donkey tells of a donkey who is profoundly hungry. When put in the exact midpoint between a two identical piles of hay, the donkey was unable to choose which one it wanted and eventually dies of hunger. Ironically, if the donkey had only one and not two piles of hay to choose from, its life would have been easier (and longer). Obviously, people are smarter than Buridan’s donkey – are we? Continue reading “On Choices, Decisions, and Happiness”