“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” What an interesting proverb. You might think, “I don’t do that.” But we all do it. And of course you do as well. Everyday of our lives we are constantly making assumptions. It doesn’t matter if it’s an assumption regarding a person you meet on the street with a tattooed face that reminds you of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, a Doberman with a chain collar strolling St Catherine that makes you want to walk the other side of the street. Or a cereal pack that features a surprisingly happy tiger that you know is loaded with ingredients that Dr. Sheldon Cooper would not eat on a Monday morning. Assessing situations quickly without many facts is what we all do. A dog knows a threat when it sees one without knowing if he/she graduated from Stanford with honors or not.
But should we be judging just by the cover alone? When you see the picture that accompanies this post, you might think that it features just an every-day white guy wearing a T-shirt with some piercing. Yes he looks like a tough-no-BS kind of a guy. But could there be more to it? It’s not someone that you would remember if you would see him walking on the sidewalk.
Now click on the picture and hit play.
After I watched the video I had to find out more about the guy featured in this video, to get more info than just what was featured on the cover. It turns out that he is from Montreal and this ad was even shot here in Montreal!
This concept, don’t judge a book by its cover, is something that has been on my mind since I saw this video. Maybe it’s because I can relate to this video – I’m a big guy that has to deal with other people’s assumptions constantly. Sure, I might think I have excuses for my statue, but does it really matter? If a businessman shows up for work wearing a purple suit and a white tie, does it mean he is unqualified to do his job simply because he doesn’t dress like a businessman would? The fact is it does not say anything about how skilled he is at his job, but people make assumptions. Does it have any meaning if I state that I deadlifted three reps of 200 kg when I was 19 and shortly after injured both of my wrists and from that point I have had difficulties going to the gym feeling not as strong as I was nine years ago? Does it really matter? Sadly, no it doesn’t.
At grad school we are effectively shielded from reality. We do our work the best we can just to do well. We do not do it to get a promotion, a corner office and for most our scholarships/salaries are unaffected by the economical crisis (at least those that got funding before fall 2008). Outside campus we do not have to deal with much more than the occasional “so when are you graduating?” questions from parents and family members. But we have to be prepared for the real life before we leave grad school. It is imperative that we approach the last year in grad school as a preparation for real life. You have to find your weaknesses and fight them. Fight them hard! If you have a problem speaking in front of a large audience, get a TA position that forces you to talk to students. If you find it difficult to be the one that is responsible for an entire research project, hire a summer student or someone doing an undergrad thesis and guide him/her through it, take on the mentor role and take responsibility in what directions you steer him/her. If you are afraid you will not be able to come up with original projects/ideas as a researcher, take action right now and think of new things you can do with your research and approach your advisor with whatever idea you’ll have. He might hate it, but at least you’ll be getting practice and how to think on your own.
I am someone that is coming to grips with the fact I’ll be graduating in a year. I know that I have to loose plenty of weight to be taken seriously as a scientist/engineer (and as a person, but that’s another topic), make a business-like decision on what to do with my beard (shave or not shave, that is the question) and get a wardrobe that features more than one pair of jeans every semester and black T-shirts. I believe that we have to keep reminding ourselves that we should be improving everything about ourselves. Constantly! You are the decider of your own future. It’s up to you to be the best you can be. Take action or no one will.