A new paradigm – How to sustain focus ?

There were a couple of people having a boisterous conversation in the lobby just outside where I was working. My laptop fan was whizzing like a jet engine due to the intensive task it was carrying out. All those sounds reached my ears but my mind was concentrated on the task as if it was in Microsoft’s Anechoic Chamber. Although my mobile phone is in silent mode, there were many incoming messages, notifications, and emails to my mobile phone. Aroma of the flavor from the food which was being reheated in the Informatics kitchen was very much distracting. Though I had not eaten any food in the last 6 hours, I was indifferent and was focussed on the task at hand.

I did not bother about whether I am going to finish the task that day or not. I could not care less if I would get any reward or appreciation for it. I did not think, nor plan any contingencies in the case of a failure of the task at hand. I did not know that it would benefit or harm anyone at any point in the future. I had not blabbered about the task, neither complained about it to any of my friends. It may not be super interesting task to most people in the world who were doing such tasks daily neither for those who were starters.

I was simply making my computer crunch a bunch of numbers and perform some large computations. It is neither a humungous task nor a minuscule one. I simply did not care about its size. I was super interested in performing it, though. I felt like I was swimming in the middle of an ocean by myself. I did not know whether I would be rescued, reach the shore, be eaten, or just die of exhaustion. I was not hungry, neither thirsty. I was swimming for the sake of swimming because I enjoy swimming.

Now, this may sound a little extraordinary. One may argue that one cannot be this focussed every day. Trust me this is what I had been learning in my grad school and I have been very fortunate to have discovered the secret to such unadulterated concentration. From the moment I had known the secret, I have been creating wonders. Whatever the task had been, I have been learning to focus and enjoy doing it.

“One has to learn that the result is not important”

Krishna in Bhagavadgita (A mythical God)

The secret is that one should not have the desire for the result. The motivation you may get from the result is temporary or misleading. But if your love for what you do is genuine and unadulterated, not even a tornado can distract you. Of course, each and every task we do would not be so lovely. But, one can develop a genuine relationship with anything in this world. All it takes is practice and giving.

“The mind is restless and difficult to restrain, but is subdued by practice”

Krishna in Bhagavadgita

I was not a great coder, nor was in love with it on the day I started coding. It was intimidating and It took me a lifetime to be a decent coder. I have been understanding myself and coding every single day. Although many situations stressed me, I had been learning to never feel any pressure of becoming the best, nor show any genuine interest in any results from it while enjoying it. When you associate yourself with either an art, a sport, or a person, or anything in the world, without any desire, such relationship would be so pure and would prosper for a lifetime! Not convinced yet? I am attaching a magical video about how a small kid with a growth hormone deficiency from Argentina changed the world of soccer for good. Hi is my living legend, my idol, and one of the greatest Soccer players of all time: Messi. Watch him, till the end to experience a paradigm shift. Now go create wonders every single day!

Please let your thoughts flow in the comments below!

Retaking GRE

Many students every year face the dilemma whether they should retake the GRE or not. There is no standardized answer to this question. But one must consider different factors to decide if retaking is in their interest or not.

First of all, one must understand the admission process. Independent of what school or what program you are applying, your application is evaluated considering many of your qualifications. GRE is only one of them. Not necessarily, the most important by any means. A typical admission committee consists of Continue reading

Whew … Quals … CHECK!

Depending on the institution, your comprehensive exam(s) is another hurdle to jump through to obtain your Ph.D. Some institutions call them your comprehensive exams, others call them qualification exams.  I just finished my two qualification exams, and I feel good … kinda! 😉

I hope I did well, but to have these exams in the middle of the semester while I am teaching, research, and conducting other academic responsibilities can be stressful and overwhelming!  Don’t fret … I chose to do them in the middle of the semester, so I guess I asked for it.

They say that if you made it far enough to the qualification exam process then there is no reason why you wouldn’t do well on the exams.  I sure hope this is the case.  Anyhow, I’m one step closer to ABD … all but dead! 😉

Know that when you get to this point, you are not alone!  I had lots of support from friends, family, colleagues, and professors and advisors.  Thank you all!

New Year’s Goal: Complete Qualifying Exams

Last Friday morning, I began the first weekend for my qualifying exams. As a third year student in my program, it is now my time to work towards completion of my degree. The qualifying exams for the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program consists of two questions spread over two weekends. I received the first prompt at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. My 20 page response (minus appendices and bibliography in APA format) was due on Monday afternoon by 4:30 pm. (Which means that in less than 9 hours, round 2 will begin!!!!!!!!)

Qualifying exams are designed for doctoral students to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge that they have received during their academic tenure. The purpose is to respond to an issue or problem using the tools that I am supposed to have gained in 2.5-ish years. As my second weekend approaches, I am certain that I have written wwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyy better papers than that. However, I am confident that I demonstrated that I have learned and can apply the knowledge of my field.

I am so excited to finish this last semester of coursework. As I contemplate the next year or so of my life, where I will be writing my dissertation, I am confident that I have gained tools and have had experienced here at Indiana University that has laid a foundation for me to become a leader in my field.

Summer Plans

The summer is fast approaching! Although, many of my friends and fellow grad students are preparing to go on to an industry (or research lab) summer internship, where they can gain professional experience, as well as earn some extra money, my summer plans are quite straightforward: I will be alternating between preparing for my Qualifying exams and working on my research projects. It will not be until after the quals that I will have time to enjoy Bloomington’s weather, as well as visit nearby cities and go to some baseball games.

Second Year … DONE!

The spring semester is coming to an end! One presentation and one exam will sealed my second year as a doctoral student at IU. Furthermore, I am really excited to conclude this semester because it marks the fulfillment of all course requirements of my PhD program! Although courses have been fundamental in my development as a student and researcher, I am looking forward to move closer to the “holy grail” for a PhD student: full-time research! This semester I had the opportunity to spend most of the time working on my research projects and it was terrific and very rewarding. There is no substitute to being able to do what one loves every day. However, there is one more hurdle in my PhD journey: Qualifying Examination. Therefore, starting next week, I will focus all my energy on preparing for the Qualifying Examination. The Quals will be in about a month, thus, all fun is postponed until further notice.

Closing out the first year

One more test. That’s it. One more exam and I can conclude my first year as a doctoral student at IU. This has been far the most challenging semester of my graduate experience. My doctoral classes have literally forced me to think outside of the box and challenge myself to take charge of my learning. Throughout this year, I do believe I have a greater understanding of the higher education as a field of study and what is required to be a successful contributor through research and practice. Statistics has been the most challenging class of my entire collegiate career. (haha..) There have been days when I have questioned if challenging myself to grasp quantitative analysis is really worth the stretching of my brain. As as a lover of qualitative research, I chose statistics this semester as a way for me to expand my ability to be effective in future research. I think that I have achieved a wonderful appreciation for the impact of quantitative analysis in my field. What I will be taking away from this statistics experience, is a new challenge to take harder classes. I do not want to continue just to take classes and conduct research in the areas I am most comfortable with. Rather, I look forward to taking boundaries away from the preconceived notions of where I have thought my research topics should be. Reflecting over the past 18 credits of this year, I made the right choice in coming to IU. Professionally, I can acknowledge the qualities that I bring to my job and what I am able to offer the students I work with. Academically, I can’t wait to start an independent research project this summer!! And, I do believe that it will be quantitative. The next few years will continue to be more challenging, but I find comfort in my support system at IU. There are endless opportunities to succeed at this university, I am very blessed to be here.

On procrastination…

The semester is ending in two weeks. [Insert surprised exclamation of choice here such as “Egad!”, “Wha?” or “Whoa!”] Point being that I have a final paper, a manuscript revision, data analyses, and TA duties looming in the next few weeks. Some of you might be thinking, “Pssshh! That’s nothing!” And I am almost inclined to agree with you.

I say almost because I have a serious obstacle in my path. Something that makes the hill-ish pile of work ahead appear to be more akin to a mountain. Not quite Mt. Everest, but definitely up there. So what is this obstacle? It’s a game that some of you might know as Bejewelled Blitz. It’s a fairly popular game on Facebook. According to their Facebook page, there are currently 11,463,184 monthly active users. Sadly, I am one of them. Every Tuesday, when the weekly scores have been cleared, my need to establish an ever higher high score manifests itself. Scratch that. It’s a compulsion at this point. I have to play, and keep playing, till I have a high score that I can be satisfied with. Sigh.

So the next few weeks are going to be tough. Not only do I have a lot of work to do, but I also have to find a way to beat the game quickly enough each week that I will actually have the time to get the work done! So yeah. Egad! However, after five years in graduate school, I have a few tricks up my sleeve such as restricting my access to the internet, going to my favorite spot to work, and imagining how great the summer will be after all the work is completed. But in the meantime I still have some time, right? Enough to play just one game? 😉

This Year…I Will Become a Better Researcher

It has been almost 9 years since I have taken a math class. This semester I have enrolled in Y502 which is Intermediate Statistics. With a new year and a new semester, I have resolved that I need to have a new attitude towards quantitative research. There has been some hidden and somewhat unhidden fear about taking statistics due to the absence of math in over the past few years. However, I really need to grow in my inquiry skills and look forward to what will come of this new knowledge. The first day of class included a sort of “pre-test”, that I thought was a pop quiz. I freaked out and thought I performed horribly. Yet, I proved myself wrong and did fairly well. I know it will be challenging, but the Spring semester of 2011 will be great!