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Scientist - How do I get out of the slowlane while still doing what I love?

Discussion in 'Hustles, Freelancing, Bootstrapping' started by 4symmetry, Feb 8, 2018.

Have you built your business starting as a side hustle?

  1. Yes, and it worked

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  2. Yes, and it failed

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  3. No

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  1. 4symmetry
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    4symmetry Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Hi all,


    so I read TMF and almost finished Unscripted (Audiobook), but I need a bit of advice on how to get started.
    First of all, a short intro: I'm a 28-year old trained PhD-level scientist in biomedical research, currently on a Postdoc contract, in Germany.
    While I love what I do and hope that it will someday contribute value, I'm extremely frustrated by my future perspectives. I want to keep doing research and contributing using my highly trained skill set... I really don't want to throw that away, and also, it's so much fun! Some stats @future:
    • Good: only 20% of all PhDs in bio stay in academia.
    • Bad: only 5% of all PhDs go on to get a fixed position.
    A fixed position in academia is really the only scripted(!) way to do what I love doing, while not being on a short-term contract. (Pharma research: more limitations, less freedom, plus pantsuits :arghh:).
    While I do mind the competition, that won't keep me from trying. My real issue is: even if I win, there's no way I can get to financial freedom on a group leader/professor salary. And for me, financial freedom is a MUST!

    So now I'm torn: I want to keep on doing biomedical research, and not throw that skill set away, but I also don't wanna be stuck in the slowlane forever (and it's not even sure I'd make it there)!!!


    For those interested in more context, HERE Introduction - Scientist tired of trading time for money is my intro thread.

    Also, why I want to keep doing research and love it so much:
    It's not your regular slowlane job.

    • There's a need, and so our reserach area gets funded well and I'm contributing something valuable to society. Something not everyone can do at this level, as:
    • There's a high entry barrier, see doctors, lawyers, etc. I feel like if I'm privileged enough to have the education to contribute something at this "high" (barrier-wise) of a level, it's an ethical mandate.
    • I have lots of autonomy on how I work, on the daily, weekly and monthly scale. However, this doesn't quite qualify for control.
    This leads me to the drawbacks:
    • I don't have control over my external circumstances. I'm dependent on my bosses' funding right now, government funding policies, awards, grants, fellowships... and what I may actually do science-wise is still regulated quite a bit and constricted to the project I work on. However, that would also be the case in my entrepreneurial project, right? So mainly the money part. Also, I have very low control of whether I'll be able to secure a fixed position. But even if I do, there's...
    • ...the problem of scale. Best case, I can make it to institute head someday. But the odds are horrible. And even then, your income is limited.
    • Moreover, right now leading right up to that coveted fixed position, you are ALWAYS trading time for money, directly. Even our institute head has to work horrible hours to get ahead, all the time. I don't mind working hard - I mind having to do it, or perishing.


    Now, my questions:
    1. Can you/have any of you started their business on the side while still working your job? I don't want to cancel my contract for now, the project I'm on is super exciting and may help create a gender-specific treatment. Also, canceling would make me look pretty bad if I want to/have to stay in academia. MJ talks about full commitment though... Monogamy... Is there away to have both?
    2. Does anyone have experience with the German regulations on "side hustling"? As far as I understand it, my contract makes it mandatory to alert your boss if you earn money on the side. There are more regulations and they scare me. I need to get that sh*t outta the way before I start because I can feel it subconsciously holding me back and stopping me from executing, since my brain isn't fully convinced it will work and is scared I'll die in prison. :eek::playful:
    3. Do you guys and gals have any idea for a valuable entrepreneurial project that I can start without throwing my PhD-level science skills away? I'd love to make it something sciency, but don't know what to do/how to do that without funding and I'd like to avoid external funding, at least at first. Biomedical research itself is super expensive though - my cell culture costs alone run in the 4 figures category, per week. So maybe something science-associated? Something that would help scientists?

    Sorry for the long post... any help and ideas/feedback are appreciated. :somber:
     
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  2. jpanarra
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    jpanarra Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Hello again,

    The entrepruener mindset is a completely different perspective on the world. Even the way you worded your header sounds like a consumer...

    "How do I get out of the slowlane while still doing what I love?"

    You're asking people to give you information and value with no clear indication how you will return the favor.

    Being a successful entrepreneur is going out and seeing problems and solving them for the sake of helping others. This will give people perceived value of your skills and this will draw them to you, then you can start thinking about asking for help and eventually $$.

    So, to answer your question.. Think about how to help others, then actually help them... after you've done this maybe you can ask for $ in return for your services/products.
     
  3. 4symmetry
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    4symmetry Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Hey @jpanarra, thanks for the reply (again) :)

    First, out of curiosity: how would you have worded my heading as an entrepreneur?

    Second: Maybe there‘s a misunderstanding. I have a list of about 20 ideas by now. Some bigger, some smaller. All based on perceived problems and needs
    I‘m just hesitate to even take the next step because I don‘t want to give up science... and that’s where I‘m stuck at.
     
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  4. NaPal
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    NaPal Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    It sounds like you need to make a decision; slowlane or fastlane?

    1. I've had many successful failures to date :) and I am currently working on the new gig which is looking promising, but am no means close to financial freedom.
    2. I'm in the US, can't comment.
    3. Do you have a case of sunk cost fallacy? The truth is, your PhD doesn't matter. Look for a need and provide massive value.
     
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  5. jpanarra
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    jpanarra Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I would've worded it in a way of I'm conveying a message that I'm taking action for myself and to help others. So it would be more of a statement instead of a question For example,

    "Working my way out of the slow-lane and I intend to do what I love"

    Its a quick header, but then in your thread you can explain just like you did and share what value you have to offer. People will naturally see you doing work and will want to help.

    Its like the car broken down on the highway.

    Two cars broke down on the side of a highway less than a mile apart engine steaming out of control.

    Guy #1 decided he needed help so he stood on the side of the road waving at cars and trying to get their attention to get them to pull over.

    The Guy #2 decided to try and fix the car with the hood open and getting himself covered in grease.

    Guess who got more people to slowdown and shout, "Hey, do you need help with that?"
     
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  6. 4symmetry
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    4symmetry Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Thanks for the answer, NaPal. :)
    By "successful failures" you mean...? Side businesses that didn't work out? Or sth else?
    @3. Yeah that might be. I thought about it thoroughly though, and I'm still not sure whether it's the sunk cost fallacy, or if I just really love the field of science so much that it's hard to give up. I'm scared that if I start a business that's unrelated to science that I'll never get back into the field. I don't necessarily mean that I HAVE to do research in the future. I just want to keep connected to science, because that's where I feel I can contribute the most to society at large. This is my sticking point -_-

    That's why I asked 1. and 2. as well. Because I think if I could start something "small" on the side and see what it's like and where it takes me, I could make a better informed decision on what to pursue in the future...
     
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  7. 4symmetry
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    4symmetry Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    I see - I guess that's this mysterious "copy writing" skill people talk about a lot, right? :):playful:
    I get what you mean. My intention is more akin to what you describe, in adding value, doing my thing and still welcoming any help/advice I can get.
    I guess I just didn't sell it well. :happy:

    On that note, thanks @jpanarra, you've already been more than generous with your time and replies! *hug of deaf* I guess? (Oh god sorry I'm just a sucker for dumb puns. Hope you're not offended! :happy: Thanks a lot, seriously!!!!!)
     
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  8. 4symmetry
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    OK since I can't change the title of the thread I guess, here's my "virtual" new headline:
    Intending to add value via science while still working my way out of the slowlane!
    :thumbsup::smile2:
     
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  9. NaPal
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    NaPal Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    You're welcome, just trying to provide value on this forum :cool:

    Yes, I've had many side-businesses that have not worked out. I think you'll find that a lot of entrepreneurs do. These knowledge from these past ventures influence everything you do going forward.

    I'm not saying there's nothing to be had in your background field with your Phd, I'm saying don't limit yourself to one area right out of the gate. I believe you're looking for this:

     
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  10. RobD88
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    Holy smokes! I wish I had your skillset. You have the technical ability you need to develop something new or improve on something existing. There is no reason you couldn't/shouldn't be using that to your advantage.

    Use your scientific skills to bring value to the marketplace in the form of a consumer product or think of a way you could automate something in your field that is encumbersome and hire coders to develop a program that you could sell (maybe an analytical database). As a technician you have to run into things on a daily basis that frustrate you or could be improved. New, more ergonomic instruments for your work. Develop an all natural metabolism enhancer.

    I can think of a number of things you could use your scientific skillset for while bringing value to the marketplace and getting out of the slowlane.
     
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  11. Knugs
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    Hallo aus Köln!

    The salary of a scientist is a joke when you think about the level of education. AND I'm pretty sure you don't get anything when a patent is sold because the university owns it.

    A lot of job contracts have a clause that disallow you working for a different employer. You shouldn't worry about that or see it as a barrier to become fastlane. For one, you can easily circumvene this by having a company (which is allowed) and not drawing a salary. If you do and they find out, they can fire you, but why would they? Only in the unlikely scenario of conflict of interest. They have to find out first.
    Many don't plunge into entrepreneurship immediately. Many on this forum work their slow lane job and hustle on the side. They switch and commit everything when they can afford to. And then there are others who risk it all, live with their parents and minimize their expenses. It sounds to me option 1 fits you best.

    I don't think any of this sounds new to you and I rather gather a feeling of uncertainty in your text. You seem scared to give up your career in which you have invested so much in and which you also enjoy. Stop it. Just start one of your smaller and easier ideas and DO IT in your free time.
     
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  12. 4symmetry
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    Thanks for the info! That's encouraging. :)

    That's exactly what I'm looking for (but everyone probably is, right?)!
    Thanks for the link, I'm reading it now! :smile2:

    Thanks! Much encouragement, such wow! *insert doge meme here*

    Thanks a bunch, these are all great ideas and got me thinking in the right direction! Sparked some new ideas for me that are more connected to the scientific field. YAY! :clap:::thumbsup::smile:

    Just a word on this:
    Yeah... "all natural metabolism enhancers" are scams. Sorry to say that :D Working in the field of metabolism, I'm pretty sure I'd know if there was one that worked. If I found one, I'd patent and publish it ASAP :smile: Heck, we have trouble finding synthetic metabolism enhancers that don't have mortal side effects. So just be careful if you find any that claim to be "all natural metabolism enhancers". This is a bit off-topic but I feel like I had to put it out there. :clench:

    Thanks a bunch for everything!! :praise::blush:
     
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  13. 4symmetry
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    Nice, hallo zurück! Are you busy partying at the carneval?! :)

    Yeah, that's so true @salary. And yes, I know for a fact that anything discovered or created at my institute belongs to the institution/state at 50%, and you have to share the remaining 50% with your boss. :inpain::humph: I'm connecting with some people who plan on running an open lab in Munich though, so that in case I follow up on one of my more science/lab/bench work related ideas, I have a place to go.

    My god, thanks a bunch! I checked my contract again and this is true, I just didn't catch the distinction in law terms of working for someone vs. being self-employed!! Thanks so much for the pointer! :smile::smile::smile:

    Yes the more I read on this forum, especially with the great progress threads of @NaPal and others, I'm getting that same impression! This is hugely encouraging, again, thanks a lot!!! :blush:

    I guess some things were indeed new. But you're defo right about my uncertainty. Thanks a lot, I think your post just pushed me over the edge into "doing" territory!
    I don't have much Rep but I'll transfer some anyway!!! :):thumbsup::clap:::praise:

    Out of curiosity, what are you doing currently? What's your background?
     
  14. Iammelissamoore
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    Iammelissamoore Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    What are you doing with it? Some way, by now, you could have already come up with a solid idea of a business strategy/industry to get started.

    A lot of people have briliant ideas every second of every single day - Homeless People, Working People, Entrepreneurs - what makes the difference amidst any one of these people is their ability to act.

    E.g. There are countless success stories of Homeless People who have gotten off the streets because of their ability to act, research, learn, grow and make the solid decision to get off the streets.

    This is what makes the difference. I can speak hugely of this because that was me - "Melissa the Wantrepreneur" - Beautiful ideas, I would go to the ends of the earth preparing to start, and then when it came to execution, I'd allow my comfort zone of avoiding the unknown to cripple me. How far did that get me? Not a darn place further than where I began, matter of fact it sent me backwards, cause now, I became crippled with fear. Also, like a lot of us who are on the path, it is easy for us to fear going and winning big in business. Most of us believe that because our parents didn't have the opportunities of generating massive wealth that we don't deserve to change up the game and build a life of greatness and this honestly isn't the case.

    Society doesn't get to control our lives, not if we take hold of our driver seats.

    No, you're not stuck from the next step due to giving up science, you are stuck because your perspective of how far you have reached is difficult to give up because of how much time and money you have invested in obtaining your education to get ahead in life.

    You have been fed the lie of "getting good grades guarantees a life of happiness," don't feel bad about it, regardless of which corner of the world, regardless of your gender, race, culture, country's name - this is the general story we have all been sold. You are not alone with that.

    Now, this isn't to say that your degree is a waste, no way, life is about learning, and learning comes in several different aspects. Even better, you have admitted to being in the industry, if you genuinely love working in this industry, then you are in the right place to explore unsolved issues that can lead you to building a solid fastlane business while becoming a changemaker in your industry.

    You mentioned that it is an absolute necessity to inform your bosses in your country of additional income streams, okay, what are the threats of this, if any? Is it life-threatening? What if initially your fastlane business can be done without interferring with your job? This will give you an opportunity to test the market as required, prior to deciding to roll out big with your biz.

    Fear is the biggest culprit that separates the winners in life from the not-so-winners in life and while it can most certainly work against you, you can also use it to work for you, as like, the fear of being stuck because you aren't taking necessary actions.

    One solid lesson I learnt in my wantrepreneuring is that in life, I have to make the solid decision to do the things I dislike temporarily, so I can build and do the things I love permanently, and yes, part of that is along the lines of having the slowlane job, while building the fastlane job. There is nothing more difficult than resorting to the slowlane principles that keep us back, BUT, it is these same slowlane principles that reminds me each day what, why, who, how and when I am doing and what I am doing it for; and with that, I often keep saying to myself - "Melissa, this is just you doing temporarily, what you dislike, so permanently you can do what you adore.

    Life is about experiences, perspective, action and purpose (and a whole lot more things) and the only person to determine which course of action to take is yourself.
     
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  15. 4symmetry
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    Thanks for your answer, Melissa. Basically what you’re saying is just a recap of MJ‘s admonishments to act and execute, in both of his books. I have learnt that lesson well and I do think I‘m a fast learner. I’m good at executing. Otherwise I wouldn’t have rocked a PhD at 27.

    I have progressed over the last few days thanks to helpful answers, assurances that I should just start something on the side and that many have done it that way, and proof thereof in progress threads from being stuck to having decided to do it.

    To clarify my journey: I read TMF 2 weeks ago. It was the first time I seriously thought that entrepreneurship might be an option. I read/listened to Unscripted last week and during that time signed up at this forum. In these past 2 weeks I came up with ALL my ideas. It‘s not like I’ve been sitting on them and not acting for years, or even months.
    I realize this might sound defensive but I felt the need to clarify that.

    So, now that I‘ve decided, I have also decided to prioritize my work/science project for now. Presentation coming up on Monday, and have been getting my paper published which came out of my PhD project. The ability to close and to finish something is important.
    I have thus consciously postponed deciding on which idea to pick and execute until next week. I guess I‘ll start a progress thread then, is this how things are done around here? Or should I just do it right here?

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time, Melissa. I‘m sure it was well-meaning.
     
  16. Knugs
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    Karneval is insane. The entire city is partying!

    I'm a medic and just moved back here. Ironically, I'm going into surgical residency (university hospital), because I need money now. After all, I need to fund my existence somehow.
    I'm using my slow lane job to fund an apartment block (8 flats) in which I will be living in (hopefully, rent free). The timing might not be right. Depends.
    I concentrate my entrepreneurship in healthcare. I see a lot of problems in every corner of it and have good ideas to solve many of them. At the moment I'm focusing my time on one though.

    There is a German meetup in early march if you are interested. You might live a little too far though.
     
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  17. Iammelissamoore
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    Iammelissamoore Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Well,I can say that you are well on your way... And indeed, everything I mentioned is well-meaning. My entire post was in support of starting things on the side, which you have stated you begun, so that is great.

    With regards to the progress thread, it's better if you begin a separate thread, this is for easy reference when following your journey. There's a lot we do learn from each other with the progress thread, although, you don't have to feel pressured into doing one.

    There are two (2) options to take on the forum - The Progress Thread, as we have already clarified, or, a Success Thread, which some Fastlaners do upon experiencing the ground-breaking success they yearned for, after going through the necessary processes to get there.

    In both cases, we highlight the challenges/lessons, breakthroughs etc. So the choice is yours.

    Cheers on your success which awaits you.
     
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    Just my 2 cents.

    When I read your original post I hear, something to the effect of, how can a researcher get rich? You might not be saying that, but that is what I am hearing.

    If you wanted to get rich pretty much any other way, there would be tons of mentors out there for you, but to make it, as a researcher, I can only suggest you review the life of one person, Herbert W. Boyer.

    Herbert Boyer - Wikipedia
    Herbert W. Boyer :: DNA from the Beginning
    Genentech: Our Founders

    Genentech and Mr. Boyer where both featured in:
    Something Ventured | Netflix

    His useful contribution to society was the creation of synthetic insulin. Defiantly big enough! Guy loved to research and was working a massive project.

    Or, you could start a "temp" agency for researchers. Just match research jobs up with people looking to do research. In the meantime get yourself hired as one of the researchers. This would be an easy way to leverage your contacts and education. Take a cut of each contract, offer slightly better benefits and you might have a little business to grow up into something.

    Serious question. Do you want to drink coffee, or run a coffee shop? A lot of coffee lovers think that running a coffee shop is an ideal job. Till they find out it's a bunch of paper work, people work, etc.

    What is this? I don't know what this is. It looks like a linkedin for scientist. Could this help you freelance? Can it be done better? Perhaps they need a point of view of someone in the industry?

    ResearchGate Scientific Recruiting - Hire Scientists and Researchers

    Anyway, do not wait, everyday needs to be pointed toward progress on your own thing!
     
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  19. 4symmetry
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    Thanks jay, extremely interesting, I should have thought of Genentech of course, thanks for that!
    Also interesting idea about the temp agency. Not sure that’s feasible but I‘ll think about it.

    Research gate I‘ve used mostly to ask questions about lab techniques and I think that’s how most people use it. Not sure what the purpose of the site actually is - which in itself is a branding failure since I‘m its target group.

    True that! I‘m on it!
     
  20. mikemike
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    Here's what I did: start a company based on my PhD research. I know at least a few people that gained financial freedom by founding a company based on their research; this allows you to keep using your hard-earned skills, and create value that others cannot easily replicate.
     
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    Thanks mike, congrats that you managed to do that! Unfortunately I think my PhD research won’t work for that. But it’s another direction to consider
     
  22. 4symmetry
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    4symmetry Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    The problem with keeping on doing academic research is well captured by this quote by Peter Drucker: "The trouble with miracles is not that they happen rarely - it's that one can't rely on them."
     
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  23. maverick
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    maverick Unorthodox Nonconformist Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Bluntness incoming.

    These venn diagrams look great but are complete BS. Try applying it to any successful entrepreneur you know: Elon Musk, Zuckerberg, Ray Kroc etc etc

    They didn't sit down one day to find that perfect intersection.

    Also, that which you've studied or the job you're currently doing, does not define you. Nobody cares about your level of education. Nobody cares about the knowledge you possess. Create value.
     
  24. 4symmetry
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    4symmetry Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Oh, so follow your passion doesn’t work? Big newsflash...

    I think NaPal was trying to put the finger on my problem/pain point rather than the solution with that Venn diagram.

    I do provide value, and value that people without my knowledge/degree will find hard to add. Without science, progress stops, and laymen will not be able to substitute for that. So stop f*cking beating on advanced degrees, everyone. Some might be useless, like those just acting as a certificate for your ego. Others however are a piece of paper that stands behind a year long process of hands-on training in a competitive area that drives progress on society.

    Why then are future perspective and pay sh*t in science?
    My theory:
    - either society is undervaluing science and its contribution to society and will pay for it in the future
    - or the way science is done in academia actually doesn’t provide that much value to society. It’s maybe not efficient enough to be effective. Thus perspectives and pay in science do actually reflect its intrinsic value.

    Either way I should look for a way out, if I a) don’t wanna be stuck in the slowlane and b) want to contribute more value to society.