Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Where to stop?

K was my school-mate. He dropped out of school in std X. He got married, and is a father of two already. He works as an 'assistant' to a local cable operator, and shares a 1 bedroom flat with his parents.

M, another childhood friend of mine, didn't go beyond Std. XII. He got married a couple of days back, and works in an import-export company. He told me that even though he was not stable in life, his parents wanted hom to get married, and he is not beyond their wish.

Many of my mates from engineering days are in Bangalore. They got jobs in big software companies, and are doing good for themselves. They say that they are happy with their lives, and are satisfied with whatever they are doing / getting.

Most of my friends in Clemson were from Electrical Engineering- Computer Science stream. They completed their Masters, and are earning big bucks now (no, Bioengineers dont like big money). Some of them even bought new BMWs, and are living royally. They have no plans on studying any further, and are content with their jobs.

I know people who took 5 years to complete PhD, and are now doing a Post-Doc. They haven't yet started making big money, and but are still content with their work. They say that it gives them an utmost satisfaction to work in the area of their own liking, and do something that no one has even thought of.

My lab-mate Sandra is in her 6th year of PhD and has at least 1.5 years to go before she can graduate.

I have just started my PhD. It will take me at least 4 years to finish my work. I am not even in a position to think and plan my life after earning PhD. I have been asking this question to myself plenty of times in past 4 years: "Where to stop?" and "Why to stop?" and I don't have definite answers to those.

"How do people choose their ultimate career?... How do people zero down on a profession?". Thinking and making observations related to these two questions is a favorite past-time of mine.

Lets start from India, and lets start from people whom we come across in our day-to-day life. How did a bus driver decide that that was going to be his job for life?. How did a newspaper vendor end up deciding that he wants to sell papers in a small corner of a busy street?. We come across postmen, hawkers, peons, etc. What prompts them to choose THAT particular profession over others?. Its a very intriguing question.

Now lets think a bit about the higher-end (only in terms of education) people. How do they figure out the million dollar question "where to stop?".

Here are my thoughts about this thingy:

There are many factors that compel you on zeroing down on the ultimate career option. I think the first and most significant one is the "socio-economic" factor. Many a times one is financially handicapped. He is responsible for entire family, and that burdens him from pursuing their ultimate dreams. I have seen so many people who wanted to do much more than they ended up doing, either because they did not have financial back-up or they were compelled by their family background or merely peer-pressure. They succumbed to social norms, and their career was ultimately decided by others (say parents or relatives) and not by themselves. I have also seen many (especially girls) who had to abandon their pursuit for higher studies just because they wanted to "settle" in life.

For those who cross this hurdle, the next hurdle was (or could be) their ability. Not everyone is born with same intellect or acumen. As one climbs up the ladder, often one realises that they cannot go beyond a certain point. There is an upper limit for everything, and the threshold is different for different individuals. At one point they realise that there is an element of risk involved getting to the next level. One often prefers to play safe than taking risks. Its human nature.

Another factor is ambition. It is one of the strongest driving forces in pursuits of an ultimate career. Some are happy with being just one of many, other want to be just a notch above others (more on that later).

Then comes work satisfaction. For some individuals (I can definitely say that about PhD students, and even for that matter for individuals pursuing medicine. I have ample of samples around me to prove my point :) ), work satisfaction comes first. Money, family life, etc. take a back-seat for a while, because they do not want to settle for anything less than the best. Its the quest of knowledge that gives them the energy to keep going (yeah, I know many of you are feeling sorry for these maniacs. But sometimes you cant help).

The least (or the most, for some) but a very important factor is money. Lets admit that money drives everything. One cannot survive without money, and no amount is sufficient amount for being happy in life (very unfortunately, our dear God forgot to create the real-money plant. I would have developed acres of those, and spent my entire life watching Seinfeld).

And then there are others.

I often see this world as a game of Monopoly. Our life is the board, we are merely the players, our destiny the dice, then there are various places that you can live- own- build houses and hotels, etc. We keep playing this game for our entire life. We know that ultimately its something we cannot win forever, but we keep playing it just because we don't want to loose. Others come and go, some players hit big, some don't. Some show great potential but loose everything in one move. Some make calculated moves and win. Some loose.

And the game goes on...


nikhil said...

we decice our own destiny. its in our mind and actions. Its finally satisfaction and happiness that drives everything. If money is what motivates..u choose work that pays..
if research is that motivates..u choose that work..
if family is what motivates..u do everything to keep them satisfied..that may include working in a shit hole.
so basically its all abut what satisfies ur brain..u might thing working in a shit hole for family cannot be satisfactory..but for that person love of family is key so he works..and thats his satisfaction..
so world is not a monopoly, we make it into one..

nikone said...

Hey, good ananlysis and thoughts.
Ultimately, everything is in your head, what you think is right for you? or at least you can convince yourself that you are doing right.