Walking Left to Walking Right – A Thousand Miles Away #13 (Life of An MS Student in USA)

When I look at life, I see it in connected and fluid phases. There is a phase where you don’t worry about earning money but rather just focus on playing with your friends. There is a phase when getting good grades in school was the most important goal in your life. There is also a phase where finding the right job that you are passionate about was more important than grades and money. There is no dogma on which phase should occur when – that’s what you decide. I see this phase of my life as one where I constantly learn challenging topics, cultivate good habits and cut out all distractions.

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The main pathway connecting Broadway to Amsterdam

1. How to Beat Imposter Syndrome

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Took this while rushing to a meeting in midtown

Imposter Syndrome. Psychologists and researchers in the 1970’s coined the term to describe people who doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. From what I’ve read on this topic, it’s not a bad thing at all – as long as you know how to deal with it. Tami Holzman, author of the best-seller ‘From C-Student to C-Suite’ talks about the relationship between one’s Emotional Quotient and Imposter Syndrome – how succeeding in one automatically helps you succeed in the other.

When I came for the final semester, my main goal was to be as proficient and comfortable with data and coding as I can get before leaving. I took up courses that would help on this standpoint (related to Machine Learning, Big Data Analytics and Data Science), enrolled in online courses and told myself to keep working on projects on a daily basis. As someone who has never formally had training in a programming language during my undergrad, taking these courses sounded daunting in the beginning.

But the past one month I witness a steep learning curve in these topics and in general feel much more confident and comfortable in working as Product Manager in the future. Nobody truly overcomes the syndrome, and I feel they shouldn’t. They should use it as a catalyst to further their IQ and EQ.

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A home-baked cake – I love the patterns in it

2. Cultivating Good Habits

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One of my favorite novels of all time

I would prefer to be someone who has good, disciplined habits over someone who is smart any day. Habits are built not by practicing a behavior one time – they are like tiny pieces of glass that you put together to form the mosaic that shapes your life. And it is a painfully slow process to develop habits – it took me over a month to get used to sleeping early at night (1 AM) during my internship, which was a major pivot from my previous schedule (5 AM).

After I came back for my final semester, I struggled for 3 weeks. When I say struggled, I do mean it – every day I would keep thinking, ‘Why am I not able to do xyz on time?’, ‘Why can’t I do xyz as it was planned to be done at 3 PM?’ and mainly, ‘Why can’t I wake up on time?’. I’m sure many of you go through this struggle as well, prefer short term gratification over long term gains and later regret your decision.

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The beautiful Low Library in all its glory

One day, I was reading an article written by the blogger, James Clear, on a random subject when I came across the 50 page guide he had written on ‘Transforming Your Habits’. I started reading it and finished it in a day – it was so simple, rational and honest. I felt like he understood exactly what my problem was. Instead of talking more about what I did after that here, I’d like to dedicate a separate article for that in a few weeks.

If you can resonate with the above, do check out the guide here and let me know what you feel.

3. Cutting Out Distractions

Why is it that one student A can focus better in class but student B cannot? They are in the same environment, listening to same lecture and sitting on identical chairs. The answer is distractions. This is a quote from an article on Psychology Today

Every time you focus your attention you use a measurable amount of glucose and other metabolic resources. Studies show that each task you do tends to make you less effective at the next task, and this is especially true for high-energy tasks like self control or decision making. So distractions really take their toll.”

When we are watching the Television or a movie on our Laptop, if you closely observe, the scene changes every few seconds. Every few seconds you are exposed to a new picture with new colors and objects. Whereas, when you are sitting in a lecture room, your brain feels bored easily as it is trained to expect change in visual scene constantly. So how to get over this? Read books. Sit in one spot and observe the environment around you. Write in a diary. Do tasks which end up with you looking at a static environment in front of you. Get used to doing that.

I get distracted easily. Hence, for a while I have focused on getting rid of distractions. I do this through a lot of techniques – not use my phone in a lecture (in most cases), switch off mobile data for certain times, sit in a quiet environment while reading, and so on. This was also the reason I took a break from YouTube as I wanted to focus on my academics and interviews the last few months. And it is important that you do as well – your time is limited and your energy is precious. So conserve it and spend it on things that you value.

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This is what my roommate and I do when we see bubbles

Apart from the above, I also spent more time alone this month compared to the previous few months, and realized how valuable that was. I listened to more podcasts, read a lot of news/articles and in general, spent time thinking. Although these terms sound vague, that is the only honest way in which I can express my thoughts.

Truly understanding oneself is no easy task. But introspection pushes you further along that path.

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The only time I sat at this beautiful spot in over a year

P.S. This picture represents humanity

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Backstory: I had left my belongings on a table and told a stranger to take care of it. I came back to see this note. 

Some people are just wonderful!

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