Caution: Uninspired and Brick Wall Ahead!

Today I hit a brick wall.

Okay, not literally.

I didn’t physically hit a brick wall, but it’s all the same.

Even though we are only four weeks into the semester and classes aren’t too busy yet, I feel uninspired. I feel overworked. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like there’s so much to do that I just can’t do anything. I feel like I lack motivation to do what needs to get done (that’s not really true) and I feel like I just can’t get jumpstarted.

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to shut-down when I find myself in situations like this. I become frustrated with everything I need to do and with people and I become so preoccupied with thinking about working that I often forget to actually do the work (this also isn’t exactly true). Fortunately, I always find the inspiration to complete my tasks and to complete them well, but it’s that interim period that’s really challenging.

These next few weeks are going to be frighteningly hectic. Ah, the joys of being a graduate student! Between a fellowship application, two ethics committee proposals, a literature review, a submission deadline for a conference, and a data set proposal (not to mention thesis work…and my classes), there’s a whole lot that needs to get done in a relatively short period of time.

This is my brick wall.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about finding inspiration and I suggested you watch Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture (Did you do it?! If not-do it now. I insist…seriously). Regardless, in his talk, he discussed the notion of brick walls as such:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

I think that sometimes we get to a point where we’ve hit our brick wall and we think, I can’t do this. There’s no way I can overcome this hurdle or obstacle. It’s simply not worth it. Sometimes we let the brick wall get the best of us and we give up. We see them as standing in our way and preventing us from accomplishing something that could be really great. But we shouldn’t. The brick walls are not there to prevent us from achieving a certain task. They are there for everyone else. They are there to stop the people who don’t want it as badly as we do. They are there for the people who will not push through and who will throw in the towel. They’re just there to really show us how much we want something and how much we’re willing to fight for something we believe in.

So, even though my inspiration levels are still low and I’m lacking in motivation, I realize that these next few weeks are not there to prevent me from achieving something great. They are there to show me how badly I really want these things. They are there to push my limits and test my abilities in new and exciting (eh…) ways. They’re just there to keep others out.


Sources of Inspiration: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

As a freshman honors student in college, I was required to take a one credit hour course dealing with different aspects of the honors program and college life. Truth be told, this course was not the most informative or useful course that I had taken during my four years. Although I often felt like I didn’t get much out of the class, I am thankful to have taken it for one and only reason.

For one of our classes, we were required to watch about an hour long video of a man discussing achieving your childhood dreams. This presentation was part of a lecture series at a university that professors gave based on the question/idea: If you had one last lecture to give, what would you say? As a college freshman, I was skeptical of the assignment and was somewhat doubtful that the video would actually be useful to me. Nevertheless, not wanting to be unprepared for class, I watched the video and was blown away! Not only did the video teach me about achieving your childhood dreams (as the title specified), it taught me about life, loss, and love. I was moved to fits of laughter and bouts of tears as I watched Randy Pausch!

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University. He seems to be a very accomplished individual and professor, having received tenure earlier than is usually expected. In 2006, Pausch found out that he had pancreatic cancer. Despite the fact that his health improved on and off, he was given a terminal diagnosis in August 2007. Nevertheless, he fought a couraegous battle until his death on July 25, 2008 at the age of 47, leaving his wife to raise their two young children. Seems kind of ironic that he would give a last lecture when he was dying, right? Pausch acknowledges this and approaches the presentation with such liveliness and vigor that you would never guess that he was dying. For Pausch, this truly was a last lecture.

I don’t want to talk a lot about the video because there’s no way I could do it any justice. However, if you have the time, I strongly urge you to watch it. Even if you don’t watch all of it. Even if you watch some today and the rest at a later time. Give the video a chance. Watching this video made me realize that I should be greatful for what I have and that things aren’t as bas as they seem. Pausch puts things into perspective and provides so much hope for us that you can’t help but walk away from this video feeling inspired.