before Lisbon, I gave a @mackelab teatime talk about surfing as a beginner to prepare folks for the frustration

but it was actually about the PhD: in SD, I realized surfing as a beginner is a lot like starting a PhD, when you, invariably, also suck

this was my guide for both:
1. don't die

pretty straightforward, but the most important

take precautions, learn to swim, and know that it's not worth trading your sanity (irreversibly) for this stupid diploma or paper, though it happens to everyone anyway..
2. know yourself

don't fight it, just accept that you are gonna suck, and things will be tough for a while (or a long time), but you can choose how you start out and adjust accordingly
3. it's hard (by design)

the first whole year I was "surfing", I told people I was going swimming & to get beat up, because that's what it is - you're swimming against the wave most of the time, and the more you suck, the more you have to swim

understand this and be patient
4. practice

at the end of the day, it's a craft you have to perfect

knowing how to pop-up is not sufficient for surfing, and it's only a small part (even though this is technically the "surfing"), but it is a necessary component

same with using your core research tools
5. don't be an asshole

this is just true in life in general, but is sometimes unavoidable because you don't know the etiquette as a beginner (i.e., kook), and nobody bothered to tell you

so when you inevitably fuck something up, just apologize and move on, happens to everyone
6. waves come in sets

one day, I realized you can't surf without waves (wow 🧠), but sometimes you also get 5 in a row crashing on your head

as much as we think science is merit-driven, you need to find and catch opportunities, big or small (presentations, journal clubs, etc.)
7. be centered and look forward

this is as much about being one with your tools (#4) as it is about having a vague direction of where you're going

it's hard to plan very far ahead as a beginner (you'll only be disappointed), but remember, you're surfing, not floating in place*
8. the first ride

I still remember the first time I actually rode a tiny open face wave, probably 1-1.5 years into going "surfing" every week

gliding along the rolling green, there's nothing like it, and it really makes you "wooo!" out loud

it's the same with your first paper
9. do it with your people

my first few years, I went surfing exclusively when friends visited SD. it was never good surf, but always good fun, and there were these two weekends with @LeoWaschke in fall 2018 that really got me going

surfing is not a team sport, but science is
10. ??

* most of the time I was "surfing", I really just went to bob on the ocean surface to watch the sunset with no phones or distractions

there's gotta be something you like about this activity/job, even when you suck at it, otherwise it's really not worth the frustration
that's all - full disclosure, I still suck (at both), and there's infinite room to grow, so take this with a grain of salt because it was just my experience in the last 5 years

but hopefully you can get over the hump enough to enjoy it - surfing and research - even when you suck

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More from @_rdgao

6 Sep 19
holy shitballs - I mean brainballs - our oscillating organoid paper finally, finally got published last week.

I wrote about the entire (5-year) process and explained the science here:…

It's an insider's look into this whole thing. I think it's hilarious.
The article got featured in the New York Times last week in a piece by @carlzimmer, and I like it a lot, especially its balanced take on what's shown and, more importantly, what's not shown:…
Read 12 tweets

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