Doing something you suck at for a living

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ascendingPig
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Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby ascendingPig » Thu Apr 17, 2008 3:33 am UTC

I'm enamored of mathematics and I hope to become an engineer. Here's the problem: I'm horrible at math and science. What am I good at? Reading, writing, memorizing stuff, humanities. None of which I have all that much interest in.

But I am really, really good at humanities subjects, and pretty awful and math and science. Should I pursue this ideal job doing something I'll suck at, or do something I may not love, but can live with and even excel at?

I know everyone's first reflex is to say I should "do what I love," but consider it, really. If I major in engineering, who knows whether I'll ever earn a degree? Worse, what if I do become an engineer, and my lack of talent leads me to design a circuit that explodes when exposed to fish, or a bridge that collapses, killing thousands? Less realistically, what if I'm depriving a field I actually excel at of a remarkable work or discovery?

Hell, maybe it's not even really the math that I love. Maybe it's just the IDEA of math.
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The Ethos
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby The Ethos » Thu Apr 17, 2008 3:45 am UTC

Do you think that sucking at something you love is unique to yourself? My side job is to tell kids that they aren't smart enough to be a doctor.

Hardcore, yo.

But seriously, in an ideal world, our passions and skills would be the same. As it is, you should do whatever you're good at that you can enjoy. Technical writing comes to mind. You could also be a scientific historian, or maybe some of the softer sciences that are more historically and liberal arts focused. There's plenty of opportunity to get your hands dirty with hardcore math in something like psych, but you could still stay away from it if you had to.
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Cyrion
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby Cyrion » Thu Apr 17, 2008 4:20 am UTC

I think passion is a very important to become a good scientist. If you really like something, you won't be held back by how difficult it is. Skills aren't everything.

Like you, I excelled with humanities. However, I didn't like it, I thought it was (most of the time) boring. I decided to study Physics instead, because I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else. And although I'm spending hours and hours on homeworks, lab reports, etc, I'm happy and I'm still passionate about what I learn everyday.

The easiest path isn't always the best one.
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pyroman
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby pyroman » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:50 am UTC

yea i am in kind of the same situation although its just my math skills that cause me a problem. I think that they should be good enough for me to get by through college and fine for the real world but its a bit of a challenge. On the other hand i have always had "the knack" when it comes to engineering. I was that kid who would take apart the vacuum or the vcr or just about anything else you can think of just to see how it worked. Hell i even drew up diagrams for my first watch that i took apart when i was 5 or 6. Was always playing with my knex and legos... you get it... i was a nerdy little engineer kid. but now like i said i worry because of my math ability. While i also find that i could potentially make a good lawyer in that i am excellent at cross examine things i would never be able to do so because the first time i had a client that i didn't believe in i would be done. I morally couldn't do such. I'm not exactly sure where i am going with this little rant. I guess i am more looking for advice than giving it but if you really want to be an engineer then go for it. worse case scenario if you decide a year or 2 through college that its really not right for you its much easier to change to another major from their than it is to change into engineering from say business. hope this was of some help
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skeptical scientist
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby skeptical scientist » Fri Apr 18, 2008 4:07 am UTC

I concur with the recommendation that combines what you love and what you are good at. Become a science writer and/or science reporter. You could spend time learning math and science, and then convey it to the general public. This enables you both use what you are good at (writing) and turns your deficiency into a strength, because having more trouble understanding math and science will make it easier for you to aim your explanations at a general public that has similar difficulties. Of course this would be only one of many ways you could combine your talents with your loves.

Or it may turn out that once you spend more time doing math in university, you are actually better at it than you thought. Who knows?
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Cycle
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby Cycle » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:09 am UTC

I really don't believe you when you say you're horrible at math and science. You may not be great. But as far as I've encountered (and I tutored math for 20 hours a week for my entire undergrad), the only people who are truly horrible are the people who don't put in the effort. The sort of people who are content to pass algebra/trig with a C because they hate the class so much, and then complain because calc is so hard.

I'd say go for it, if you're willing to put in the effort it takes to really understand the math/science. By this I mean you should really go out of your way to understand what you're doing, and master it. Don't just be content with passing a class and moving on. If you do that, you'll have everything you need to know.

hobbesmaster
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby hobbesmaster » Wed Apr 23, 2008 5:36 pm UTC

If you're just out of high school, odds are math and science courses will be very different in college.

Though... I'm still not a big fan of math classes... but I like signal processing classes. Go figure.

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3tard
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby 3tard » Mon Apr 28, 2008 9:09 pm UTC

Become a teacher in something like social studies. Therefore you can put your aptitude in the subject to good use (what better use is there than teaching the future of humanity) while still being in an environment where you can learn things that interest you. Best of all, you could take a math course at a local college during your months off.

My current social studies teacher says that he is a math/science guy, but got he got qualified to teach social studies because it was easier. His justification is about what I said.

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Woxor
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby Woxor » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:43 am UTC

You sound like you need to dabble a little bit. Take some college courses in math and science, and if you still love it, go for it, because you'll probably get better at it. If it seems like it's too tedious or simply isn't what you're after, then major in something else and leave math and science as a recreational interest (maybe get a minor). Just because you're bad at something in high school doesn't mean you'll be bad at it forever, particularly if you get an education focusing on that area, but it's also true that some things look interesting on the surface and then are no longer appealing after a while.

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Hefty One
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby Hefty One » Sun May 11, 2008 11:09 pm UTC

Cycle wrote:I really don't believe you when you say you're horrible at math and science. You may not be great. But as far as I've encountered (and I tutored math for 20 hours a week for my entire undergrad), the only people who are truly horrible are the people who don't put in the effort. The sort of people who are content to pass algebra/trig with a C because they hate the class so much, and then complain because calc is so hard.

I'd say go for it, if you're willing to put in the effort it takes to really understand the math/science. By this I mean you should really go out of your way to understand what you're doing, and master it. Don't just be content with passing a class and moving on. If you do that, you'll have everything you need to know.



I completely agree with this, as long as you put forth effort, you can do it. From every scenario I've ever seen, it's usually the unmotivated people who do poorly in math. Think about those "overachievers" back in high school, who may not be so smart, but they got A's anyway because they studied hard. It's similar to this. Go with your heart.

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Dusty Chalk
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby Dusty Chalk » Tue May 13, 2008 12:28 am UTC

ascendingPig wrote:I'm enamored of mathematics and I hope to become an engineer. Here's the problem: I'm horrible at math and science. What am I good at? Reading, writing, memorizing stuff, humanities. None of which I have all that much interest in.
So, do what 50% of the people I know did -- go into management. Of mathematics or an engineering firm.
I remain,
:-Peter, aka :-Dusty :-Chalk

Asher
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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby Asher » Wed May 28, 2008 4:18 pm UTC

Alright, a little late here, but from anecdotal evidence it is quite possible to change this. There are a few students in my year here at (one of Berkeley/Stanford/MIT/Harvard) who didn't do much math when young, including one who was apparently the worst student in his high school class for a number of years, and many who did subjects besides mathematics during their undergrad degrees. Fortunately, math changes a lot from high school to the PhD, and there's plenty of time to forget and relearn your trig along the way...

If you're interested in this sort of thing, you have to understand that it will take a fair amount of studying. I wouldn't suggest reading lots of definitions on wikipedia - even if you understand them, you won't have the background needed to understand why they're interesting or what you should do. Instead, at the high school level, it might be useful to do contests, and if you have to learn an area of 'advanced' math, choose combinatorics (Stanley's books are accessible), point-set topology or basic group theory (somebody with more experience feel free to add other subjects). These are all things that you can understand as a high school student, but which are quite different from what you would learn in high school, and give you a bit of the flavor of what math is 'all about'. They will be hard to read if you're used to 'computational' math books, though. If it takes a month or two to understand the introductory chapter in Stanley 1, you're moving very quickly.

Of course, if you don't want to do outside reading, that's also fine - lots of good mathematicians didn't study math outside of the classroom until well into undergraduate (or in a few famous cases, well into grad school.... but this is probably not so good). But if you want to get some feeling for what math is like, doing problems and reading basic algebra/combinatorics will get you much further than reading esoteric things on wikipedia... and I certainly wish I'd known that before wasting so much time there in undergrad!

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Re: Doing something you suck at for a living

Postby brook_88 » Sun Jun 01, 2008 11:14 pm UTC

Thank you,

Just read your post.. and its given me hope. I've kinda messed up my maths this year.. but really wanna go into molecular biophysics when I finish my undergrad.

Luckily, it's only my first year.. so I have plenty of time to cathc up.

But I wanted to say ty ;)


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