Friday, April 23, 2010

Asking for help

At the end of my last field season, I wrote a post about what I would do differently if I could do it over. One thing in particular was asking for help. It can be difficult to ask for help, especially if you are under the impression that you shouldn't need help because you should be able to figure it out or do it on your own. Stewgad, who writes the blog Pretty Hard, Dammit, wrote a wonderful post about asking for help. This year, I have asked for a lot of help over email, and I think that is part of the reason that this field season has gone much more smoothly.

I have mostly asked Sam. Since I arrived in Ukenzagapia, I have received an average of one email per day from Sam, and they are often long since I have usually asked him a bunch of questions. This is pretty extraordinary, I think, since he isn't my advisor. Herb, on the other hand, has sent me just three emails only 1-3 lines each, even in response to a long email when I was having problems finding suitable sites. When I desperately needed to get in touch with Chip for a statistical dilemma, I called one of his grad students to find out his whereabouts and then BCC'd the student on the email to Chip, and got a response from Chip's student but not Chip. Sam came through again that time with a solution.

All that said, there are some things for which I have been afraid to ask for Sam's help for fear that by not already having done said thing he will think less of me (for example, renewing my permits- eek!). I don't have the same kind of anxiety with Herb (maybe because I usually have to try to get Herb to pay attention to me). That fear of disappointment just leads to procrastination which leads to more fear and then more procrastination. A vicious cycle. So, I'm trying to get over that fear and just ask when I need help or advice. The sooner I ask the better, but better late than never.*

* My high school chemistry teacher always preferred "better never late."

No comments: