The Cyclical Mindset Trap of Academia

Education is the cornerstone of life. Our first and most prominent encounter with it is in the world of academia. We have our choice of life's subjects and we try our best to narrow that path and pursue what we are most interested in. At least that is what I believe to be the basic premise of it. Academia can serve to expand our knowledge and improve our social skills and how we interact with the world. Academia has many benefits to society at large but I believe that it doesn't optimally serve the interests of industry, and in turn the global economy. A lot of industry's thought leaders left academia quite early like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and other's like Elon Musk diverged into industry rather than pursuing a much valued PHD.

The biggest drawback, I have seen, that academic life provides to industry is what I would term 'The Cyclical Mindset Trap of Academia'.

The Cyclical Mindset Trap of Academia:

In the academic world everything works in cycles, that are called academic semesters and years. As a result, we are conditioned from a young age to think in cycles. A lot of us begin to think in the future rather than the present. This is a very dangerous thing for industry. Industry thrives when action, that can only be completed in the present moment, is executed. If that action is a failure, we learn and move forward with a different approach based on what we have learned.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein.

This mindset is not only detrimental to industry but it is also detrimental to our career progression. In academia, it seems like students are forever saying 'I will be happy when I pass the year', 'I will be happy when I get my degree'. It is a vicious cycle that many of us carry over into industry. 'I will stay here for 2 years and then move on to something better', 'I will be happy when I am manager in 5 years time'. We postpone our happiness and success, and when we do accomplish it we have a new 5 year plan, so we are never happy or never deem ourselves to be successful people.

How to break the cycle:

If we were conditioned into this mindset then it can also be broken by us, with little steps every day. Instead of concentrating on long term goals we need to make them more short term. We can have an over arching long term goal and then define it more as we begin to take action. Our paths can only become clear when we start to take steps in some direction, any direction, the path will never become clear if we remain static. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, that's a lot of seconds to begin with right there.

We need to get out of this mindset of 'I need to stay in this job for at least a year or two, otherwise it will look bad on my CV'. When you work for a company it is a relationship just like any other. They develop you and you provide value to them. We help them to achieve their goals and they reciprocate. If our paths are headed in different directions then that's life. We should be able to move on amicably and be open to working together in the future, this is what I believe true collaboration to be.

I have heard 2 great quotes that I would like to share, one from the industry point of view and one that you can use at a personal level as an employee:

I would prefer a great employee work with us for 2 years than an average employee be here for 10.

If you learn for an hour everyday, then within 5 years you will become an expert on that topic.

We just need to break the cycle, live in the present and our lives and society at large will reap the benefits.