Never let a disadvantage become an excuse

By James Hayton,
June 4, 2019
James Hayton is a former physicist, PhD coach and author of "PhD: An uncommon guide"
Since 2010, he's coached hundreds of individual PhD students and now offers
group support and online courses

When you look around at other PhD students, you might notice that many of them seem to have advantages over you. Maybe they have a better supervisor, maybe they have better equipment, or funding, or they've been given a better project.

Or maybe they've got skills you don't have. They're better at statistics, or speak better English, or seem to have no problem writing.

It may be that actually their situation isn't as easy as you imagine (because everybody struggles with something), but that isn't the point.

It's easy to focus on your disadvantages, but in doing so you give yourself an excuse; it's not your fault because your situation is so much harder. There's comfort in this, but that comfort only reinforces your disadvantages because it stops you doing anything to overcome them.

If you have a disadvantage, you have to work harder. This might mean:

  • Spending 2 hours a day, every day studying statistics, if that's your weak point
  • Hiring an English tutor and practicing every single day
  • Arriving earlier and staying later to fix a problem
  • Making extra effort to talk to other researchers and ask questions if your supervisor isn't available

If you engage with your difficulties and put in extra effort to overcome them, and if you keep working on them, over and over, day after day, eventually they become strengths. It's a hard path to take, because it means doing things you aren't good at or don't enjoy, but it comes down to a simple choice...

Are you going to be the kind of person who gives up (or disengages) because of a disadvantage, or the kind of person who does something about it?

Never let a disadvantage become an excuse.

See also:

That thing you just don't feel like doing

Planting seeds or putting out fires?

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