I wrote a while ago about the similarities between myself and a certain fictional airline Captain (Blog in question found here http://phdconfessions.blogspot.co.uk/2012_02_01_archive.html)
Since then 'having a Martin day' has become firmly established shorthand for when it's a very particular one of those days (the ones where your car loses parts on the way to work, you get shouted at by idiots in work and you just get everything a little bit wrong)
This week in the last of the series Martin had a speech that I'm not ashamed to say made me well up a little, because once again I could completely see myself in his shoes (or ridiculous hat) what he said was the following:
"My biggest weakness as a pilot is that I’m not very good at flying aeroplanes. I mean, I’m good enough. Like the sim said, I’m ‘adequate’, adequate to the task. But I don’t do it easily, it’s not second nature to me. On your scale of one to 10 if one is the bare minimum of competence, I’m about a four. And I used to be a one, no, I used to be a zero. And then I took my CPL, again, and then again, and then I was a one, and then a two and then a three and now a four. And I’m not finished yet. And that’s why you should employ me. That’s why you’d be lucky to employ me, because if you’re not naturally good, if you can’t rely on just knowing how to do it like Doug-like some people can, then you have to be a perfectionist. And I am one. And that’s why, even when you’ve turned me down, I’m going to keep on applying. Because flying is the perfect job and I won’t settle for a life where I don’t get to do it."
(Cabin Pressure, 'Yverdon-Les Bains, John Finnemore)
There are so many things I can relate to in that speech and so many that seem really applicable for where I am right now.
"I don't do it easily, it's not second nature to me"
People always assume I've done well academically my whole life through natural talent. That I'm just clever and it just happens. (And while I might at times resemble the other alter ego of the actor playing Martin Creiff and be a smug know it all) the truth is it doesn't come naturally it doesn't come easily. I don't actually have a natural talent for anything (except sarcasm, is that a talent? see.)
So like Martin in Cabin pressure, I memorised the manual. Everything I ever have had to learn or do I've sat down and learned it the hard way. Through hours of reading and working at it until it all went in. From GCSE Maths to my final exams at University right through to actually teaching at a University. I sit down for hours and hours until I've learned it.
But that's what makes me good. Because I have to work at it. And because I have to work so hard, I work until I make whatever it is as good as it can be. I'm never content to rest on 'will do' because usually nothing short of the best I can do will be good enough. And like Martin I'm getting better all the time. I was once a 0 and now I'm working my way up the scale, right now I'm on a four too but also I'm not finished. There's a long way to go.
Is it hard when like Martin you sit and watch other people get it easily? whether 'it' is a Maths problem (oh I've dug out some demons there) or just those people to which life comes easily. Yes, because I'm in the corner with my manual learning it. And you know what that makes me all the better for it, as it says above:
That’s why you’d be lucky to employ me, because if you’re not naturally good, if you can’t rely on just knowing how to do it like Doug-like some people can, then you have to be a perfectionist.
Because the thing is Martins work really hard, and that makes them want it more, which makes them better at it. There's always a creeping voice in the back of your head telling you it might not be quite right so you'd better check the Manuel even though you know you memorised it and then you'd better check again that you did it right. Because you're not relying on just knowing how to do it, you make sure you do it right every single time. So even once you've memorised the manual it doesn't get any easier, not least because everyone else who it does come naturally to wonders what your problem it.
But you know what, that's ok. Because of the last part of that quote above:
"Because flying is the perfect job and I won’t settle for a life where I don’t get to do it."
It doesn't matter whether it's flying a plane, or being an academic for the Martin's of the world it's a life not worth living without. Because doing what you love, not matter how hard you have to work to get there actually one day will make you really good at it. So I have hope for all the Martins out there like me, that we'll keep working we'll get above a 4 and then a 6 and maybe one day an 8. And actually none of that matters so much as just having a life where we get to do the thing we love, even if it never stops being hard work.