On Having Useful things to Say

By Kareem Carr

When it comes to advice, I am of the opinion that the best advice is really specific. Whether, it’s finding a good bank or picking a place to live, the middle of the road advice that has something in it for everyone just doesn’t get the job done. Sometimes, one realizes this immediately. The advice is off the mark! The approach doesn’t suit your personality. The goals don’t resemble anything you want for yourself. Sometimes, it dawns on you later. You nodded your head for most of the discussion and you were excited to try things out for yourself. So, you carefully readied yourself for implementation and suddenly there were gaps. The fitness expert had said what type of shoes to get but he hadn’t specified exactly which stores to visit. Or you find the store, but they don’t have any in your size. Now what? If your expert is somebody who is accessible and willing to through every single detail, then you are on your way. If not, then it can be challenging.

There is plenty of general advice available for graduate students and it’s almost never specific enough. The ones that are specific are likely to miss you completely. Yet, I think of these very detailed advice articles as the best ones: the more of these, the merrier. This is because a well-written advice article specifies exactly what one person needed to know to get from start to finish in gory detail. Some small group of people are like that person and for them, it’s their future self reaching back through time to give them a leg up. (Don’t we all want that?) So, that’s it. Don’t expect every advice article to completely hit your sweet spot. But, keep reading the grad blog because perhaps one of them will.

I think one blog that is very much in the spirit of what I’m talking about is Cal Newport’s blog Study Hacks. In the spirit of Cal, if any of you have questions you want me to tackle, feel free to email me. Your privacy will, of course, be respected.

(I should say now that there is one article that is quite off the mark but don’t judge the whole blog on that article.)

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