“Knowledge is power”, says Littlefinger.
“Power is power!” replies Cercei.
This witty exchange occurs between two of the show’s most despised villains, Petyr Baelish a.k.a. Littlefinger, Master of Coin (= Secretary of Treasury/Finance Minister) who runs his own secret intelligence service (consisted of prostitutes, orphans, bedmaids and palace guards), and queen Cercei, a beautiful yet vain and ignorant harpy.
Even though Littlefinger is a slimy, conniving weasel with a hidden inferiority complex, I have to side with him on this one. Everything he built in his life, he did with his own two hands and brain. In contrast to that, Cercei’s power comes from the wealth and influence of her family.
This conversation, by the way, never took place in the books that Game of Thrones is based upon, but it still feels genuine and true to the characters. I am a so-called purist, having started reading A Song of Ice and Fire series long before they hit the mass TV production. But be warned – both the books and the TV show are not for everyone. They contain excessive violence and abundance of characters with weird names. But if you can bypass the former, and actually enjoy the latter (like myself), then you should give it a shot! Plus, one of the taglines is: “When you play a game of thrones you win or you die“, which often rings true to the academia’s “Publish or perish” 😦
These series, together with cinema, are probably my biggest extracurricular passion, which made me think about the power of hobbies, outside-work activities and preferences. Dudi wrote about it a bit, from an entrepreneurial perspective. In fact, all of us writing at this blog have at least a master’s degree, so no doubt we’re knowledgeable! Having a high university degree usually means that one has an excellent memory (…storage unit) and, more importantly, knows how to use it! Additionally, we have a good attention to detail; we’re capable of highly critical thinking and teamwork, etc. etc.
And then, there are those other things as well. Think about them, and think about them hard. What else are you passionate about, aside from science? If you can use that, would you, and how?
Sure, knowledge is power, but it’s not only knowledge in a specific molecular mechanism or a cell type or technology or software, and it’s not only about how you use that knowledge in your project. It’s about the other stuff that completes us and makes us who we are. And most importantly, it’s not only what and how, it’s who as well. And that’s where those other passions come into spotlight. In science, and in many other teamwork-oriented professions, it’s a lot about whom you know and who you are. You go to all those conferences, trying to catch and meet some big names, but sometimes that’s not easy, and sometimes, you’re simply an introvert? So forget that! Mingle with your own crowd, and by that I mean not the crowd you came with (your labmates)! Mingle with other PhD students and postdocs from other universities and countries, and build a unique network! And very often, you need some catchy and cool topic to break the ice.
In every work environment, during coffee and lunch breaks, the most popular topics are the safe ones – weather and food. All humans are capable of at least discussing those. Weather affects us all (especially in Sweden!), and we all eat (especially in Sweden!). Oh, the nonsense! I say, break the rules! Talk about your things! Talk about books, about TV, about squash, about yoga, cats, dogs, astronomy, astrology (!), heavy metal bands (the music, not the chemistry!), and – to hell with it – even politics! No fear! Build your name and create a buzz around you! Be memorable, because you are! Because everyone is unique and should use that fact in the best way possible! Express yourselves, come on!
Think like sir Jaime, queen Cercei’s brother, who says: “There’s no men like me, there’s only me.” 😉
Or like Cercei’s other brother, Tyrion, an unfortunate dwarf: “I have a realistic grasp of my own strengths and weaknesses. My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind… and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge!”
To be continued…