EVAN: Last summer I’m on a NOAA research vessel in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles off shore, and I’m really excited because I’ve made it to the big leagues of ocean exploration. I am there to deploy my lab’s 360 camera to go to the bottom of the ocean on a multimillion-dollar robot.
And I’m super excited because, I mean, this is it, right? I’m an ocean kid. I grew up around the water. I’m an explorer. And I love to discover things wherever I go. So when I came to grad school to do ocean exploration, this is exactly what I came to do. In order to get on this boat, you have to plan really far in advance. And it costs a lot of money to be on this boat, so it’s a big deal.
And because I had been working really hard in the last couple of weeks to get this ready, I didn’t fully assemble the camera. So I figured that’s OK. I can just make some internal modifications, and that’s fine. But when the research lead came around and saw me making these internal modifications, he said, wait a second, if you’re making these changes now, it means you haven’t safety tested it to go to the bottom of the ocean where there’s tons and tons of pressure.
And that means if something goes wrong, it could implode, damaging our multimillion-dollar robot. And not only that, but all of the projects for the rest of the year can no longer happen because of this. And so he says, the hard work that you have been putting in for weeks and weeks, it’s not going to the bottom of the ocean. It’s not going in the water.
And so I’m in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and I’ve got to go back to my advisor who’s not only spent a lot of time and money working on this project, but has finagled a lot of relationships to get me on this boat. And I’ve got to tell him it’s not going in the water.
And I’m just crushed, right? How did this happen? This is debatably the most important project I’ve had in my life, so far, and why is it coming to a total halt right now? So if we rewind a year, I’m high on life. I’m just starting grad school at MIT. I had just created a podcast, which I had never done any sort of journalism before, and I made this thing, and I did it and made it happen. And I received a lot of feedback that it was awesome.
I had just run a marathon in the marathon spot, in Athens, Greece. And I had sought out to do it, and I did it. And so now I enter grad school for ocean exploration– the thing I am sent here to do– to get on a really prestigious research boat, and it fails. And so after months and months of thinking this over, talking through it with my advisor, I realized that the problem was that I was doing these projects, not we were doing these projects.
And when you think about it, I could have used some serious editing help and storytelling help for that podcast. And now that I live with my Ironman roommate, I realize that the reason why he’s been able to do multiple Ironmans is because he’s had a community of people to support him and push him to do something awesome.
And when I think of the camera project, I was largely doing it by myself. And I didn’t ask for help. And I’m an extroverted person. I get my energy from other people, and I do my best work when I’m around other people. And I realize that if I want to do big important projects, that not only are fun for me but are important to the world, I can’t do them by myself.
And so I realize that going forward I need to build in the structure for other people to help me. I need to allow other people to work with me. And that is how I’m going to succeed going forward and be my best self.