The first 15 days of this year I spent powering through my bachelor’s thesis, 15 hours per day, no excuses, super consistently. I prepared every morning by stacking my clothes for the next day together with a second alarm on my phone in the bathroom. This way I had to get up with my first alarm to turn off the second before it would go off and wake up my neighborhood or my roommate.
“Ah, so your deadline was on the 16th!”—you might say. No: I made a bet with my mom that I could pull it off in two weeks; my actual deadline was the 5th of February.
I roughly went like this:
When is the deadline for your thesis again? – Mom
February 5th, roughly a month left… – Jonathan
A month? Is that enough time? – Mom
Sure, if I wanted, I could finish it in two weeks. – Jonathan
Hah! I bet against that. – Mom
… – Jonathan
(f*ck) – Jonathan’s brain.
Ha! This brain is mine now! – Jonathan’s limbic system.
I that moment, I understood that this was the ultimate opportunity to finally get this thesis done. There is nothing, that can’t wait for two weeks, I was now able to tell everybody about the bet and they would understand why I didn’t want to go out or avoid other social activities. Any incoming requests could be postponed to after the 15th. Any projects I wanted to work on instead would wait for me until then, also.
I was free to focus on one thing. And I had a suspicion: the ego and pride I connected to this bet would give me unusual control. With what I saw in a TED talk 1 on youtube and heared in the “Willpower Instinct” 2 months lateer, this now makes a lot of sense.
The stake: should I win, I wanted my mother to let me do whatever I wanted career-wise. She is a more safety focussed person—regular monthly income in safe employment—and hence it was a longer process of acustoming to the plans of her entrepreneurially inclined son. This was less the requirement of permission, but would mark a symbolic point in time, after which there was no doubt, that I would at least try the self-employment path.
In return, I was supposed to get some premium bathing salts. Probably not a pretty fair bet, but since my mom might have wanted that Bachelor’s thesis done more than I did…
I did pull it off and while my supervising doctorand requested some significant changes after I sent him that initial version on the 15th of February, the most important work was done: I had “gotten it out the door” and now had something to iterate on. See my blog post about Construct Arcade for why I believe that is important.
Closing, here are two of the more painful anecdotes around my bachelor’s thesis:
Not Early Enough
Do you know anyone who didn’t just in time finish his thesis for printing? I pride myself in this being rare.
Yet, a comment I got after the presentation of the thesis was that I didn’t hand in a draft in time to get feedback. Yes, I did not explicitly request feedback from the professor as I admittedly sort of remember him mentioning that this is something I should do, but completely had forgotten about. After mentioning that I did send in a draft, I was accused of “Well, two days before the deadline is not enough.”
I had more important things to do than bitch about my grade being affected by this, so I kept my cool and dropped it. This shall serve as memory minutes of this situation instead.
After a careful attempt at solving this, I speculate that my supervising doctorand had misunderstood the email that included my draft and—being busy and not having awareness of my deadline date—thought the deadline had to be imminent and therefore seeing it as too late to forward it to the professor or remind me that I could do so. This could therefore all have been solved by mentioning the deadline in that email.
One way or another, if anybody ends up not hiring me because of my grade in my bachelor’s thesis out of all things I did, then it’s apparently not the job for me. And that would presume all my attempts at building my own businesses fail, leaving me wanting a job like that.
Under pressure you are more likely to make mistakes. As I expected or hoped for a certain result from my work on the thesis, this also primed me to more readily accept measurements that would support it.
So, I measured and accidentally flipped two labels in the measurements, causing the opposite of the actual results.
I am very glad that I noticed this in those two weeks that I had left before hand-in. Even though I still believe that with the necessary optimizations the proposed method can be superior to classical culling methods (on some virtual reality head mounted displays), I would have likely gone more public with this technique, causing this to bite me in a big way later.
- “Enter the cult of extreme productivity | Mark Adams”
- “Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D.
Written in 40 minutes.