Much like Daniel-san, I had a thesis mentor whose practices were less than traditional. We didn’t have many conversations regarding science, career ambitions, or research strategies. It was a much more “Here’s some rope, don’t hang yourself” kind of deal.
Not getting anywhere with the project handed to me? It was up to me to find a new one (learned how to search current literature, find an open question, figure out how to answer it and write a proposal).
Bad experience presenting data at department forum? I learned from my mistakes, modified my presentation style and cues, and sought out ways to practice presenting.
No one to accompany me to national meetings to help me network? I had to step out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to people, make new connections.
As much as I may have struggled with his approach, I’ve found that in his own way, he’s equipped me for the next stage of my career without me even realizing it. He was my Mr. Miyagi. In the death match of paper submission reviews, project proposals, research discussions, etc., I’m doing the crane kick and taking names.
So, thank you, Comrade Miyagi. Thanks for letting me hang myself out to dry, for finding my way out of the frying pan into the fire, for letting me pick up the pieces, and try again. What didn’t destroy my academic research ambitions has made me stronger and I think, somewhere, in your car polishing lesson, you knew that would happen all along. 🙂