The Joy of Finding Out
Equity analysts are not exactly rocket scientists but most analysts would agree equity research is quite a fulfilling profession. It is a job where you learn something new every single day. But even the gruelling aspect of endless readings and numerous interviews with people knowledgeable about a company or an industry just to find an insight as simple as why do employees prefer to work for the company in question and then to join many such insights to assess whether the company has any distinct competitive advantage and whether the same is sustainable or not, can be quite satisfying indeed. Researchers in any field for that matter would agree. In this beautifully articulated piece, Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester takes us through a simple research project and the consequent ‘joy of finding out’.
“What’s the hardest thing about being a scientist? Is it the years and years of training with no certainty that it will ever lead to a steady job? Is it the endless hours of writing grant proposals, most of which will never be funded?
While those are certainly difficulties, I believe that the hardest thing about being a scientist is not be able to tell other people the immense and profound joy that comes through finding something out.
One of the weirdest things about research is the month-long rabbit holes you can find yourself scurrying down in search some elusive, arcane, but oh-so-important fact. When, after all those weeks in the darkness, you finally find your answer, it’s nothing less than soul-satisfying. The pleasure that comes in these moments is deep and rich—and really, really hard to explain to your loved ones, who are apt to look at you sideways when you try.But here is the thing: All that hunting, all those hours reading papers, review articles, and websites—it was all soooo much fun. I was always learning even when I was going down a dead end. And when I found some number or mathematical expression that got me a little closer to where I needed to be, it felt like finding a nugget of buried treasure….
…But the point here is not the number, but the exquisite joy I experienced for just a few moments when I found the number. It was truly a beautiful thing that has to be experienced to be appreciated. I felt like I’d learned something valuable, like I had gained some key insight into the nature of the world even though I knew 99 percent of the world likely didn’t care.
So, it’s that feeling, that sense of joy that you can’t explain to anyone but another scientist. That is hardest thing about the job.
I hope you can find your own form of this feeling in your own life, because there are many versions that come from making art or music or cooking or gardening, or whatever is your thing.
The process of learning—particularly that eureka the moment of discovery—is about the best thing imaginable.”