Luckily it’s not all up to luck
The best thing about science is that it does not lie. If your hypothesis is wrong, it has the balls to tell you that you’re wrong without any of the “A+ for effort” fluff. On the other hand, if you are correct, science will very subtly hint to you that you are somewhat clever in finding a solution to your question. In rare situations, the answer will be right in front of your face. Most of the time, science will tease you with hints of the next step. And always, an answer to your question will pave the way for a hundred new questions. In the end, real answers require not only a lot of work, but also a lot of luck.
Chances are that you will die of heart disease, cancer, or a stroke. But that’s just probability. After all, it was by a marvelous stroke of luck that the monkeys shipped to the US carried Reston ebolavirus rather than any of the agents that cause Ebola hemmorhagic fever. Life is a lot about luck. Science is a lot about luck.
Science is a lot like sports in a way; talent can only take you so far. The thing that separates the good from the excellent is practice. Good baseball players hit the ball well. To be a good hitter, you have to hit, and you have to hit a lot. The same goes with science. If you want to be a scientist it takes a lot of practice and repetition. If you swing the bat enough times, you’ll eventually learn the best way to hit the ball.
In sports, you hear a lot of “I do it because I love the game.” Remember, these athletes are not out there playing the game because they fell into it. They practice and play because they genuinely love the game. Sure it’s nice to make millions of dollars a year to do the thing you love doing, but is money really the driving force here? We could argue about incentives and how they’ve driven society to where it is today. We would go back and forth, and I would agree that incentives are an excellent motivator, however there is one thing I find more motivational than any incentive you can give me. And that one motivator is dopamine.
Cocaine is one helluva drug. Kidding. The cliche is as follows: “Do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life.” If you love getting paid to sit in a dugout for half of your salary and bake in the sun for the other half, then baseball might be for you. Of course I’m joking. Who doesn’t love a game where 11 minutes of action are injected 5 seconds at a time throughout a 3 hour period?
The takeaway is this: it’s a lot about luck. frustration is common and failure should be a giddyup. if you enjoy being wrong a lot, science and graduate school are for you.