10 Oct

Tomorrow will be my last day at USC’s Motor Behavior & Neurorehabilitation lab. This departure, much like my January retirement from Manatt, is bitter-sweet and makes me feel somewhat emotionally vulnerable. When I decided to leave Manatt, my then-boss, Q, sent a firm-wide email announcing that I had decided to: “pursue a new career relating to treatment and therapy for U.S. veterans and others who suffer from traumatic brain injury.”

Big picture, that plan hasn’t changed. I still intend to pursue a career focused on providing treatment and therapy for U.S. veterans and others who suffer from traumatic brain injury.

The way in which that plan will be implemented, however, has changed. And, let’s be honest, it probably will change another few times before we get to the end!

As Q’s email indicates, my original plan was to take 2 years to develop a solid science background (i.e., take a bunch of pre-req courses) in order to “ultimately enter a Ph.D program in neuroscience, physical therapy, or occupational science.” USC’s Motor Behavior & Neurorehabilitation lab was THE perfect place to implement such a plan. In fact, it might be the ONLY place where I could implement that specific plan (i.e., obtain a PhD in neuroscience, physical therapy, or occupational science), given that it is, as far as I know, the only lab in the country whose director (CW) has simultaneous faculty appointments in all three disciplines.

When CW and I met, it was love at first sight. Her multidisciplinary approach is unique in science’s strong “silo” culture and she immediately “got” my vision regarding the importance of studying how the physical activity of road cycling can impact cortical and sub-cortical substrates and drive neural plasticity + the fact that I could elucidate such a plan just ~14 months after having much of my left frontal temporal region essentially wiped out was a neat bit of anecdotal evidence!

It didn’t matter to her that my PhD thesis idea didn’t fit neatly into any of the established academic boxes. In fact, she loved that it fairly demanded the tripartite intersection of neuroscience, PT, and OT. When talking about neuro-rehabilitation, these things should be studied in a unified manner.

We were onto something and it was gonna be big: CW’s brilliance + CZ’s passion = a pretty indomitable force!

pretty indomitable force — but, as it turns out, perhaps not completely indomitable.

After spending over a year in CW’s lab, learning, loving,  living, eating, and breathing science with a whole pack of PhD candidates it became increasingly clear to me how much total bullshit is involved in getting a PhD. And for me, the price of that BS is not at all worth the reward. Most, if not all, PhD candidates keenly want to use their PhDs to enjoy the rarified air of “tenured professorship” in academia. Tenured professorship is a lofty goal that only the most worthy and committed individuals can attain.

How do you measure “worth and commitment”? By requiring goal seekers to summit monstrous mountains of bullshit. If you want tenured professorship, you need to deal with and conquer bullshit. Period. End of.

PhD program BS is the price you must pay to get to the tenured pot of gold at the end of the academic rainbow. For 99.5% of PhD candidates, the price is worth the reward. For me … not so much.

If you don’t give one rat’s arse about tenured professorship, why should you subject yourself to chaos on bullshit mountain?


If all you care about is running your study (to prove that road cycling drives the neuroplasticity one needs to recover from a TBI) and moving on to continue providing treatment and therapy for those who suffer from TBIs, do you really need a PhD?

Can’t you do it some other way?

Yes, in fact you can!

… Probably.

It’s a riskier proposition, but —and this will come as no surprise to any of you— I’d rather face an unknown risk than a known pile of bullshit.

Tune in next week to find out what the new plan is!

Parting Thought: The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. ~Maimonides

13 Responses to “Risk/reward”

  1. Ricardo Garcia October 10, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Riveted! Looking forward to hearing about the new plan.

    • justadventures October 10, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      I gave you a wee bit of a preview of the plan when we hung out last month, so you may not find it *too* surprising…

  2. Jenn Fernandez October 10, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Totally on pins and needles wondering about your new path, and 100% cheering you on. So, since I’m totally impatient… tell me now! TELL ME NOW! c’mon… c’mon… c’mon!!!! 🙂

    • justadventures October 10, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Patience is a virtue my friend. Cultivate that virtue.

  3. Laura Hastings October 10, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Ha- I just think you couldn’t stomach being a Trojan longer than being a Bruin. Blue and gold forever!

    Can’t wait to hear the update, I know it will be amazing. 🙂


    Sent from my iPad


    • justadventures October 10, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      lol! I can stomach being a Trojan for the right reason. The PhD just didn’t feel like that reason.

  4. Nicole Lieberman Gann October 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    Can’t wait to hear what your next step is going to be!

  5. Leah Willmore October 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I love the Daily Show tie-in. And I totally get the PhD BS! Looking forward to your plan being revealed on next week’s episode!

    • justadventures October 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      Ha! Yeah, I bet Steve has lots of insights regarding that particular mountain! 😉

  6. Carissa Barker October 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Another brave choice. Waging patiently (sorta) to hear the new plan.


  1. You want the truth? | JustAdventures - October 17, 2013

    […] Last week’s blog post teed up what we (Q and I) told the world about my plans. We said I was leaving to: “pursue a new career relating to treatment and therapy for U.S. veterans and others who suffer from traumatic brain injury.” […]

Something you wanna say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: