by Cesare Rocchi

In First Gear (at least)

by Cesare Rocchi

Here’s a lesson I learned from my professor at the University. What’s cool is that this is not a motto he said, it’s something I internalized while working with him for three years.

We had a lot of mishaps while working on a EU-funded project:

  • hardware bought but withheld at the customs
  • local administration delaying the project by putting a spoke in the wheels with bureaucratic nonsense
  • people leaving the project after a few months
  • other professors giving us a bad time, mostly due to envy
  • snow that prevented us to access the lab for a week
  • his son having a kidney transplant

It was like bad luck decided to focus all his attention on my professor. And yet, he kept a calm profile. I think I never heard him screaming, nor I saw him desperate. He kept working, supporting us, moving on. Some days at full throttle, some others with tiny steps, but still moving forward.

I remember one day we needed his signature for an order. We knew he was at the hospital to assist his son. It was a shot in the dark but we sent him an email anyway. A few hours later we saw our fax printing the signed form (in my country the only way to send a valid, legally binding, contract is faxing it. Or send it via good old mail).

Only a few months later we discovered that he had to convince a nurse to print the form in order to sign it and send it via fax. It was the only work related task he did during that day, but it was huge for us and unlocked a whole bunch of activities. I call his approach “In first gear (at least)”.

Some days you don’t get much done. Maybe because you are not motivated, some personal matter takes precedence or it’s just an unlucky day. During those days I try to apply the lesson learned from my professor. Don’t stall, do something small, move just one little step forward, keep yourself in first gear. You are still making progress, just slower.