We’re at the dining table.
My 12 years old daughter said, “Daddy, everybody says you are a scientist but, daddy, what do you actually do at work?”
My wife jumped quickly and said, “Your daddy makes chemicals in a chemical company.”
My daughter immediately responded, “I hate chemicals.”
My daughter completely shut her mind regarding any activities related to chemicals. She started to complain about her shampoo and nail polish.
She also complained about her paints that she used for her painting class.
“These chemicals are so bad, I think they are very low quality chemicals, my hair gets tangled after using a particular shampoo,” she added.
She turned towards her mom and said, “Mom, I remember you’re complaining about your nail polish last time, you couldn’t remove nail polish completely, am I right?”
I told my daughter, “what your mom just said about my day to day work is true but she missed my main task, making chemicals is only a very small part of the work that I do everyday.”
“My main job is to think about how to solve problems that we all face everyday.”
“Just as you said, you’re not happy with poor quality shampoo, poor quality nail polish, so tell me, who do you think should do work on how to make better shampoo that doesn’t tangle your hair?
Who do you think will solve the problem of low quality nail polish?” I added.
I told my wife in private that you could have said it in a different way so that they don’t shut down their door of perception, their door of listening, and their door of understanding.
My wife nodded with a smile.
As a family, we must be very conscious about our pitch statements regarding our everyday work, our hobbies, and our leisure, when we discuss things on the dining table with others, especially with our children.
Dining table is a very important place to explore our children’s interests.
Interest is the only tool to make people curious, there is no other way around.
Interest is a force that propels us out of bed every single morning and makes us ready to get going.
Sometimes interest becomes really insane. Neil Armstrong, an American astronaut and aeronautical engineer, and the first person to walk on the Moon, got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license.
Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, was interested in peace, he was a prince who renounced his position and wealth to seek enlightenment as a spiritual ascetic, attained his goal of peace and founded Buddhism.
We always say to our children, “You are too small, you don’t understand now, there are so many things I do at my work which are very important. You’ll learn them gradually when you grow up.” These are some answers many parents say to their children without giving any specifics.
If we cannot say what we do 8 plus hours everyday at work in a couple of sentences which they can understand then we’ve a serious problem as parents.
When I was a naive and a new parent, I used to say to my daughter that I make chemicals and sell them to make medicines. This is another type of answer I’ve found most often used by many other parents who also work in a place where things are made and sold.
There is nothing wrong with this answer but if your children don’t like making or selling chemicals or any medicines or any other particular things that you are involved in then you are done.
They don’t want to listen to any further details regarding your work, experience, and expertise.
If we don’t like some food then we don’t want to taste it, if we don’t want to taste it, then we don’t know what it feels like tasting.
This is true to all of us, including children, not only in food but also in many life experiences.
When children lose the patience to listen to us, they don’t understand our passion, our dedication, and most importantly, our attitude.
Listening isn’t only to listen to somebody, it’s a mental toughness practice, we need a lot of energy not to speak but to listen.
Listening is not just to be quiet, it means to be at present.
It’s not about our chemical knowledge or medical knowledge or legal or business knowledge or any specific expertise that we have which we are telling to our children.
It’s all about children’s experience of human attitude by opening their eyes, ears, and senses.
Our attitude is key to solving the most challenging human problems in the 21st century.
If our children are not paying attention in developing a good attitude then it will hamper in many different ways in their adult lives.
A good attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about a person or a thing that is generally reflected in a person’s behavior.
Good attitude also makes us aware of others’ perceptions towards us.
The most essential degree that we need in life is a good attitude.
Many skills are teachable but attitude is not.
I told my daughter, “I work various things but all of them help to improve people’s lives in different ways.”
Today I attended a presentation from a person from a cell phone company who was looking for something that he could add in cell phone battery materials so that the cell phone battery can last many years.
Think about your cell phone or laptop, what do you think if you don’t have to charge it for many weeks?
My daughter said, “That would be cool.”
Our cell phone and laptop’s battery life is still very short, we have to carry a charger all the time.
We have to solve this problem by creating technology so that we don’t have to carry a charger.
This is just one example of the type of problems that I face every single day at work.
I further added, “This is just one example of how I work to make a positive difference to people’s lives. I also help to discover unique ways and materials to treat the most challenging diseases. Many people are dying everyday due to many chronic diseases.”
I work to empower people as a team who are to deliver breakthroughs so that people get benefits faster and quicker. This team of people are called scientists.
Scientists always challenge the status quo.
Scientists are a very small segment of society but they change society forever.
They always work in unison to solve human problems because each person has specific expertise.
I also contribute to making science a tool of any technology that changes human lives on many frontiers.
Think about how technology is reshaping us to enhance our quality of life. We are living longer because we know how to cure many diseases.
Unfortunately, people are still dying due to many new diseases appearing every single day like cancer, dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and schizophrenia.
We have developed CRISPR as one of the biggest discoveries of the 21st century. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. CRISPR is a gene editing tool that has revolutionized biology research, making it easier to study disease by correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases, and faster to discover drugs.
We have developed faster communication for documents via email and instant messages so that we don’t have to wait for the mailman to receive information. But what about physical delivery of things, can we do it everywhere using any technology such as drones?
Actually, this has already been started but we need more sophisticated technology to access a larger population.
We are developing a driverless car so that we can sit back in the car and read the book while commuting to work.
How does it feel?
My daughter replied, “scary.”
We’re living in the age of coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of people are dying, people around the world are still struggling to get vaccines easily.
This pandemic showed us as proof that the importance of science and scientists in any place on earth is always in top priority for human progress.
We still don’t have vaccines for children under the age 12.
Recently we made and delivered vaccines quickly and efficiently using science as a tool for age 12 and older to prevent the pandemic.
This is one example of how great human minds work at times of crisis taking advantage of science as a tool when we are desperate to save people’s lives.
Those people who made this vaccine mission successful worked 24/7 non-stop using science as a tool and developed a new mRNA technology.
At present, vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, are the only authorized mRNA vaccines.
Kudos to all of those great minds who contributed to make mRNA vaccines and make our lives safer.
These are only a few examples of why science is the utmost tool for any kind of technology for human progress.
“Daughter, I’m just one of the many curious minds who are dedicated to human progress through science, whatever breakthrough technology it could be,” I added.
In reality, daughter, you don’t have to worry about anything at this point.
You have to focus on the basic foundation when you are young: excellent reading skill, excellent writing skill, excellent listening power, basic fundamental science and mathematics, and most importantly a very good attitude towards a person and a thing.
The basic foundation of education provides you how to handle the aforementioned tools in life, but sharpening these tools is a never ending process. You have to do it continuously throughout your life.
You’re just 12 years old, the work you will be doing may not exist now, therefore, don’t worry about it.
Always keep looking and focus on what you really love to do. You may not know or you might not have found what actually you love to do yet.
Focus mostly on why you do your work more than what you do, because why connects you to the broader world.
Your why should be bigger than yourself because it connects the people around you.
Don’t hate people and things quickly, sometimes the person or thing that you hate the most becomes the person or thing you love the most.
As I said, don’t worry about any existing work your dad and mom are doing, they are here to solve the existing problems, you might have to be ready to solve those problems which may not exist now.
Learn as many skills as you can which help to solve human problems by creating your own unique interests.
Always remember, your why should always be bigger than your how, this allows you to find security in insecurity in your work.
You have to know the answer of your why from inside otherwise you will never understand the answer from outside.
To do this, you must have a good attitude.
Keep in mind, a lot of things that we study in school or in textbooks become out of date pretty quickly and make no relevance with a particular time.
History is a good indicator how things keep changing, and our education also follows the same.
You have to develop the problem solving attitude which is directly related to the update of what happened today, yesterday, last week, and last year.
This update is more crucial than the past history, past textbooks, and past degrees.
I’m not saying these are not important but what I’m saying is don’t put too much emphasis on them and forget the real working ground.
You’ve to learn every single day by various means until you die, this is possible only if you become interested in learning.
Remember, problem solving attitude is learning from history and connecting to the present.
If you show your frustration and disliking thinking of your dad and mom’s everyday work at this age then you might start to lower your expectations in life.
This will affect you when you face bigger human problems later in future, when you should be ready to serve the world.
Remember, your mind is limitless.
The following are my two current mental projects that I constantly discuss with my friends who are generally problem solvers in one way or another. I know there is no guarantee that we could solve them during our lifetime.
Many people debate about these things as possible or impossible, but, in my personal view, we don’t have to go to the far ends of the spectrum, who knows 50 to 100 years from now how technology evolves.
Therefore, you might have to continue to be vigilant in such problems when you or your generation grow up and possibly bring solutions during your time.
These are just two of my personal favorites I like to mention to you but there are multiple of these types of challenges we have.
Most importantly, these kinds of problems also help us to make aware about our attitude, whether we are proactive or reactive or listener or talker.
My first thought.
We always talk about the shortage of fossil fuels for the future generations. Do we really know how much solar energy from the sun is wasted every single day?
So I’m still not sure whether we have to focus on preserving fossil fuels or to develop technology to use solar energy from the sun.
We’ve learned in fundamental physics that one form of energy can be converted to another form.
Does it make sense to you?
My second thought.
We eat food, we convert food into energy and that energy moves our body and our muscles.
Plants cannot move but still change one form of energy to another form.
Leaf slug is an animal that can do photosynthesis because it eats algae having chloroplasts.
Then, why can’t we do photosynthesis?
We eat plants that contain green chlorophyll, we have carbon dioxide that we generate inside the body, we drink water, we have sunlight, we have skin with pores.
So then where is the problem?
Why can’t we convert light energy into chemical energy in our body?
Am I thinking too superficially here?
Thank you for your time.
We’re at the dining table.