Way disappointing!

That’s my reaction to the final episode of Lost. Before you go… I’m going to explain the relationship to your career in a moment. But first…

I’ll admit it, I was a fan over the past 3 years (one time I rented all the previous year’s episodes and caught up in a matter of two weeks… that was a marathon!)

(Spoiler alert – don’t read if you are thinking you might watch LOST sometime)

People who liked (and looking online, there are a lot of those) the ending enjoyed the human drama – the reunited couples, Jack’s struggles, the triumph of “good” over “evil” and all that.

People like me hated it because it did a 180 degree U-turn from some of the sciencey-type questions, like time travel, alternate realities, the meaning of the numbers, and etc. The finale tied up none of that.

From that perspective I was disappointed.

I went online and saw more than a few people complaining, “I wasted 126 hours for that!!??!”

Here’s why you should care about this. Substitute “Lost” for “a failed science experiment”. Because, science experiments can and often do fail! In fact, whole lines of investigation fail – after years of investment.

“I wasted the past six years on that stupid hypothesis???!!!???!”

I’ve seen more than one graduate student who struggles with a failed experiment in this way.

Was it really a waste? (Lost and/or your experiment?)

Lost ended up as a happy love-fest that we find out is simply a “holding place” for people after they die, until they work out their problems to move onto heaven (or whatever).

It doesn’t make sense. I think that the producers originally intended the ending as an alternative reality that was split off from the main timeline when Juliet detonated the nuke.

That altered the timeline so that they were in fact back on the plane, and went to live “normal” lives – except for that they weren’t meant to live those normal lives – they were meant to be on the island.

But for some reason Lost’s makers copped out on this. Why? Maybe they ran out of time and money. Who knows. All I can say is that, compared to my expectations, it was a let down.

So, was it a “waste?”

At first I found myself with this hollow feeling. I found myself starting to think this way.

But if it was really a waste, then why not just watch the last episode, and not bother with all those leading up to it?

The question could be rephrased like this: why not just read about someone else’s experiment in a journal after it is done, rather than risking your own blood, sweat, and tears on an experiment that might fail?

I mean, really… most experiments do fail … at least in the sense that they often raise more questions than they answer. Kind of like Lost.

So, then, why do it? Why watch Lost? Why bother doing experiments?

The only answer I can find to this question is because you get enjoyment or satisfaction out of it.

Any other answer – such as “to get my PhD” or “to get a Nobel prize” or “to find out what the meaning of the Island is” – is going to take you down the wrong path.

You will likely find yourself, after days, months, or years, asking “why did I waste my time on all that?”

Say you’re working on a PhD just so that you can be “assured” a job afterward. Well, there are no assurances. You may not get a job. You may eventually decide you just hate the work. You may not finish.

There are a million possible ways to be dissapointed if you tie your expectations, hopes, and dreams to a specific outcome.

And the point? To enjoy what you’re doing now. Maybe not every single thing you are doing now is enjoyable – but if you can’t find enjoyment in the majority of what you’re doing presently in your career (or life), then something is wrong, and it is time for a change.

You’ll never find enjoyment in just an outcome. You need to find enjoyment in the journey to the outcome.

And, from this perspective, my time spent watching Lost was not “wasted.” Neither were all those “failed experiments” that never resulted in a paper.

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