'I Lost the Award,' however, I am motivated to aim higher

Before you read what I say, I want to mention my motive for writing this blog. It is important to prepare for victory or awards and know when you are not ready. I learned a few important things I thought about sharing through this defeat in my life, which I tell you about in this article. So please read through it, and I hope it helps you in some way.

We celebrate victories while learning from losses. Life has been very kind to me in both scenarios, which have come quite often to me. In the last ten years, it has been a roller coaster of a ride, with many highs and lows in my personal and professional life. The highlight was undoubtedly when I defended my Ph.D. thesis in September 2020.


It was even more special because I received my Doctorate with a distinction award, which meant I could be nominated for the Prime Minister's Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis here in Poland. After a few months of waiting, when the application procedure started, I received a lot of encouragement from my department and my collaborators. Finally, when it was confirmed that my ‘Thesis’ was 'Formally Nominated' for this prestigious award, I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time. On the one hand, I was happy to be nominated; on the other, I was quite nervous because the competition level was enormous.

Expectations and Doubts – That was me overthinking :)

Being nominated was an achievement for me, as I did not expect or plan it. A few years ago, an outstanding researcher (Dr. Jakub Nowotarski) from our Department of Operations Research and Business Intelligence at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology received this award. I wanted to be the next!

Once the nomination was passed, the wait began, as did those thoughts of merit and inferiority. I followed up on my work and did not discuss this much with anyone. I wanted it to be a surprise for my friends and family if I won it, rather than raising their expectations and disappointing them in the end. Somewhere deep down, I had my doubts! However, being an optimist, I never lost hope. Furthermore, after receiving the “Best International Ph.D. Student in Poland 2020” award, I can say that I had more than just hope.


The results were announced – Not the good news

On 16 October 2021, I saw a social media post from a senior researcher (Prof. Wojciech Czakon) who won the senior research category award. It was time for a reality check. Browsing through the document with the winners' names, one by one, was nerve-wracking. Unfortunately, I reached the end of the list and did not make it.

It was a very different feeling. I had experienced loss before; however, it took me some time to understand exactly what I felt about this one. It was weird. I thought I would be sad, but I wasn’t. Not happy, so I was still sane. But, knowing myself, I needed to clarify what I was feeling. In May 2021, a research grant application was rejected after reaching the second round, and I was dejected! I had clarity about what I felt about that result. However, not this time. It took me more than a week to realize what it was.

I concluded, I knew it

After thinking about that for a week, I realized I wasn’t sad because I knew this would happen. Hope, at times, could create an illusion that results in lasting disappointments. As I mentioned earlier, however, I hoped that I was aware of my work and that IT COULD BE BETTER! Therefore, I could accept that I was not among the winners, and it did not make me sad. What it did was motivate me to improve myself. I have a lot to learn and a lot to unlearn. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and would not present itself again in the SAME form. But there would be others.

What I learned
  • Aim high and prepare yourself for competition right from the beginning.
  • You don’t win great prizes just by chance.
  • Know the worth of your work, and at the same time, know the bar set by the best before judging yourself.
  • Once a lifetime opportunity – could present itself in other forms in the future.
  • Optimism is good, but balancing it with a realistic mindset is important.
  • Know what you feel, why you feel – retrospection of yourself couldn’t be enlightening
  • Finally, you are never bad; others are just good. You can be too (or even better) if you want it and persevere to achieve it.
  • Never stop moving forward.

I hope this article was worth the time you spent reading it. Feel free to get in touch if you have any feedback or comments.