Friday, December 29, 2017

Life Advice from Cecilia Rouse

Cecilia Rouse was awarded the 2017 Bell Award from the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, which "recognizes and honors an individual who has furthered the status of women in the economics profession." Lisa Barrow has published a short "Interview with Bell Award Winner Cecilia E. Rouse" in the CSWEP News (2017, II, pp. 1, 12-13). I was struck by two bits of life advice offered by Rouse, worth mulling over as the new year approaches.
Barrow: "Two things that I hear you say repeatedly are “careers are long” and “there are only 24 hours in a day.” Can you elaborate on what you mean?"  
Rouse: "These are probably my favorite and (from my perspective) most profound pieces of advice for women … and really everyone. By `careers are long' I mean that one cannot answer all questions in one single paper or dissertation. I so often see students struggle to bring their papers under control as they attempt to answer every question that might come up in the course of their research, which can often lead them away from the original question of the paper. Of course, some evolution is good and healthy. But I also remind students that if they choose a job that involves research, they will have a lifetime to address many questions. In fact, I also do not believe that any one paper is ever dispositive so it’s actually quite fruitless to try. Rather, we advance our understanding of the world by putting together pieces of evidence from many different places, researchers, and contexts and seeing the picture that emerges.
"As for there being only 24 hours in the day, this is the piece of advice about which I feel the strongest, mostly because I see people trying to elude it every day. The saying itself should actually be quite familiar to economists as it’s really just a statement about a time constraint. But as we push with ever-improving technology and the illusion of multi-tasking, we believe that we can somehow beat it. However, while we can ease an income constraint by giving an individual more money, we have yet to find a way to give anyone more time (not that we don’t try!). This is really the hardest, most intractable of constraints. And it basically means that we all have to make choices— real choices. One cannot `have it all' (which is antithetical to the notion of a budget constraint) but one can maximize one’s utility subject to the time reality. Fundamentally this means that it is critical to identify our highest priorities and do them (and attempt to do them well) and learn to say no to others demands. One cannot do everything and it’s useless to try."
Barrow: "Any last pieces of wisdom?"
Rouse: ;"Take time to enjoy the small moments of life. One of the highlights of my afternoon is dark chocolate with coffee."