Why You Should Do Your Research

Mary Jackson in Hidden Figures

In my previous post I wrote about the importance of knowing how to make progress on your goals. For the next few posts I’m going to write more more about why that’s important and how to get there. By the way, I just started The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins and she agrees with me about the importance of knowing “how” and why motivation to do something will only get you so far.

I know that the idea of doing “research” might have scared a few people off as soon as they saw the title of this post, but if you’re still reading, hear me out. When I say research, I mean learning something, developing a new skill, or improving on an existing one. Doing your research allows you to:

  • Learn how to move forward on your goals
  • Have the needed background information for what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Be prepared for when opportunities arise

To lose weight and get fit, I had to do my research and find a good macro-nutrient app to track what I was eating, learn more about healthy foods that I like the taste of and give me the nutrients that I need (no gimmicks, no “lose weight fast” programs), and needed to learn about effective workouts. To get more organized I had to research on how to do that, what tools (paper and digital) to use, and how to make it fit with my work and lifestyle. Even to set up this site, at one point I had to learn how to work with the WordPress platform.

Recently listening to an episode of The Accidental Creative where Jordan Harbinger was being interviewed. He was talking about how he prepares to interview people on his own shows by reading their books and doing some research on them, not just having someone else do it and give him a summary. It reminded me of my days as a journalist. About 20 years ago I worked for a small entertainment newspaper in Los Angeles. My boss would sometimes go out and do interviews for the radio work that she did (providing clips of interviews for other entertainment radio shows) and would give me the recording to write up a piece for the paper. Sometimes, I would get to do the interviews and see the movies that the celebrity was going to be in, prior to its release. My boss and I both noticed a difference in the quality of my work when I was at the interview and saw the movie compared to when she gave me the recording and provided me the movie summaries from the production companies. It was about doing the research and providing myself with the background information that I needed to write more interesting articles.

I was also reminded of the importance of doing the research while watching the movie Hidden Figures with my daughter a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of her favourite movies so we’ve watched it several times. This time, the scene in the video below really stood out for me because the importance of doing the research was fresh in my mind. In it, the character of Mary Jackson, played by Janelle Monáe, is pleading her case before a judge so that she can take night classes at an all white high school to meet the requirements to apply to the engineer training program at NASA, where she already worked as a “calculator” in the days before computers did that work.

Mary Jackson had the needed background skills to research that information about the judge. She and her fellow “calculators” also had done their research and developed the skills that enabled them to help NASA get John Glenn into space.

Finally, doing the research and developing skills comes in handy when opportunities arise that you may not have been expecting. While doing my Masters in Education I worked as a research assistant for one of my professors. I didn’t know what I’d being doing as part of the job, I just needed a job. He hired me because I had a journalism degree (so I could write) and because I had worked for several years while in high school and during my undergraduate work for a library (I could find information). Neither of these had anything to do with what I was studying. These were skills I had developed while on a different path that I could now pull out of my tool box. I was prepared for the opportunity and it resulted in a job for almost three years, until I got a full time job using the skills and knowledge I had gained in graduate school. Doing the “research” provided me with the skills and knowledge I needed at the time, but also for future opportunities that haven’t yet occurred to me.

In upcoming posts, I’m going to talk about how to find the right research, digest it, and apply it in ways that are right for you.

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