Past Messages


John Wagner, Summer 2009

John WagnerGreetings from Dallas! My, how quickly we have arrived into the summer, and I am already behind on many things (this address being one of them). As I traveled from the field back to the office, to multiple meetings, and eventually back to my own office (on those rare occasions), I thought about what to talk about in my address. In going back through my predecessors’ well-written editorials which covered topics ranging from climate change to religion, I wondered what other topics might interest earth scientists. Should it be uncertainty in oil and gas price fluctuations, peace in the Middle East, or one of my all-time favorites, coastal erosion? As with all epiphanies, it just hit me like someone had turned the light on—what about time? That’s it! So let’s briefly discuss time or lack thereof. Now I wonder, is this lack of time becoming the norm for all geoscientists (I use the term as all inclusive for geologists, geophysicists and paleontologists)? It’s a great thing to multi-task and be extremely busy, but we definitely do not want to end up babbling incoherently in the corner somewhere. How do we manage this ever-growing work load? Will we ever catch up? The first answer is to take it one day at a time. If I roll my 3 children and their events into the equation each day, then all bets of adhering to my planned schedule are off. Now will I ever catch up? I have decided the answer is unequivocally no, not in this lifetime. Recognizing most geoscientists’ time management skills are dictated by geological interest and consequently lead us on a quest to participate in several objectives at one time; again, part of our genetic code.

So how do we manage this growing list of commitments and keep a perspective on what’s truly important? The answer may be different for everyone. Some of us travel to exotic places associated with our jobs, others spend time in the field looking at both modern and ancient systems, and I hope we all make time for family and friends. People outside our profession (e.g., my neighbor……who just doesn’t get it!) sometimes question whether we perform real work at all. Most folks outside our discipline can’t believe that we look at rocks, and travel the globe to exotic field locations to understand outcrop analogues, and then develop conceptual models to drill prospects/wells. Bottom line is that work for us is not work. It’s a passion, and consequently we adapt and manage continuous change well. Whether we are in the field, working with students, volunteering our time to share our knowledge of earth science with the community, all of this involves additional time to our work-life commitments.

The essence of our passion and contribution makes our stress levels quite manageable. This makes us unique and able to deal with constant uncertainty even in today’s world of economic adversity. We all have busy lives and are happily working on solving the mysteries of the subsurface. As we scurry about, remember to spend some time mentoring your new graduates and summer interns. Motivate them and don’t forget to tell a story or two that conveys the passion we all have for our chosen profession. You will have more of an influence than you can imagine! Hope everyone has a great summer.