I had a long chat with my brother earlier this week, which is extremely rare between us. It was just a casual chat and we didn't really talk about anything specifically. One thing we talked about is that he's trying to find a way to organize all the digital photos that accumulated over the years.
So we really didn't talk about anything serious but when I reflect about our conversation I suddenly have a surprise realization about myself. I am a pretty self-confident person, at least much so compared to my brother.
When we were in school, both of us are kind of super-overachievers compared to our peers. I thought that we both have pretty high self esteem (if not arrogance) when we grow up. Over the years, particularly with my recent struggle with finishing my PhD, I started to have a lot of self doubt. I guess that's pretty normal for scientists in general, as we often don't know what we are doing exactly (based on Einstein's definition of "research activities") and just have to constantly assessing everything. Sometimes these self doubts lead to a decrease of self confidence for me. I don't know much about my brother's life but I'd guess that he is doing pretty well and should have a better self image than I do.
However, when we chat about his quest to "the best" solution to his problem, I realized that there's something fundamentally different between us. I don't really believe in the existence of a best solution to a problem, much less that someone would have this answer for me. I'd think that the best solution to my problem, if it exists, can only be created by me. In other words, I may be an arrogant bastard. So to deal with the digital photos, my brother is eagerly checking out all available software packages and trying to find "the best" one (has to be powerful, flexible, etc). In contrast, I don't think any of those would beat what I can do with some perl scripts that I wrote. As I think more about this, I realized that we are chasing very different things in our life and have very different world views. I have always suspected that we are very different persons and now I started to realize how exactly we are different. I thought this is very interesting.