James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

20 Questions Worth Answering Honestly

This brief, but worthwhile self assessment has been doing the rounds recently since first being posted here. The responses of some other interesting folks (Jon Maiden, Rachel and Tom Allen) make particularly good reading also, but here’s my go.

1. Do you earn enough money? Yes,  the advantages of living as a frugal student or on expeditions, means you don’t need much ‘stuff’. So any income, however small, makes you feel quite rich.

2. Do you enjoy your job? Yes, it seems like a minor crime that I get paid to do science every day.

3. Do you prefer Saturday or Monday? Both. I relish the opportunity that a fresh week brings on a Monday morning, but now appreciating the variety of the weekend too.

4. What would you like to be doing one year from now? Can you make that happen? Analyzing a perfect set of data from the Scottish Highlands and fleshing out ambitious plans to one day return to Madagascar.

5. What would you like to be doing five years from now? Will you make that happen? Still working in science, still doing expeditions, still trying to inspire young people to be passionate about conservation. (Rather than surrendering to the pursuit of money, stability and cynicism)

6. What would you do with your life if you were a billionaire? Is it possible to live a modified version of that life anyway? Fund scientific research by the most promising and enthusiastic young conservationists. If that sounds dull and academic, just imagine what the fruits of your labour might look like. Unfortunately, it’s not possible without large sums of surplus money.

7. How much could you cut your outgoings by? How much time at work does that equate to? Not much, aside from stubbornly camping or couchsurfing long term in London. I could run or cycle back from the lab more to save on train fares.

8. Do you have enough spare time to do the things you really enjoy? If not, why not? I decided quite a while ago that dividing working time and free time wasn’t sustainable and wouldn’t be for me. So I put all my effort into making my work my passion. Now that working in science can provide a small income, I can spend all my time enjoying myself!

9. What takes up a lot of your time but is neither unavoidable, rewarding nor enjoyable? Why don’t you cut that/them out immediately, or pay somebody to do it for you? Sitting on trains seems to be the main, unavoidable, loss of useful time.

10. What mildly pleasant, but pretty pointless things do you fritter too much time doing? How many times a day do you check your email/Twitter/Facebook? How much TV do you watch? Endless tinkering with this website, with not enough good content to show for it.

11. What would you like to do more of? Long wild runs in the countryside and talks to older audiences. School talks are great, and a privilege, but I want to give talks where the audience isn’t obliged to be there, it will force me to improve and be more entertaining (or speak to an empty room!).

12. What motivates you to do something well? The opportunity to contribute to something bigger than myself.

13. Who do you envy, and why? I envy Al Humphreys for his charming and unapologetic writing style and people who lived through the 18th and 19th centuries for seeing a time I wish I had; for feeling that the world was inexhaustible (I should really be more grateful for the opportunities available in the 21st century). In reality, I’m sure the benefits of ‘now’, far outweigh the romance of the past.

14. If you were 100 and looking back on your life, would you be happy with a life well-lived? Yes and no. I’ve had a brilliant adventure so far, but feel that I’ve had a lot more out of life, than I’ve given back yet.

15. What makes you proud, satisfied, and content? Very occasionally, I’ve played a small part in encouraging some young people to head off on expeditions. This is what I’m probably most proud of.

16. What makes you frustrated, bored, and unfulfilled? Wasted time in any form.

17. What would you do if you had more talent? Try and get on the telly.

18. What would you do if you had more guts? Stop everything, cycle around the world, come back and pick it up where I left off.

19. What would you do with your life if nobody was watching, judging or commenting? Hopefully the same thing. I’m not sure my life is interesting or important enough for anyone to watch or judge it!

20. What are you going to do about all this? Go back to Explore for another dose of inspiration, keep planning and get back to the work in the lab!

What do you think, an exercise worth doing? or an overindulgence in self reflection.