Exactly a year ago today, I was in Morocco to present my paper for the 2019 Africa Meeting of the Econometric Society. We were graced with a keynote address by the 2011 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Christopher A. Sims (who won it together with Thomas J. Sargent). After he delivered his keynote, he asked if anyone had any questions. The room was quiet and I was the first to ask him a question. After this, several people approached me and said how impressed they were that I was bold enough to ask a man of his intellect a question, and for him to have said it was a good question. I even later met him and spoke to him (hence the picture below).
Quite honestly I was very nervous when asking this question. My heart was beating fast and I was just hoping this will not sound too basic for someone so intelligent. I was just a Ph.D candidate, there to present one of my chapters and the room, which was at the Central Bank of Morocco, had maybe 200+ people. Yet still, I spoke up and I didn't, well, mess up and I am glad I did. Its moments like that that give me a springboard for the next time I am in a similar situation, the next time I am nervous, to believe in myself that I can have an intelligent question (or comment), because in that moment, no one will give you a pep talk and the window of opportunity is normally small.
Now growing up I did not really care about the Nobel prize in Economics or any discipline. It was something just so far fetched for me that my mind did not bother to think on it, read on it, follow it. It was completely outside my scope. When I went to Japan to do my Ph.D however, my professor opened my eyes to high quality journals in International Economics. The more I read up on the articles and authors, the more I admired these people, their achievements, their contributions to the discipline. I started joking with (my now husband) that I would win a Nobel prize one day (ha ha). The point is, it was not something completely alien anymore. It was something I understood and appreciated.
That is why this moment with Christopher Sims meant a lot to me. That knowledge and exposure I now had made me appreciate the occasion of being in the same conference as him. It is that knowledge that made me nervous but also that made me realize to utilize that moment. Afterwards, he said I had asked a good question. I do not even remember the question I asked. He asked a bit more information about me and gave me his email. I emailed him my paper and later thesis (and never heard back but, well, its all good really. More than I could have asked for). I asked for a picture and I look forward to meeting more brilliant minds like him.
So be bold, be confident. Break the limitations of your mind and expand your horizons.