Detectives, Kings, and Dissertations

September 16th is Peter Falk’s (aka Columbo) and B.B. King’s birthday. Surprisingly, both have something to say to dissertation students everywhere…

You know, sir, it’s a funny thing. All my life I kept running into smart people. But I figured, if I worked harder than they did, put in more time, read the books, kept my eyes open, maybe I could make it happen. And I did.
—Lieutenant Columbo

Students often tell me they’re not smart enough to finish their dissertations. That’s simply not true! If you can make it through doctoral-level course work, then you’re certainly smart enough to finish your dissertation.

Persistence and support are much more important indicators of graduation than raw intelligence. Many of my students are not the smartest people I’ve ever met.

But, they are dedicated, determined, and persistent, and that’s why they’re successful!

And, intelligence, alone, won’t get you there, either. I know plenty of ABDs who are smarter than me.

Alright, I bothered you enough for today, have a good night… One more thing though…
—Lieutenant Columbo

Expect to hear this from your committee members over and over.

Your dissertation is a marathon. And, it’s not over when you write your dissertation; it’s over when your dissertation is approved.

You will get feedback, revision requests, and criticism from your chair and the rest of your committee members.

Expect to submit multiple drafts of your proposal. Expect to submit multiple drafts of your dissertation.

The trick is to make significant progress with each draft. You should receive fewer and fewer comments with each iteration. If you maintain steady progress, success is inevitable.

The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.
—B.B. King

How true. And, that goes double if that learning is documented with a degree.

Even now, at 82 years old, if I don’t learn something every day, you know what I think? It’s a day lost.
—B.B. King

No one would call B.B. King an educated man. According to his own assessment, as a professional musician, he couldn’t even read music.

But, that didn’t stop him from being a lifelong learner. I applaud that. Everyone should aspire to being a lifelong learner. …Except when you’re working on your dissertation!

As a dissertation student, I don’t want you learning a damn thing! You will. You’ll have to. But, learning shouldn’t be your goal. Getting your dissertation done should be your goal!

Never lose sight of that.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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