Princes, Painters, Pickles and Dissertations

November 14th is National Pickle Day. Here’s the “dill” on your dissertation from birthday boys Prince Charles and Claude Monet…

In baseball, a base runner gets himself in a “pickle” when he attempts to run to the next base, only to have the ball beat him there by several steps.

Then he stops, turns around, and tries to run back to the previous base. But, as I used to tell the little league players I coached, a thrown ball is much faster than the fastest runner.

So, two (or more) defenders positioned in front of and behind the runner throw the ball back and forth in an attempt to tag the runner out, all the while moving closer and closer together.

It’s kind like that scene from Star Wars (the first one…the real first one) where the heroes are in a garage compactor, and the walls are closing in. That’s a pickle!

But, you can get yourself in a psychological pickle, too…

All the time I feel I must justify my existence.
— Prince Charles

My life has been nothing but a failure.
— Claude Monet

Can you believe that these are actual quotes from the future King of England and one of the most famous painters of all time?

How can two men, both successful and revered, come to harbor such thoughts, much less utter them into existence?

As a doctoral student I imagine you can relate. Hell, I can relate. As I was preparing for my candidacy exam at the University of Chicago, I worried myself nearly to death.

I was so stressed about what would happen if I failed, how could my life go on, that I failed to recognize the obvious. That I made in there on the back of my accomplishments. That I deserved to be there.

And, I’ll tell you another thing. Since I passed that exam, I’ve never worried about a single thing since. At least, not like I did back then.

As an adult, I’ve been laid off from a job and nearly lost our house in an economic downturn. I’ve learned that one of my children has a significant hearing loss that precipitated a learning disability that has since been overcome. I’ve faced the declines and deaths of both of my parents.

I’ve been in a car crash. I’ve been injured. I’ve weathered storms.

And, all of that makes me absolutely no different than you! In this life if you’ve made it past your twenties and thirties, then you’ve seen adversity. If you’re still here to tell the tale, then, by some accounting, you were successful.

Use those successes to breed confidence for your dissertation project. Don’t let yourself get into a pickle with your dissertation, scurrying back and forth, not getting anywhere. Sweat-drenched, adrenaline pumping, eyes wide, and very alert to the fact that you are only running out the final moments ’til your impending doom.

That’s a horrible way to approach any part of life. And, you don’t have to approach your dissertation that way. You may not have been here before, but you’ve certainly been around the block a time or two.

Remember that the most important keys to success in life are preparation, planning, support, and persistence. If you’ve made it to the dissertation phase of your program, then you are prepared. Develop a plan for how you will navigate the dissertation journey. Ensure that your support network is strong and includes both academic and emotional support. Then stick with it.

Don’t stop. You can do it!

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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