Proactivity Is Key

Dr. Russell Strickland is the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done, a company that helps doctoral students create actionable plans in order to complete their dissertations in a timely and effective manner.

Before becoming a renowned teacher, coach, and mentor, Dr. Strickland received his master’s degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Chicago and his doctoral in Organization and Management from Capella University. Over the past 20 years, he has mentored thousands of students, and his process has been proven to vastly reduce times to graduation and significantly improve graduation rates.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The advantages of being proactive when it comes to starting your dissertation
  • Dr. Russell Strickland explains how to develop the skill sets you need to complete your dissertation
  • The importance of constructing a step-by-step process to stay on track and successfully reach your destination
  • How doctoral degrees help business owners take their careers to the next level
  • Why Dr. Strickland believes that it’s never too late to finish your dissertation

In this episode…

Once you’ve started your doctoral degree program, it’s never too early to start thinking about your dissertation.

While it typically takes around two to four years to complete a dissertation, students who don’t have a clear destination in mind can take upwards of five to seven years. This means more money spent toward tuition and less time to take your career to the next level. That’s why Dr. Russel Strickland, founder and CEO of Dissertation Done, suggests that students be proactive and start creating a plan of action as soon as possible..

In this episode of An Unconventional Life Podcast, Dr. Russell Strickland of Dissertation Done sits down with Dr. Jeremy Weisz from Rise25 Media to share the story of a business owner who completed his dissertation in less than a year. Listen in as Dr. Strickland discusses the advantages to being proactive, how to acquire the skills necessary to finish your dissertation, and the merit that comes with earning a doctoral degree.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done, America’s #1 authority in dissertation completion for working professionals.

Founded by Dr. Russell Strickland, Dissertation Done serves people in two ways:

  1. If you’re struggling with your dissertation, getting ready to start your dissertation, or just plain wanting to get your dissertation done as soon as possible, go to and Let’s Get Your Dissertation Done!
  2. If you’re busy living your Unconventional Life and have a message that you want to share, maybe you should join our Expand Your Authority Program to become a published author. Go to and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit to learn more about our other services and leave a message or call them at 888-80-DR-NOW (888-803-7669) to schedule your free 30 to 45-minute phone consultation.

Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript is here for your reading convenience. It was created by machines and may (a-hem) contain some errors. If you email us about these errors, the machines will undoubtedly find out. I hope they won’t get angry.

Intro  0:03

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy 1% out there who ends their doctoral degrees and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique and unconventional ways. Here’s your host astrophysicist and teacher, author, dissertation coach and more. Dr. Russell Strickland.

Dr. Russell Strickland  0:28

Hi, this is Dr. Russell Strickland here, host of An Unconventional Life Podcast, where I feature stories of the unconventional 1% who go out and earn doctoral degrees, and then use them in these unconventional ways we talk about the winding journey of their life and their careers. today. I have Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, and he has interviewed literally thousands of successful entrepreneurs, investors and CEOs. And we’ve kind of flipped the script a little bit and today he’s going to interview me so I’d like to use it Dr. Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  1:00

Thank you, Dr. Strickland. And you know what? Talk about a winding journey you have one, right I mean, your journey is winding and so I suggest people listen to that episode where we talk about your journey. And we have an interesting case story today with someone who used us in the business realm, which we’ll talk about and go deep in. But before we do that episode is brought to you by dissertation done and I like to tell people it’s dissertation done is the combination of rocket science literally rocket scientist factor struck me I don’t know if everyone knows this about you, but rocket science means management consultant because Dr. Russell Strickland start dissertation after the huge pain points he dealt with, after studying astronomy and astrophysics, years of Chicago and years to Chicago if anyone else it’s really hard to get into. I’m, I’m in Chicago, and he’s mentored thousands of students over the past 20 years. He’s worked with students in business, nurses, education, psychology, anyone who studies people in a data driven way you know who you are. He works with and basically helps you take it across the finish line, you have a mentor walking you through the process you don’t think go at it alone. And it’s for us it can be a frustrating process. So you can go to They have, you know, you can go contact them, they have an email, they have a phone number of the top you can even call and this person in particular Dr. Strickland called you all right. And so talk about that initial conversation.

Dr. Russell Strickland  2:28

Um, well, I mean, it’s it’s not very unusual. The way things started out that he called out this this person’s name is Dr. David Braswell, and will along I think we’re going to be having him on the show. And one of our episodes. He He called me, well actually, I guess it was a little unusual because he called me because he knew he wanted to coach. He knew he wanted to mentor. And I asked him where he was in the dissertation process. And he said, Well, I’m getting ready to get started. I was like oh You’re one of those because a lot of our students call when they’re like, a year or two into the dissertation process, but haven’t gotten very far yet. You know what I’m talking about, um, but some people will call us and they’ll say, Listen, I’m just getting ready to get started my dissertation, or I’m working through my degree program. I’m not there yet, but I want to be prepared. And we really love working with students that are really proactive like that because hey, listen, face it the the best and the brightest of us out there the strongest of us. We rely on coaches to make a strong keep our performances super high level and, and Dr. Braswell, he finished his dissertation in less than a year I have to check the exact numbers, but it was it was definitely months less than a year that he finished his dissertation and, and part of that is because we had a really good plan for getting him through on some things lined up very well, which we’ll talk about. But also part of that was just being proactively going out there saying I want to hit the ground running. What do I do? need to do to make that happen? So what’s

Jeremy Weisz  4:01

Advantage to that way started? What’s the advantage of someone starting early? Or is there?

Dr. Russell Strickland  4:08

Um, well, first of all, you’re not starting late. There’s advantage right there. Um, but like I’m just saying in terms of you versus on time. Yeah.

Jeremy Weisz  4:18

I mean, someone’s thinking, well, is that too early to start the get go? Or should I wait? Because I’m sure maybe he said that, like, should I wait a little bit? Or is now a good time? What do you what do you tell?

Dr. Russell Strickland  4:29

So So generally speaking, um, if you are in your doctoral degree program, it’s not too early to be thinking about your dissertation. If you are not in your doctoral degree program yet, it might be a little too early to start thinking about your dissertation and you definitely can’t do much about it. Yeah. So first, you got to get enrolled. But once you start taking classes, we actually work with students who sometimes we’re very early in the process, and we help them to leverage some of the time and effort and energy have to Put into their classes to help with their dissertation. And so if we do start early, then we’re able to kind of leverage those bits. And we can’t do that all the time with every single class. But with a lot of the classes, you’ll find that at least some of the time and effort that you had to put in anyway, because it was a class, it was another degree requirement for your degree, in addition to the dissertation. On many of those classes, we’ll be able to take some of the effort you put into them, and leverage it into your dissertation. So that’s a huge reason why it’s great to get an early start on it not just wait until the school says it’s time to get started.

Jeremy Weisz  5:36

So if he finished in a year or last what’s typical?

Dr. Russell Strickland  5:41

Typical were so so typical, is you may or may not finish, okay, they’re gonna finish your dissertation, right? That’s typical, typical, yeah, for folks that do finish, um, 234 years, a lot of times that they take universities typically start doing A lot of a lot of guff if you’re going past seven years, because the accrediting bodies get on the university say, why is the student still here? Are you trying to just take all the students tuition money. And obviously, since the university has a profit motive to take tuition money, they need someone overseeing and making sure that they’re looking after the student as well. And so they have to start justifying why you’re still enrolled in the school if you’re taking one, seven years to finish your degree, and a lot of that time you could spend on your dissertation. Now, folks that do finish again, couple few years is is not bad. It’s fairly good. Our students, we set the goal at 12 months. And that’s a stretch goal. Not everybody is going to make that but some people do better. Okay, so we’re looking for students who are going to finish in you know, kind of 12 to 18 months, hopefully on the lower end of that spectrum. But we’re always super happy when we have our students that we can get finished in, you know, eight 910 months. That’s always awesome. My my wife record and I don’t think it’s ever going to be matched or duplicated. It was five months we got a student through the dissertation process. That was the stars aligned in the wind at his back. But it’s a real data point we did that.

Jeremy Weisz  7:12

That’s amazing. What else do you attribute to the success of of Dr. Braswell, you know, obviously, being proactive starting early, what else helped him in this journey to get done in less than a year?

Dr. Russell Strickland  7:23

Well, understanding that I’ve talked about this in other episodes, you need a tremendous breadth of skill sets to be able to complete this project. And it’s very rare that anyone’s going to possess all those skill sets coming into the dissertation. And so knowing he runs his own business, he understands that there’s some things that he’s really good at and some things that he’s not so good at. And it doesn’t make him bad or a weak person. He’s not so good at everything. It makes him a human. And so what he does to make himself a better person is he finds people to help him either develop or augment or borrows skill sets depending on what the situation in the ethics of the situation dictates. So you have to do a lot more of your dissertation and you would have to run your business. A lot of times you just get people to do other things for you. I don’t know if you remember seeing that school, that show, movie, I think was called back to school with Rodney Dangerfield in that, yes. Where he comes back. And he he literally hires Kurt Vonnegut to write his, his English paper. All right, want to get and the professor says You don’t know anything about Kurt Vonnegut. And he brings Kurt out, you know, after the professor leaves and and yells at him with a crap job he did writing the paper about you can’t do that in school, really? So yeah, I

Jeremy Weisz  8:39

went to Madison, that was actually

Dr. Russell Strickland  8:40

who will never say that Who said I know I don’t know how to do everything. I’m going to go out and get skill sets that that I don’t possess for myself. Of course we keep it all ethical and aboveboard. So that means that we have to sometimes augment your skill sets help you develop the skill sets that you’re going to need to finish.

Jeremy Weisz  8:57

Yeah, I went to Madison, the film. The film was actually filmed at Madison. So I do know

Dr. Russell Strickland  9:03

that when my kids started diving I they asked me what type of show work on next. And so I threw out the Triple Lindy watch on YouTube and I think eventually they watched the whole move That’s hilarious. Oh no What the Triple Lindy is, look it up. It’s cool.

Jeremy Weisz  9:18

Yeah, definitely. So Dr. Strickland why did why was Dr. Braswell getting the degree in the first place? He has his own business what man,

Dr. Russell Strickland  9:28

he ran his own business and and you know what? People tend to listen to people whose first name is Doctor. They tend to think that you know what you’re talking about, regardless as to what you say. So make sure that you’re careful when you do get during your doctoral degree. And your first name is Doctor, make sure you’re careful about what you’re saying because people are going to believe you most likely. There are very few people in our society currently, unfortunately, who who are skeptical who are critical consumers of information. If you tell them something, they’ll just Believe it. Whether that’s written in a paper or a book or a tweet, people will just believe things. So particularly when you when you are in your doctoral degree, make sure that that you are respectful of the authority you’re going to command. But he wanted to have that additional authority and credibility of being able to say when he dealt with and his business works with educators, when he dealt with these educators, he wanted to, to really not just know that he had experience but be able to kind of stand a little bit of a level up and say this is Dr. Braswell, conveying to you from my position what you guys need to be doing in your school districts with the specific issues he was helping them with.

Jeremy Weisz  10:39

How did he feel it helped him in his career to the company that to you after the fact?

Dr. Russell Strickland  10:45

Yeah, so any of you guys who are business owners know, you know, when I started my business dissertation done, the first few months, I was having like huge double digit month over month growth and those are like so much fun. You see, every every month you’re making so much more money than you make the month before? Well, that didn’t last very long. At some point, you kind of topped out. And if you can get to double digit growth at all, you’re doing pretty well. A lot of a lot of businesses don’t mature businesses don’t achieve double digit growth on a regular basis. He actually hit his business was a mature business, he actually steady hit like 30% growth after he had had had completed his degree, in part because of things that he was different different things he was doing as a doctor. So he had transitioned himself to thinking about things a little bit differently, but in a large degree, based on being able to say he was Dr. Braswell instead of just David.

Jeremy Weisz  11:47

What would he say was a powerful portion of you know, part of the process like, again, he’s busy, he’s running a business. Yeah, he’s getting his degree. You know, it’s a busy time what was powerful for him,

Dr. Russell Strickland  11:59

he will tell me over ever again, tell me what to do. So I can do it. Just I want to get this done, just tell me what to do. And I’ll do it. They don’t do that hardly in any any degree program that I’m familiar with. It’s very rare in the dissertation that they will tell you do these things. And then you’re done. They want you to go out and figure things out and flail and bump your head against the wall. And you know, just generally kind of experiment. That’s really good for folks who are going to spend a lifetime in academia who are going to be doing this stuff over and over again, and need to be able to do this research in a competent way forever and ever. But most of the students that we work with are like Dr. Braswell, they’re they already have established careers and they’re wanting to take those careers to another level, not by doing a whole bunch of research. But by learning more about their specific discipline and earning their doctoral degree to do so. And then having that doctoral degree to show to others. Folks what an expert they are. And so he didn’t, he didn’t need to become an expert researcher, he needed to be able to demonstrate that he could do it so that he could earn a degree. And that’s what we were able to do by kind of telling him what to do week to week.

Jeremy Weisz  13:16

Yeah. And it’s kind of like, you just kind of lay it step by step. So come, someone could just follow it. They don’t have to think they have someone who’s already been there done that. It’s like, if I’m walking through a forest or something they

Dr. Russell Strickland  13:27

have, they have to think but we’re telling them

Jeremy Weisz  13:31

Well, I mean, I mean, think about the step they have to think during but like, think about the next step. You don’t have to like kind of think of it like you will enter into this forest. And, like, if someone knows kind of the path, they can take you down the path or you can kind of go down one path and be like, Okay, this is not right. And then you back up like a couple miles and you’re out of the way. Yeah, see, I like to

Dr. Russell Strickland  13:55

think about it as metaphor of it. You know, a GPS. I mean, we use that for a lot of what we do. The first thing we do is we map out a destination. And you would not believe how many doctoral students who are smart, intelligent, capable, accomplished people go into the dissertation and really don’t have a destination in mind. They know they want to get their dissertation done, but they just don’t know exactly what they’re going to. First thing we do is help them figure that out. So that’s number one. But after that, is these turn by turn directions that we’re providing each week. I was on a trip with my family, we after the end of the school year, we did this went down to the, to the beach for a couple of days. And it was some place I hadn’t been to many, many years. So I actually didn’t know how to get there. But I just punched into the GPS. And then I needed to know how to drive the car. So like, people have to know how to write papers. I didn’t know how to drive the car, but I didn’t have to know where I was going at all I just did told me to turn here turn there. And and that’s the way that it works. So yeah, that part of the thinking gets outsourced, but you still have to you know Do the driving of the car says v.

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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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