7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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:

  • Dr. Russell Strickland discusses the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey
  • Which of the 7 habits are most helpful for doctoral students?
  • The importance of establishing a clear destination and mapping out the steps necessary to get there
  • How to put your perfectionism aside in order to complete your dissertation
  • Structure and accountability: the advantages of having a coach while working on your dissertation
  • Dr. Strickland reveals the 8th habit of highly effective people and how it applies to doctoral students

In this episode…

Statistically speaking, there is about a 50/50 chance that a doctoral student will ever actually earn their degree. In other words, your odds are equivalent to those of a coin toss.

However, Dr. Russell Strickland has employed the framework behind the influential book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, in order to help his students beat the odds and complete their dissertations. His advice? Follow habit number two and begin with the end in mind. This strategy will give you the chance to create an instructive plan and stay on track to achieve your ultimate goal: changing your first name to “Dr.”

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, join Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done, and Dr. Jeremy Weisz from Rise25 Media as they talk about the impact of the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, on doctoral students. Stay tuned as Dr. Strickland shares his insights on defining your goals, consistently reaching your targets, and achieving each milestone on your way to graduation.

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 www.dissertationdone.com/done 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 www.dissertationdone.com/book and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit www.dissertationdone.com 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 earns 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 the stories of the unconventional 1% who not only earned their doctoral degrees, but went on to use them in strange and exciting ways. I have Dr. Jeremy Weisz with me here today has done literally thousands of interviews with successful entrepreneurs, investors and CEOs. And we flip the script a little bit and he’s going to be interviewing me today. So Dr. Weisz, thanks for coming today. appreciate having you here.

Jeremy Weisz  0:56

Dr. Strickland. Thank you. I’m excited about today’s episode. Because it’s the book that you find so important and when you’ve talked about it when we are before we hit record, I was like, I need to reread this book, so I won’t, I won’t spoil it. I’ll let you talk about it before we talk about the episode. People can check out Dissertation Done in if you picture rocket scientists means management consultant. That’s what Dissertation Done is because Dr. Russell Strickland started it after a huge pain point he dealt with after studying Astronomy and Astrophysics at University of Chicago. He’s mentored thousands of people over 20 years. So you know, if you are a student and business nurse, you know nursing education, psychology, anyone who studies people in data, then you know who you are. You can call him and go to www.dissertationdone.com And check out what he does. He helps lots of people. They call him because they’re frustrated. So without further ado, Dr. Strickland, tell me there’s a specific story behind why this is so powerful. Not only to your students but to your children.

Dr. Russell Strickland  2:03

Yeah, actually. So what we’re talking about today is a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was written by the late Dr. Stephen Covey, first published back in 1989. So it’s been around for a while. And some of you in business might know of FranklinCovey, a great leadership consulting, or consultancy that’s still out there doing great work today in Dr. Covey’s name and some of his children are actually part of that. So I encountered this book years and years ago back in the 90s, probably, but I reengaged with this book, probably about 10 years ago, when my children began attending this leadership base magnet elementary school, and the schools won national awards. The principal was just this real force of nature. And, and what she decided to do with the school is she used The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as the framework for their entire pedagogy. So when they talk about about anything for that they want to teach the students in terms of how to learn and how to behave and how they want them to act. They always couched the language in terms of the the seven habits. Um, just a quick little story here. We, you know, when you go into most elementary schools, and you and you ask the students, hey, what’s your favorite time of the day? Most students in elementary school are going to say recess and lunch, right? Well, when you go to, to this particular school, my kids went and you talk to them, you ask them, what’s your favorite habit? Well, sometimes they’ll pick out a real one. But oftentimes, you’ll hear him say, habit number seven, which is sharpen the saw. And that was their little language for you have to take time to sort of rest and relax and recharge your batteries in order to be able to move forward and be effective, also known as recess and lunch. So it doesn’t matter where you go. Kids are the same all over. But I thought that was just really cute that they had those kids so fully immersed in the language of this particular book, that even though they were saying that The same thing they had their own kind of codified way of doing it.

Jeremy Weisz  4:03

Dr. Strickland so I want you to just walk people through what the habits are. And I know for this conversation, you’re going to talk about what you feel are the most important ones for people to focus on. First,

Dr. Russell Strickland  4:14

we’ll look to their seven habits. Number one is be proactive. Number two is begin with the end in mind. habit number three is put First things first. habit number four is to think Win win. habit number five is to seek first to understand then to be understood. And habit number six is to synergize. habit number seven, we already mentioned, is sharpen the saw. And I’ll tell you just real briefly in case you encounter it. There is an eighth habit, Dr. Covey published a book in 2004, which was called the eighth habit from effectiveness to greatness. And, and that’s all about finding your passion. We’re going to talk about that a little bit towards the end of the episode today, I think, but in case you saw that out there, I wanted to drop that line. But the seven habits are the original seven habits, but then he did add an eight have an eight habit on later in his life.

Jeremy Weisz  5:08

So where should people start? Well, we could start with one or I know that you feel some are more important than others.

Dr. Russell Strickland  5:16

Yes, well, so there were a lot of things if you if you just listen, as I rattle those things off really, really quickly, there are a lot of things that you could think of as a dissertation student, maybe I shouldn’t be doing that maybe I should. Um, what I like to talk to my students about what I think is most critical is habit number two, which is begin with the end in mind. Um, because if you don’t know why you’re doing a thing, if you don’t know where you want to go, if you don’t have that clear in your mind, then you might end up putting a lot of work and effort into something you don’t really want. Okay, so when I talk to my students and we I work with adults who are who are Are you working full time they have children, sometimes their children are getting ready to go college, sometimes they’re out of the house. Sometimes they’re still young. But they have a career, they have a mortgage, they have all of these adult responsibilities. They might volunteer with their church or other civic groups. It’s not like they’re just students who are working 50, 60, 70 hours a week at school, they have other things going on in life that are very important high priorities. And so for those students, for that particular type of student, the most important thing is to get the degree and graduate, you’re doing you’re going through this process, you’re going through the doctoral degree program, because you want to further your career because you want to maybe start over again a little bit. We have a lot of students who are facing or not facing but approaching retirement, and they might want to teach when they’re retiring. Whatever the motivation is, the idea is that they are not going to be full time researchers in a university somewhere which is kind of the traditional way Doing things, there’s instead gonna be one of our unconventional folks we talked about here on An Unconventional Life Podcast, they’re going to be using their dream in a different way. And therefore the research isn’t the most important thing. It’s getting it done in graduating. So that’s beginning with the end in mind, what I want to make sure that you first recognize for yourself and decide for yourself, it doesn’t it doesn’t have to be this way. But for most of the students that I work with it is this way that your degree and getting it finished. That’s the primary goal. So if you have that in mind to start with, and you start making all of your decisions based on the idea that, hey, I want to get this degree in graduate as quickly as possible, you’re gonna go down a different path. Yeah. Then students who follow the path that universities most often recommend. So that’s number one. And that’s the first level at which we use this idea of beginning with the end in mind. Now, there’s a second level that we use this idea as well. See, the first level tells us hey, I want to graduate this As soon as possible, so I should be making decisions based on what’s going to get me to graduation soon as I want to do it honestly, ethically aboveboard, and not cheating. Because I want to look at myself in the mirror and call myself doctor, and it’d be proud of who I see when I finished. I need to get it done correctly, but I just need to get it done. Okay, it’s not about accolades. It’s about finishing. And so when we think about that goal with that, beginning with that end in mind, does it tell us how to get there? And the answer is no, it doesn’t really tell you how to get there at all. All it tells you is that you want to be up on that stage. You want to be wearing the silly hat and the gown and all that kind of stuff. You want people to call you, doctor. But how do you get there? Well, that’s where we’ve looked at it. We’ve worked with students over a number of different years and found out that their sticking points along the way things that are difficult to overcome tough obstacles. And it turns out that the last really tough obstacle is going out in the world. getting data from the world bringing it back and making sense of that data to yourself understanding what that data is telling you. That’s the tough part collecting and analyzing your data. That’s the last tough part. All right, there’s tough parts in between or before you get there. But after that, you see, everything else just sort of falls into place. Your committees already on board with you. By the time you get to the point where you’re collecting and analyzing data, they said yes to you, earlier on, they believe in you. They’re expecting you to graduate by that point. So your committees not really going to be in your way. And you don’t have to go out into the world and hope that you’re going to be able to collect your data and then cognitively come back and understand it anymore. You just passed that hurdle. And then before that, there all sorts of other hurdles. But again, you’ve already passed all those. So if we can figure out how to get you to the point where you’ve collected and analyzed your data, that becomes the last real obstacle to graduating. I like to call it the tipping point in this doctoral journey, there’s about a 50/50 chance, statistically speaking that a doctoral students will ultimately finish and graduate, which is horrifying. But it is

Jeremy Weisz  10:09

what a terrible percentage. It is.

Dr. Russell Strickland  10:11

It is I mean, are you kidding me? You’re a doctoral flip through undergrad, high school, high school, undergrad, master’s degree, you got into a doctoral degree program and still you’re facing like a coin flip as to whether you’re in graduate or not, that’s that’s kind of what I call it. I’m talking to students that doctoral coin flip, or the dissertation coin flip. And it’s, it’s really awful. But the fact of the matter is, when you get to that point where you’ve collected analyze data, you’ve gone past this tipping point where it’s no longer a 50/50 thing at all. It’s basically you’re guaranteed to graduate. So, going back to habit number two, begin with the end in mind, if you start by focusing on how am I going to collect and analyze my data, and that’s the most important thing to you that because instructive is like kind of punching a destination into the GPS. And now we can start setting those directions for how to get to where we’re going. Because getting up on that stage and wearing the silly hat and gown, that’s awesome. It’s great. Everybody should do it and to celebrate the accomplishment. But it’s not instructive. That doesn’t tell you how to get there. Once you know, this is how I’m going to collect my data. This is what I’m going to do with that data once I’ve collected it. Now, everything you have to do to get there, because it makes more sense. You know what destination you’re headed towards. I said, if I was clear about that today,

Jeremy Weisz  11:34

I feel like that one principle can be used across our entire life. Really? I mean, yeah, when we’re buying a car, if we’re doing for health, like if you look at begin with the end in mind, that’s so critical. That’s probably why these are the students. That’s probably why it’s so critical for your students to really focus on what really it’s about what’s the most important thing, right and focusing on what’s the most important thing and then designing a path to get there.

Dr. Russell Strickland  12:02

Now, important thing to note here, the title of this book was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was not the Seven Habits of Highly happy people. Okay? So yes, you’re right, that you could use this principle throughout your life. But another way of looking at this, and I tell my dissertation students that this all the time, it’s about the destination, not the journey. Okay? I don’t want people living their lives that way. You want to enjoy your life every day of your life, you want that to be about the journey. And so you have to be a little bit careful about the extent to which you apply this because, you know, if you, if you’re not careful, you just become a very, very effective viewer of things, rather than someone enjoying your life. So we do need to make sure that there’s some balance to this. But absolutely, when there are certain things that you know, the goal is to get it done, and it’s not to spend extra time spending extra time is actually detracting from your real goal. Then Yeah, head down, you know, nose to the grindstone, get it done. Make sense?

Jeremy Weisz  13:00

Yeah, Dr. Strickland makes me think I’m just smiling because I’m thinking, y’all be happy when I finished my dissertation. So, in less than eight, so, yes, absolutely. It’s a little bit a little bit of grit up until that anyways, so yeah, um, anything else in the habit number two begin with that in mind and I know you kind of go back to number one, but anything else on on that one?

Dr. Russell Strickland  13:26

I mean habit number two. There’s a lot of stuff in that. I mean honestly when you start thinking about Okay, this is the end point, this is what I’m going for. It also tells you that you have to be careful, you have to guard against one of the big problems that most dissertation students have most doctoral students and, you know, Dr. Weisz, I’m sure you have some familiarity with this as well. You got into your doctoral degree program, in a sense because you’re a perfectionist because you like to do You like to do, you don’t really have any other way of doing things, you do your best everything all the time. And you’ve got to be careful with your dissertation that you’re not trying to make this the best dissertation ever, it doesn’t even have to be your best, most likely you’re capable of doing more than the university requires. It has to be what the university requires, it has to be acceptable. You know, another one of the examples that I use here is that students who are people who watch the Olympics and watch track and field in particular, there’s this event in track and field called the high jump. And it’s like the pole vault. But without the pole, you just run up and jump over this bar, and then you land on the little pillar thing on the other side. Well, way back when in the 50s or so, people used to do this by running up and kind of jumping over the bar, they would do like a Superman or something like that. And there was this guy that figured out you know what, I’m not as good an athlete as most of the folks on my team. And if I don’t figure out another way to do it, then I you know, I’m just I’m gonna get cut from the team. Well, not only did he not get cut from the team, he ended up winning the the Olympics in I think was Mexico City back in the 60s. Because he had this new way of doing it. His name was Dick Fosbury. And the technique he used was called the Fosbury flop. Basically, he ran up to this thing to the bar kind of ran up forward, but he turned around backwards and went over the bar backwards. And literally, he’s like scraping his butt over the bar. And as long as the bar doesn’t come down, that’s fine. You can scrape your butt over the bar, you get credit, and he won a gold medal by scraping his butt over the bar. So that’s part of what you have to understand when you’re talking about begin with the end in mind. The end result here is not style points in your dissertation, but getting it done and graduating.

Jeremy Weisz  15:47

Nice. And so I never I never knew that. Sorry. I love that.

habit number one.

Dr. Russell Strickland  15:55

Yeah. So beep one. This one This one is Something that a lot of folks feel like, Hey, I’m I am proactive. That’s habit number one, be proactive. Listen, when you are, if you’ve if you’ve made it into the dissertation phase of your doctoral program, you probably already know this. If you haven’t, guess what, when you get to the dissertation, you no longer in classes, you no longer have homework, you no longer have any of the structure that you were used to, from, well, at least say sixth or seventh grade on up through all of your doctoral degree courses. You don’t have that structure anymore used to be read something the I’ll tell you what to read, they don’t want you to I’m going to tell you what to write. You write it, turn it in, I’ll grade it and I’ll give it back to you. That’s what you’ve been doing from seventh grade all the way through your last tutorial class. When you get to the dissertation, it’s like okay, do your dissertation. What, what do I do on YouTube? Go structure is doing, right. Yeah. It’s just now it’s kind of sink or swim time. So you’ve got to be very, very proactive and making sure that you not only know what your goals are, but you’re setting milestones and moving towards those those goals on a regular basis. It’s, it’s in fact, the number one thing that students come to Dissertation Done for is I need that structure. I need that accountability. I need someone to help me walk through this process

Jeremy Weisz  17:29

and the highest performers in any industry. Yeah, I mean, I was gonna say, Dr. Strickland, the highest performers in any industry, always have a coach. And they have multiple coaches for different things. If you look at Michael Jordan, you know, he not only had the head coach, he had nutritional coach, the strength coach, like the shooting coach, so people even the highest performance. I just want to say that because some people view it as well. I can do it myself and no matter who you are The highest performers realize Everyone needs the accountability and the coaching.

Dr. Russell Strickland  18:07

Listen, I look at it, there’s two ways to think about this. You could be Atlas kind of holding the whole world on your shoulders, right? And say, look how strong I was to accomplish that. Or you could get help and do it the smart way. Right? Yeah. Um, and, and that’s what, what coaching does is it helps you to understand that there are people who have gone down this path before, and they’ve learned things that that you haven’t yet learned. And so you know that there’s a saying that the most expensive education is experience. So yes, you are in school, earning your doctoral degree, you’re getting a formal education in that way. But if you’re trying to finish your dissertation through your own experience, instead of leveraging other people’s experience, it’s possible that you can do that. But I’ll tell you what the folks that have a coach, I think they tend to have their dissertation come from Come up heads a lot more than than the other folks.

Jeremy Weisz  19:03

So um anything else in the be proactive piece?

Dr. Russell Strickland  19:10

Um, I think that’s that’s really the the big thing, you’ve got to make sure that you’re setting goals that if you want to graduate in, okay, so most students, half the students never graduate. Okay, so let’s let’s take them out of the mix right now, most students that graduate or we’re going to probably take somewhere around two to four years to finish, there’s going to be some students that are like 6, 7, 8 years, seven years is the point at which universities normally try to cut you off and tell you you’ve been at this too long. There’s a lot of reasons for that. But that’s the point at which most students start to have trouble with the university if they’re not done. So some students get extensions and can go beyond that. But two to four years is where is probably the sweet spot. If you want to finish at the short end of that or even faster, like we set a goal for our students to finish in about 12 months, then you’ve got to really make sure your mapping things out, what am I going to do this quarter, next quarter, the quarter after that? What am I going to do this month, this week to know that you’re behind, until you’ve already missed whatever goal you had in your head, you have to write it down, that’s proactive, you have to map it out, that’s proactive. And then you have to hold yourself accountable, because no one else at the school will. So either find a buddy, an accountability partner, a coach, something to help you maintain that level of accountability, but you have to start by being proactive enough to know what you’re going to be accountable for. And again, even that’s not something that universities tell students on a weekly, monthly or even annual basis.

Jeremy Weisz  20:42

You touched on you know, so obviously, number two, start with number two, and then you know, being with that in mind and be proactive, and then we mentioned a couple of the others other habits, but you have a specific opinion on number eight.

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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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