Life-Long Learning with Dr. Fergus Connolly

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:40:04] I tell you this all the time, your name is on the author’s sheet. Your name’s on the title cover page. But it’s not your dissertation. It’s your committee’s dissertation. You know, a thing that you’re creating specifically for them. Like like I mean, think about it is like a bespoke suit or something like that custom tailor made suit or a custom built. It’s got to be exactly what they want, and when it is, they’re going to be happy with it and they’ll give you your degree, but until then, they’re going to have all these little complaints. And if you if you want to fight them on what they want, you’re just going to find that process is going to be deeply frustrating and it draws it out for a long period of time. But if you can get behind this notion of my job is to give them what they want, then you’ll you’ll finally make it through that process with a lot less scars.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:40:55] And the sooner that you the sooner you realize that these are the journey is going to be. The other thing I think that’s important is, you know, it’s it was a Lincoln, the Washington quota. But if I had seven hours to chop down a tree and spend five sharpening the ax. Yeah. Take your time. Yes. You know, take your time. And, you know, with your with your your supervisor, or whatever and planning what the stages are to be secure in them and tick them off and know that the actual dissertation you get that on just once you’re once you’ve got that plan, you know, you’re why you’ve got the plan, you stick to it and you’ll get through it rather than rushing into it and then having to, you know, restructure afterwards.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:41:42] Absolutely, absolutely. Let me ask you before we we close today, is there another success story that you think you could share professionally just to? Not to toot your own horn, because I know that that’s something that’s difficult for most of us, but to share with other folks what it’s like to be able to work in this environment with your doctoral degree, you’ll have to share any names with us. But any clients where, you know, they had a particular issue and you were able to to get them a great win, whatever it might be that you just felt like you were particularly happy with as a result of being able to work here with your doctoral degree.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:42:21] Well, so one of the one of the things that I struggled with was an imposter syndrome, particularly working in a different field. My degree had been in my and she had been in and I remember working with a professor who I had brought in a physiologist and we were working on a particular project. And I remember saying to him, you know, maybe I should go back and do another study in in this in physiology. And he said to me, not at all. He said, you have proven that you can research and you’ve proven that you can pay attention to detail. You’ve proven that you can do that. The skill set, that those are the skills that we want to see. And so that that happened a few years after my Ph.D. and I spent some time thinking about it. And he’s right. I get those skills when people see that you have done that dissertation. Yes. It will open up doors. Yes. You’ve proven that you can go through that process, that you can be accurate, that you can be diligent, that you can be focused, that you can be disciplined. And those are the things that troubles me. So, you know, when you have a dissertation done, you’ve gone through that process. You’ve proven that you can do certain things. So it does open doors. It does even themselves, regardless of what the topic might be, which is obviously valuable. The fact that you’ve gone through the process, you know, has had certainly many times. Absolutely.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:43:48] Yeah. Most of the folks that you’re going to work with who do not have their doctoral degree, they don’t even really consider the notion of what your doctoral degree specialty is. If your first name is doctor, they’re deferring to you. They’re asking you questions. They’re going to consider you an expert on anything that you choose to open your mouth about. So you just have to be respectful of of that power that you wield and make sure that you’re you’re giving them advice in areas that you feel confident to give that advice. But for some people. Yeah, yeah.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:44:20] And, you know, and I think one of the values of doing the Ph.D. is that you learn how to think critically and not. And so if you know, if you’ve gone through the process, you’ve been humbled. There’s no doubt. So you generally come through with a sense of humility and an ability to critically think and sue. You’re a lot more careful about, again, wielding that power, so to speak. And you tend to give you tend to give better advice because it’s not absolutist. And you have the other thing. Of course, as you know, today, there’s more research out there than ever before, but you’re able to decipher that and to give more valuable insight as well to people across the board, regardless of the area.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:45:05] The fact what you mentioned about there being so much more research out there. One of the things that you learn in a doctoral degree program is how to learn. Some people pick that up a little earlier. But but certainly by the time you get through a doctoral degree program, you’ve learned how to learn. Now, what are you going to learn about next? Because I hope everyone listening to this, everyone that has ears, I hope is trying to learn something new every day. And certainly our folks who are in their doctoral degrees, I would put front and center in that group. And so it’s just a question as to what you’re learning about now. And you can specialize in things that had nothing to do with your formal education fairly quickly if you want to, because that notion of knowing how to learn is, I think, another very critical skill to the list that you’ve been developing.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:45:55] No, no, I actually that’s a really important, really important point. I don’t to go on about it, but to me, that’s the most important skill in in education is not the topic, but it’s learning how to learn about something new and learning how to explore it, getting interested in it and being able to teach yourself. And that’s something that isn’t not going to go down this rabbit hole of rote learning that happens at all levels of education. That seems to be just the standard, but that’s not going to work at the dissertation level. That is the most important skill set for anybody. And even with. All of the people that I work with know that that’s the skill that helps them survive because they’re always going into new environments and new situation, they have to keep learning. So if they have that ability to teach themselves, they’re going to continue. It’s not about what you can remember or recall. It’s can you continue to learn and to teach yourself. And so when you’re faced with something new in a new area, you have the confidence to know, I don’t know what I can learn, how to learn about the.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:47:05] Absolutely, and that dose of confidence, having done something before, is where confidence comes from. But then confidence teaches you that you can do new things that you haven’t done before. When you have learned how to do something that you haven’t weren’t able to do in the past, then you feel like you can learn how to do something new that you that that you might need to in the future. So critical, positive feedback loop for for progress and development. I noticed that you had recently given a TEDx talk, would you like to share with us a little bit about that?


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:47:41] Yes, I did, Ted. But two years ago, no. But, yeah, like I mean, that was about again, that was that was about failure and about screwing up. And that, again, that was another opportunity to learn having made a mistake and also the importance of having mentors and having people around you that you can rely on, because it was something that I neglected not having people around. And I think, again, just like doing a dissertation, you need to have people who are on those fences that can help reference you and and help you get through those difficult moments. And I had good people doing my dissertation at different stages. But sometimes you let that slip and you need to have good people around you to be able to help you navigate those trying times, those difficult times.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:48:30] Yeah, well, I think it’s a real testament. What to you when you’re able to share with people, as you have today, about mistakes that you’ve been making, that you’ve made because we all make them. You learn from them and you learn how to to leverage those things to do better in the future, but to have the confidence to be able to to to lay those things bare in front of people after the fact that shows a real strength of character that I think is really admirable as well. And something we should all work towards.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:49:05] Yeah, well, I think that I think that going through going through the because of the duration and it’s a sustained stressor. Right. If you can. It’s not if you can, you can get through it. But the beauty of it is will be difficult dark moments. But you’re going to get through it and you’re just you’re not like you said earlier, the only thing you can do, the worst thing you can do is stop quit. Right. Like, that’s the only thing. So you have to stick. And I have no problem admitting there were times during my three, three years, there were plenty of times I thought, you know, briefly, briefly, I quit. I’m going to quit. I’m not going to make it through this or I’m going to opt out. And I would wake up the next morning and just get back into the. Can you just just. Yeah, just like I mean, I always say to people, you’re allowed to think about it just for a brief second and then just get on with it and put that. But that’s the beauty, because you everybody’s going to have difficult moments in life, but you have to force yourself just to stick out and get through it. The worst thing you can do is either ignore it or blame someone else. That’s my philosophy. If you screw up, if you make a mistake, accept it, learn from it, move on. Just don’t make it twice. Then it’s a real mistake.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:50:23] And that notion that you mentioned about contemplating quitting or contemplating giving up, I do think everybody reaches those moments. I tell folks that you’re going to be up late one night. You’re looking in the mirror and ask that person in the mirror, why are you doing this? And that’s where the reason why I think comes in again. You have to have a strong reason why that’s going to get you back in the game, get you back in the fray. Sometimes it’s going to hurt. Sometimes you’re going to be sore, but you play through that and then you get to the other side. And the other point you mentioned about you can finish perseverance is important, but you also do need to make sure you have the right mentors around, because the one thing that’s going to keep you from finishing is if you have your feet moving and they’re pointing in the wrong direction. So if you can get someone to make sure that you keep facing the right direction, so as long as your feet are moving, yes. Then perseverance will take you through. I’ve seen so many people who have have gone through so many things personally and academically and earned their doctoral degree. So I wholeheartedly agree with you. You can’t finish, but I just want you trying. It’s also making sure that’s not getting the right direction.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:51:32] You have a very close friend on ABC Radio says, listen, you might fall to your knees, but never roll onto your back. You’re allowed you’re allowed to go to a knee, but never, never, never quit. And the last point really is to anyone who’s thinking of doing it, it is absolutely worth it. Yes. I have no doubt in my mind it’s absolutely worth it. So if you’re anywhere on the fence thinking about should I? And is it worth it? Take it from me. You will never regret doing it. Yeah, you’ll have some challenges through it. But when you get it done and move on, you will never regret having done it.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:52:10] And there’s so many opportunities, I mean, you mentioned what you’re doing now is not what you necessarily thought you were going to be doing as a as a student, I hear it and see it over and over and over again. Don’t let your own imagination limit you when you’re thinking about your future opportunities, because you’ll hear more knocks at the door than you ever imagined possible once you got through this process and finished.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:52:33] Yeah, and one of the thing I think that I think it’s really helpful today, particularly today, when so many people are influenced by social media or whatever or trying to follow others. This is what you should be doing when you do when you do a dissertation, it’s you yourself on one thing that you’ve chosen. And so you’re something out individually as an individual and being unique. And that strength and that confidence will stand you throughout life because you’re not afraid to be who you are and who you want to be and to be different, not for the sake of it, but you’re not afraid to be different. And there’s you know, you should never be because your mother told you you’re special, you’re all unique, you know. So but doing that dissertation gives you that strength of strength of character. And you and you what? You will do it and you will have people around you. You’re going to do this and you’re going to get it done. So no matter what comes up in life again, you know, OK, well, if I manage to get through this or get through that, I can get through this.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:53:44] I had that experience. I was in graduate school with our candidacy exam, which is very, very difficult, very grueling process. You take a long time to prepare for it. And everybody just I mean, the faculty beats up on everybody just so that they know that you’re not perfect so far from it. And it’s a very, very daunting experience. And when I got through that, I honestly think that’s the last time I worried about anything in my life. There have been things that I’ve been concerned about there, things that I that take my time and attention that I work on. But that experience really taught me that there’s there’s no reason to worry about things. There are things I can do things about, things I can’t, I figure out which one this is and act accordingly. But but to worry, I can’t get through it or I can’t handle it. Once I went through that experience, I just haven’t. It was like an epiphany moment. I’ve never worried about anything since.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:54:36] No, you know, it does go back to having people that you can trust, that you can check with and ask and make sure that you’re on the right path and the right journey, because, again, there will be there will rabbit will be rabbit holes. It would be periods of time where you’re and, you know, those days would go past when you don’t feel as though you’re getting up on the days as we go past when you’re not right and you need to you need to have people around you to be able to check on them. I call them sheepdogs, people who you can check on, who actually care about, care about you. But you know the space and you can say, no, this is it’s OK. Take another day if you need it. And or and sometimes sometimes a person has to come home and tell you, doesn’t take the weekend off, leave it alone and come back to Monday when they start again.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:55:24] Yeah. Yes, yeah. And to your point, I mean, when I say I haven’t worried about anything, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been challenged. I haven’t suffered failures and reversals. Those have all happened. But I knew that I had to do what it took to overcome that, to keep going to that sense of worry was was lifted by accomplishing something that that I thought was so difficult, near impossible when I was coming into it. But by actually getting through that process, then I figured I can get through anything else I need to as well. So I thought that was very, very valuable outcome. So, well, listen, Fergus, let’s say that people want to hear more from you, maybe they want to work with you, they want to get some performance, coaching, whatever the case might be. What is the best way for someone to reach out to you maybe to continue this conversation with you?


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:56:13] Yeah, just just my my website’s probably the easiest, And yes, that’s where you have a TEDx talk and actually books that I’ve written, which again, I would never have even thought of writing a book for having written a dissertation, which is another thing you mentioned earlier. I think that’s another thing that opens again. It opens up doors for people who who want to write. And in fact, it was only yesterday I was reading reading a book that was based on a study by somebody that’s actually a naval officer. But again, you know, there’s so many opportunities when you get you get your dissertation done if you choose to go that route.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:56:57] Well, the thing about writing, after you finished writing your dissertation, you have to learn how to write again. There’s no one. Even your committee doesn’t want to read your dissertation. They’re paid to do that. They have to. But it’s not like you got a page turner or anything. So.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:57:11] No, no.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:57:13] So when you’re waiting for people to get to choose whether to read your book or not, it’s a it’s a whole different voice that you’ve got to use. And that’s that’s one of the things we found when we’re working with folks through our Expand Your Authority program. One of the things we’ve got to do is make sure you let them know, OK, it’s OK to button the collar, to loosen up a little bit and tell stories and stuff like that. In fact, you have to start doing that now.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:57:32] So you do where I find the body was in the structuring and planning phase. And so then the writing became much easier when it came to that. That was the only new thing I have to God to you. So. Right, forgive me, but again, I would never written a book about doing a dissertation for.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:57:52] A lot of things that I know folks would never have thought to do. But you feel you’re empowered once you’ve gone through this, you feel like there are there some of the other challenges you can take on? So the book. Yeah, we will. We’ll link to your website in our in our show notes We’ll link to that. And our show notes. Any other points of contact that you would like to share with us or that’s going to be the best one.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:58:15] That’s the best one to start.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:58:18] Well, we’ll we’ll set that up there and hopefully some folks will reach out to you and maybe continue this conversation, check out the talk, the books and all of that.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:58:27] Dr. Strickland, thank you very much, sir.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:58:29] Thank you for joining us, Fergus. I do want to remind everyone that this episode has been brought to you by Dissertation Done. So if you’re an adult doctoral student, reach out to us at, and we’ll schedule a conversation and see if we might help you to Fast-Track Your Dissertation. And if you’re someone who is either working in that expert space as a coach, consultant, counselor, or aspires to do so, reach out to us at to find out a little bit more about how we could help you become a published author and have people coming to you as the expert because you will have literally written the book on your area of expertize. Dr. Connolly, again, thank you so much for being with us today.


Dr. Fergus Connolly [00:59:09] Thank you for having me.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:59:10] I had a blast and for everybody else, go have a great day and go out and live your unconventional life.


Outro [00:59:21] This has been an unconventional life. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, subscribe now to keep getting inspirational stories of unconventional lives as soon as they’re released. Until then, go out and live your best unconventional life.

Previous 1 2 3

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...

Let's Talk About Your Dissertation
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.