More Content, More Content, More Content with Dr. Todd Dewett

Todd Dewett, Ph.D. is a best-selling leadership and success author and educator.  He’s been a consultant, an award-winning professor, a three-time TEDx speaker, an Inc. Magazine Top 100 Leadership Speaker, and the creator of an educational library of courses enjoyed by millions of professionals around the world.  His latest book is Live Hard, a collection of twenty inspiring stories packed with advice about living and achieving more fully.  His clients are a who’s who of global organizations including Microsoft, Google, ExxonMobil, and State Farm.  His advice has been cited by the New York Times, Forbes, CNN, and hundreds of additional outlets. 


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

  • From corporate America to the Ivory Tower
  • What to do when you were supposed to collect your dissertation data from Enron
  • Becoming an unconventional professor
  • Hearing tough advice from a mentor
  • Experts build courses
  • More content, more content, more content
  • Follow the science

In this episode…

Do you want to be a professional expert? Well, expert expert, Dr. Todd Dewett, can tell you how to get there.

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Todd Dewett shares his story with Dr. Russell Strickland. They discuss the importance of utilizing each experience to target, refine, and confirm your big why. Dr. Dewett discovered his passion one piece at a time with stints in big-box consulting at Accenture and Ernst & Young, high-level research at Texas A&M, and college “professoring” with Wright State University. These experiences led Dr. Dewett to finding his calling as a speaker, author, and storyteller extraordinaire.

According to Dr. Dewett, the most important thing you should learn from your education is how little you actually know. Carrying that attitude and understanding into your career as an expert will keep you motivated, ever improving, and keep you out of untold amounts of trouble!

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 [00:00:03] Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percent out there who earned their doctoral degrees and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique, and unconventional ways. Here’s your host, astrophysicist turned teacher, author, dissertation coach, and more, Dr. Russell Strickland.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:00:29] Hello and welcome to an Unconventional Life podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done. I have with me today, Dr. Todd Dewett. He’s a best selling leadership and success author and educator. He’s been a consultant and an award winning professor, a three time TEDx speaker and an Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 leadership speaker. He’s also the creator of an educational library of courses enjoyed by millions of professors of professionals around the world. And his latest book is Live Hard. It’s a collection of 20 inspiring stories packed with advice about living in achieving more fully. Thank you so much for joining us here today, Dr. Dewett.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:01:07] My pleasure. Glad to be here.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:01:09] Awesome. I’ll let folks know that today’s episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done where we help adult doctoral students through the dissertation process. So if you see the dissertation coming, reach out to us proactively and get some guidance and support. Reach out to us a That’s And we’ll see if you might be a good fit for our Fast-Track Your Dissertation coaching program. Now, if you’re like most of our students and the dissertation is already kicking about a little bit, don’t hesitate to reach out to us in that case as well. And if you’ve perhaps moved on to greener pastures and you’re working in the expert space as a coach, consultant, speaker, or something like that, the best way to establish your credibility is not only having the first name doctor, but also literally writing the book on your area of expertise. And we can help you get from a blank page to becoming a published author in less time than you imagined possible. Check us out at for more on that. So that’s the commercial again, Dr. Dewett. Welcome.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:02:10] Hey, my pleasure, man.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:02:12] All right. So we were talking just a little bit before we started rolling camera and you were telling me that you had a little an interesting background going into the doctoral degree. Tell us a little bit about what what you were up to before you decided to pursue your doctoral degree and how that led you to this this doctoral journey?


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:02:31] Sure. Well, I started undergrad. I fell in love with studying business. I went to University of Memphis and I knew I loved school and I knew I wasn’t ready for a cube job just yet. And so I went ahead and indulged, which is not considered best practice, and went straight to an MBA at the University of Tennessee. I was academically sound capable, so I felt comfortable doing it and had a blast in Knoxville for two years working on an MBA, doing an internship and what have you, that I had to get a real job like we all do. And I decided to go with big box consulting, Andersen Consulting, or what is now known as Accenture. And, you know, after a short period, I ended up at Ernst and Young as well, hopping around in that business, pretty, pretty normal, for better or for worse. And something very interesting happened while I was there. It was it was a fun place to be. It was a stressful place to be because there’s so many highly educated overachievers, young up and comers that are cramming into the bottom of those pyramids that are the big box consultancies. And so I was grateful for the opportunity, the brand exposure to smart people, all these things. But the truth is, I didn’t fit in very well. And so I asked myself, what is interesting here? What can I learn? What can I use in a couple of things stuck out, really, obviously to me, once I started thinking like that, one of them was that I find business in general fascinating, specifically relationships in business as the oil that greases the wheel, if you will, relationships just really as a young person, as a 20 something started to become very apparent to me that they’re everything. I was intrigued by that because most people weren’t great at it. They would prove their IQ through the tasks they could execute at work and they would give, let’s just say, less energy, less compassion towards the relationship components of work. That seemed obvious to me. And since I knew I didn’t fit in very well, I’m more of a more of a loud, change-oriented change-advocate type of person. So I was kind of I felt confined inside the traditional hierarchy. And so I took these insights and I said, what can I do with them? And then I had been thinking a little bit. And then I got serious thinking. Do you think there’s a place I can go and study business, specifically relationship related issues in business where I will fit in? I bet you a lot better. Instead of the tie-guy, stiff-shirts, corporate America. It’s the ivory tower where frankly, they don’t care how you look as long as you can do the things that matter, such as publishing, research and quality teaching and so on. And that’s what led me to go pursue a PhD. And I landed at a place that sometimes I wonder why they let me in, because it’s a really well-to-do place in the world of management, which is Texas A&M.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:05:09] Yep. Awesome. So what so. So that explains your journey to Texas A&M once you got there. Coursework, I’m assuming, was relatively straightforward, or did you find that to be a change of pace from what you’d seen before?


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:05:23] Big change of pace. And they told us that. But it’s one of those things that I don’t think you understand until you get. There’s many, as you know, many, many, many, many types of programs, the ones that are oriented towards creating traditional social scientists or traditional scientists on the on the hard side are fairly regimented, at least in the U.S. There’s different models in Europe and elsewhere, but they’re fairly regimented. There’s the coursework. They’re going to train you on statistics and research methods and you’re going to pick a main area. For me, that was organizational behavior. You’re going to minor in something, including research methods. And I minored in psych as well. And so you’re going to have a couple of years of brutal required becoming a scientist type of of of coursework. And then you’re going to have a couple of years of trying to specialize a little bit and complete. One of your favorite things, the dissertation. I took A&M because I was falling in love as a 20 something specifically with issues of creativity and how relationships affect that at work. A&M had not just one but two professors at the time who were publishing actively at high levels in that area. And somehow I finagled a spot in the program and it seemed to fit really well.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:06:29] Yeah, now I remember a lot of our students say that when they get into their doctoral degree program, the class work is something very familiar to them. It’s it’s the same thing they’ve seen before. But I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago. When you’re talking about that brutal introduction and I remember the very, very first assignment that I got, I struggle with struggle. I turned it in and it came back and I got like a 60 percent on it. And I was like, devastated, like way I’m done. And and so I’m looking at this and my heart’s racing and I just know it’s all over. And the professor tells the class how well he thinks everybody did. And I’m like, oh, my God, everybody else knows this, but I’m out of here. And then he said the average was a 50. I was like, wait, I did better than that, and and that was the first time I really got a a whiff of this notion of, yeah, there’s a lot out there learning. You don’t know the half of it, quite literally.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:07:28] You know, I think what you just said is a beautiful statement because I’ve been asked by people after spending 10 years in college for three degrees, I’ve been asked, hey, man. So, jeez, what did you learn? The best short answer to that question for me? I mean, this very positively is what I learned. How little I know. Yeah. And that’s a humbling, motivating, useful thing that keeps you out of trouble and make make make sure you don’t turn into a know it all in conversation.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:07:50] Absolutely. Yeah. We have a tough row to hoe that, you know, folks with a higher level of education because we know a lot more than a lot of people do. But at the same time, we recognize how much we don’t know. One of my professors that was T.A.-ing said that it’s the job of an undergraduate professor to teach kids as much as you can so that they graduate, understanding that they know everything. And it’s the job of a graduate professor to teach kids as much as you can. So they graduate realizing they know nothing. And it sounds a little backwards. But one of the things we have trouble with as scientists in particular these days is when we say like, well, we don’t know, people look at that and say, ha, you don’t know as if it’s it’s a damnable thing when in fact it is a it’s a very strong position of here are the things that I think and this is the best way, our best understanding currently. But I really don’t know how this works yet. And that’s something we’ve got to figure out how to communicate with the public because that nuance is missing in public discourse.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:08:51] I couldn’t possibly agree more and it probably would require an extra hour that we don’t have in a podcast really, really focused just on that topic. But our K through 12 system has created a population, give or take that happily question science as almost inferior sometimes, which is very sad and inappropriate, because although science is terribly imperfect, it is by far the best knowledge creation thing humans have come together to create so far. That’s just unquestioned. So I’m very much in the public discourse on any topic. I’m like, where are the scientists that where’s the majority of the scientific community? I’m happy to follow that lead.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:09:23] Exactly right. Yeah, I’m sure if you could do some sort of graph where you look at the rise of science and the rise of quality of living, they go hand in hand. So people who think that science has problems, it certainly does. But it’s the right approach to to try and figure things out and to try to make things better and all of those things that will tell me. Let’s switch gears a little bit. After the coursework, you get into the dissertation process and a lot of the folks in this audience are either, you know, approaching that or mired in that currently. What was that process like for you? How did how did that what was the day to day life like for you?


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:10:02] Oh, well, at a top tier program, which is kind of all I know and was was brought up in, I’ll tell you, it’s a lonely thing. You do have to put together a dissertation committee for sure. And they are available to you in in little bits when you need coaching help and advice. And you’re working with a few students and a few professors on ongoing research projects, maybe unrelated to your dissertation, but for the dissertation which dominates your time half or more anyway, for a couple of years, there’s a great deal of self motivation. You have to go find and consume a massive pile of research that is related or tangentially related to what you’re studying. And then you have to spend gobs of time sometimes with the coaching of others to try and find ways that you are going to test certain hypotheses, propositions that you want to test. There’s different ways you can do that. I had to set up lab experiments and that’s not ideal. But that’s good in my world. Or I should say my old world, my last world being a functioning, producing professor. That’s a that’s a wonderful, normal thing because you can control so much in a lab. But then there’s this this wonderful higher level thing. Can you get real data from real people who are out there working? And it’s controlled less because life is messy, but it’s real, not at all contrived. And that that kind of there was a premium on that true story. What was it like? I’m pretty good at self motivation. I’m just researching a million things, finally getting things approved by my committee that I wanted to go test and then figuring out how to go find data to test these things. True story. I had a at the time, a great contact at a little company called Enron. Enron was a massively popular financial oriented, I’ll just say, energy firm in Houston, Texas. And I was in College Station where A&M is, and this contact was at the VP level. They were very excited about the research I was trying to do and wanted to give me access to thousands of thousands of employees for all kinds of survey-related work. I was very excited and I was telling my my cheer about it. And everyone’s like, oh, my gosh, that’s that’s great data, brand name, great data. And then I got a call one day saying, I’m sorry, we’re not going to do this. It’s just not going to work for us. And I didn’t I wasn’t given a great explanation. And it just, it was crushing frankly, and then a couple of days later, the scandal hit and I found out that obviously that was the reason that they had to turn me in. Many other people that they were working with away because they were they were crashing. So I ended up getting lucky at a massive research and development firm who also was interested to find my data. But that happened. And it was it’s a scam. You’ve got to be confident and you’ve got to be self-motivated to do a dissertation, no doubt about it.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:12:35] Absolutely. And gosh, too too bad that you weren’t able to get in there and see what you could find out before that that all went down. That would have been very, very interesting in hindsight that that’s one of those things where, you know, people talk about diligence and hard work. There’s also a lot of luck to success.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:12:52] And no doubt about it,.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:12:53] If you had gotten in there a few days earlier, who knows how much different your career path would have been? Not to say that it’s better or worse, but just different because that would have probably been a very, very pivotal moment. But yeah, like I said, lucky on the back end to find that place to get your data. That’s one of the things that we really work with our students hard on is make sure you know where that’s coming from right from the beginning. One of the nice things about the dissertation is you’re not only responsible for the answer, which people are very familiar with, they’ve been responsible for that answer for their entire academic career. You also get the right question. For gosh sakes, write a question you can answer. Make sure that you know where that data is coming from and how to get it. That was my big stumbling block on my dissertation as well, is I, I figured I know how to do this now. I just have to get somebody into the surveys that won’t be hard. Right. But not knowing how to do it. It was it was the stumbling block for me. And I got a little lucky that someone a university I was working with, the dean said we can make our students available. So thank you. And now I know where my data is coming from.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:13:56] It’s not easy to find. It’s a very important statement made. It’s not trivial. It’s very, very hard sometimes to find access to data that’s relevant to what you’re doing and and yet you can’t finish your degree unless you go find it


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:14:09] Beyond the data acquisition. Were there any other particular issues that you faced during the dissertation process that made you question whether you were going to be able to finish or whether you wanted to finish or any of those sorts of things?


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:14:22] I didn’t face the hey, am I in the right business? Hey, should I stop and go away? Should I even if I didn’t face that, I did face what flavor of this what place in the industry do I want? Because what I learned, as you well know, there’s a million types of programs who have different areas of focus. Some are pure research. It’s all they care about science. Others are a mix of things. They don’t mind that people want to graduate and be subject matter experts and consultants and what have you in research matters. But it’s it’s less the focus. There’s a mix of schools. Where I went was a hardcore, snobby research place. And and I learned how to do that. I’m grateful to say. And I did not fall. I it was a blessing. I learned I didn’t want to be a full time world class research jock, always publishing and everything else matters less. Knowing that with clarity, even though it was it was a painful process because those professors, when they learn that you love teaching and other things, are not really as valued by them as research was. So I had great clarity, even though it was difficult that I wanted to go to a school as a professor that valued professors doing a variety of things and not having only one thing as the most important with everything else being secondary.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:15:39] And it’s always good to get clarity with your direction. We talk to our students all the time about what is your why, what’s your motivation, where where do you intend to take this, because that should inform what you’re doing on a daily basis, short term, long term, everything. You know, what you want to do and where and where you want to go. And the sooner you can figure that out. Yeah. Like you said of lesson. So after you figure that out, you wrapped up your dissertation, graduated. What happens next? What was the. Were you immediately rolling into the next thing or how did how did that explosion.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:16:16] I went out in the job market, the airport right before I graduated and got a lot of interest because the brand where I was coming from and had some offers made to meet in the turning them all down because I was shooting higher and I was kind of coached to do that at those schools. They really want their folks to place as as brand name as possible. I’ll just say and I was listening to that. And so I ended up saying, I’m not going to accept these job offers, I’m going to stay. They offered me a post-doctoral research fellowship. So for another year after I graduated, I hung out and had an office and continued working on my research and teaching a couple of courses. And then during that year, I went back to the next job market and took the thing that made the most sense to me. And this is where I officially upset everyone at Texas A&M because. Because without telling them the way I’ve just told you, I knew with great clarity that type of school that I wanted to go to at that point. And so I accepted a role at a school in Dayton, Ohio, called Wright State University, which is really an interesting, fun school. And they try to be wonderful. I was there for 10 years and they hired me as an assistant professor in the management department and they were very clear, oh, I’m so happy you would come here. What you want to teach you like to teach grad school. Great. You want to go out in the community, some speaking, consulting. Great. There’s different ways you can add value here and we’re going to show you that we value all of those. And so I was thrilled to find that kind of role, even though it wasn’t the role that the folks who trained me probably were dreaming I would take.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:17:44] Yeah, well, you got to be true to yourself. You we talk about authenticity all the time, and you’ve got one chance to get through this life. You want to spend as much of it as you can doing the sorts of things you want to do. So I can certainly understand that, although I also coming from the University of Chicago, understand what you said about them, expecting people to to follow certain path, a lot of their students at least. So tell me a little bit about what what you’ve been doing since you mentioned that you were a professor for a long time. I’m sure that that you probably had a few interesting stories there. And then I know you’ve moved on since then to do some other things.


Dr. Todd Dewett [00:18:24] Well, a few years, two or three years into teaching and researching as a professor at state, as you know, you make a plan in life and then life laughs at you throw some curveballs. So I was wrapping up. I went to tenure in three years, got tenure and came full in six. But when I got tenure around that time, my phone just started ringing because I had been teaching mostly MBA students. And then they would call, Hey, man, I’ve got this this big management meeting coming up. I remember you were a loud, funny guy. Your stories. Great. Would you just, you know, come out and give a talk maybe at our at our retreat? Things like that. You know, I was a rookie in the external world at that time, and I just said, yes, happily for free, like a rookie, and went and did some gigs. And I learned both in the classroom and at those events, the people were starting to call for that. I had a gift for speaking. And I wanted I was intrigued by that. And I wanted to hone that and I wanted to use that. And I got more and more into teaching as a result. And that was a fertile ground playground for me to start working more and more on becoming a great storyteller. So I moved away from quitting research too often in technicalities, too often in discussing material, and started including in working on more and more stories which which selfishly fit my slow evolution into a speaker. By year five or six. I was doing fifty sixty gigs a year around the Midwest, a few nationally and occasionally was having to miss a course. And no one said much to me, like my my immediate boss to be a department chair, and then of course the dean of the college. And they didn’t say anything because I was bringing a lot of attention to the college. I was being quoted in major press things of that nature, and they were quite grateful for it. So I got away with it. And then around year eight or nine, it became I think I peaked at around ninety events one year and I had to cancel February. Well, you can’t cancel February, but I did and I got a little hot water for it and and I ended up making a decision. This is true. I’ll share this with anyone that’s listening because having a mentor is very important. And I think I was slower in life than I should have been to get off my high horse and listen to others who know more than me, which I understand very well now. But I think I was ten years slow in listening to that. I had a friend. His name is Dave. He was a very successful fellow and he knew I was getting into speaking as a side hustle, if you will. And and he finally had an opportunity. I invite him to come watch me give a talk to a bunch of doctors at some hospital. And I was talking leadership and having a good time. I mean, it went well. I mean, fifty doctors and my friend Dave and we went to lunch afterwards and he just said, you know what, OK, I get it. I’ve seen what you do and how you turn on this different personality and how it works. Good for you. That was fun. But you know what? And I said what? And he said something that really almost shocked me because I was married, two young elementary school children. Recently, tenured professor and he said, I bet you’re never going to grow into the expert space you want to grow in unless unless you drop the professor thing and actually focus on building that business that I kind of got a small glimpse of today. And I said, oh, excuse me, are you because he’s a very wealthy fellow. He didn’t have to work anymore. I said, are you telling me that that I should give up this tenured job for life with my salary, prestige, all that and go it alone as an entrepreneur and no safety net? He said, I’m not telling you to do that. I’m just just making an observation that you’re probably not going to become what you want to be over there as long as you’re mostly focused right here. And that was rough to hear. And it took me months to conclude that he was probably correct. And then true story again, my wife came up to me. This was five months maybe after I talked to him and she said she said, well, I want you to consider some excuse me, I misspoke. My ex-wife, who was a dear friend of mine, we talk daily as we navigated co-parenting. And she said, I want you to come over. I said, good, can I cook? Because I know the boys loved it when I cook. And so I came over and I cooked dinner and we put the boys to bed and we went to the kitchen and I could tell she wanted to talk and she started crying. It’s been years since I had ever made her upset at me at that point. And I said I said, what’s going on? What’s wrong? And she said, Well, I just returned from Houston where I was with my brother and I met someone. Long story short, she thought she had met someone who was locked in Dayton, Ohio, and her fortunes were going to be somewhere else. And better job markets, better culture for the kids talk. Would you consider giving up that position for life and moving all of us with all of us to Houston, Texas? Yeah, and I shocked her and said yes, because I’ve been thinking about it, thanks to my friend Dave. And I gave up I put in my letter of resignation, retired at forty two and I she moved her and the boys moved a few months before I did. And then I moved to Houston, Texas, and started going without a safety net as an expert, selling advice and coaching and books and speeches and courses and what have you. And that’s been eight years now.

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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.