What’s Your Next Challenge with Dr. Diane Hamilton

Dr. Diane Hamilton is a nationally syndicated radio host, award-winning speaker, author, and educator. She is a thought leader in the fields of leadership, sales, marketing, management, engagement, personality, curiosity, and motivation. To help improve relationships in the workplace — and performance as a result — Dr. Hamilton draws on her decades of work experience in software, computers, corporate training, pharmaceuticals, real estate, mortgage lending, social media, education, and publishing.

A sought-after expert in emotional intelligence, Dr. Hamilton’s research has been published widely in peer-reviewed journals. She is the creator of the Curiosity Code Index® and Perception Power Index, as well as the author of five books sold worldwide: Cracking the Curiosity Code, The Power of Perception, The Online Student’s User Manual, How to Reinvent Your Career, and It’s Not You, It’s Your Personality. Her book regarding personalities was required reading at an Arizona-based university, where she was also nominated for an honorary doctorate in addition to her traditionally-obtained Ph.D. in Business Management.



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


  • The virtue of curiosity
  • Working around different personalities through your doctoral journey
  • Making small, manageable steps to get your dissertation done
  • A chain of opportunities comes after earning your PhD
  • The importance of building your network
  • Finding your “pinch me” moment
  • Always being on the lookout for the next challenge
  • Overcoming your fear of the bigger picture



In this episode…

Curiosity may have killed the cat but never the doctoral student. How many opportunities have you missed because you were afraid to ask questions?

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Diane Hamilton shares with Dr. Russell Strickland how curiosity has motivated her to pursuit of her PhD. The author of multiple books such as Cracking the Curiosity Code and The Power of Perception discusses her postdoctoral journey, the many doors of opportunities that opened along the way, and her experience in writing for people outside academia.

Not all those who wonder are lost. In fact, they’re right about staying curious. Dr. Diane Hamilton will encourage you to lean into your questions to get you to where you’re supposed to be.

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  [00:03]

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percenters 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  [00:28]

Hello, and welcome to An Unconventional Life. I’m your host, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done, and I have with me today Dr. Diane Hamilton, who is the founder and CEO of Tenera, which is a consulting and media-based business. She’s a nationally syndicated radio host, a keynote speaker, and the former MBA program chair at the Forbes School of Business. She’s authored multiple books, many of which are required at universities around the world, including Cracking the Curiosity Code: The Key to Unlocking Human Potential, and The Power of Perception: Eliminating Boundaries to Create Successful Global Leaders. I want to talk about some of those things because that sounds really interesting. She’s also been as a speaker, shared the stage with folks like Martha Stewart and Daymond John that I know of and have been featured on Forbes Inc, Investor’s Business Daily, all the places all the things that seems like Hamilton. Thank you for being here with us today and joining us.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [01:27]

Well, thank you, Russell, I’m excited to be here. This is gonna be fun.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [01:30]

I look forward to it. Before we jump in, I want to let everybody know that today’s episode is being brought to you by Dissertation Done. So if you’re an adult doctoral student, and you might need a little help with your dissertation, little guidance or support, reach out to us at DissertationDone.com/done. And we’ll have a conversation, see if that’s a good fit. If perhaps you have finished your dissertation, and you want to be an expert author like Dr. Hamilton here. Again, that’s something we help folks with, you can reach out to us at DissertationDone.com/book, and we’ll have a conversation and see if that makes sense. But again, Dr. Hamilton, thank you so much for being here with us today.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [02:06]

Oh, I’m excited to be here. And I’ve worked with so many doctoral students going through their journey. So I’m really looking forward to what we’re going to talk about.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [02:15]

Yeah, it’s awesome. Well, so tell us a little bit about your journey. I always find it fascinating to ask people to reach back into the Wayback Machine. And you do this in the first place. Because we find our journeys often deviate from our intent at the beginning of the journey. What was it that motivated you to get that doctoral degree initially?


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [02:36]

You know, I wish my journey had been as exciting as it has been after I got it, but I’ll tell you what it was that led to it. I originally got my bachelor’s, Arizona State here in town. I’m in Arizona, obviously. But I liked going to school. I love learning, I loved it, but going through the parking and the driving and the the walk into class, and 120 degree heat. And some of that wasn’t my favorite part. And I never really had it in my mind that I was going to go do more than get a Bachelor’s. And I was working


Dr. Russell Strickland  [03:12]

All year long, though, because I went to Chicago, and we had near 100 degrees in the summer. And then like, next year is below zero in the winter.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [03:22]

So it’s bad either. Yeah. It’s bad either way. But you know, I learned a lot and I liked it. And I was I had a great experience. I did most of my education at night while I worked full time, so I didn’t get to have the best, you know, daytime experience like everybody else. But so I never thought about going back. But I was working. I worked for AstraZeneca for 20 years, and they offered free education and you could get your masters and I thought, well, if you’re gonna pay for it, why not? Right, you know, and, and so, back then, the University of Phoenix was really a very tough program. And it was really very good. And they were part of they were what they paid for the school. I mean, my company paid for that. I didn’t pick where I went or just that’s what was offered and, and I went through it. And I got my master’s, I loved it. And I thought wow, this this distance education wasn’t even online yet. It was called distance education because you did it through the mail at that point. And I didn’t even know you can do that. I actually attended some of the night classes and I thought I liked it better just conversing over the phone and doing it the other way which can’t remember what they call that program anymore, access or something. But a long time ago, long before they had an online


Dr. Russell Strickland  [03:58]

Release to use that word. Right? On his education.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [04:45]

Yeah, it was beyond correspondence education, cuz you were talking you were doing much more. But it was very complicated. It was very hard and actually was one of the harder classes I’ve ever taken. It was quite a program and I became I know University of Phoenix and It takes abuse in the movies and things, but they really had a good program at that time. I loved it. And I thought, well, that was kind of fun. And they paid for it. And I never thought anything other than that, that I would do. But then I started to want to teach because I thought I had heard about online courses had become available. And I had a Master’s by that point. And I thought, I would love to teach some of those because I just loved I used to teach, I used to teach a little bit when I used to sell computers, and I had a distance, fascination with computers and things like that. So I actually got into teaching at University of Phoenix through their Axia Division, I think it was Western, International and back at that point, and I was teaching a few courses. And as I was teaching about, you know, I would I love taking classes might be kind of interesting, just to see what the the doctoral programs, were out there and see what it was like. And I had no intention of ever getting a PhD in my life, never thought of it until I was teaching. And I thought, well, how hard could it be I kind of just had this curiosity of how hard it would be. And I found


Dr. Russell Strickland  [06:09]

Words, huh?


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [06:10]

Famous last words, I actually ended up going and getting a so my master’s was in organizational management, then I went and I ended up getting a PhD in Business Management. And so it’s actually hard. I found that out. But I loved it. I learned a lot. I, you know, every time I went back to school, there was a distance between each time so I had a lot of appreciation for my students later who came in and had taken a break, because then all of a sudden, there’s APA, what was that? You know, I used to have footnotes, and where’d they go, and you know, that kind of stuff. But I, I really never had this passion. Like I always wanted to be a teacher, I always want to have a PhD. I never had any of that age, I just fell into it. But that really opened up a lot of doors that I you know, had never even thought of.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [07:03]

Absolutely. Um, and I don’t want it to just highlight for everyone. Dr. Hamilton said it was hard, right? It is not easy. Not unusual. A lot of folks. A lot of folks never had any trouble in school, until they get to the doctoral program, or in particular working on their dissertation. And then all of a sudden, it’s like I hit a ceiling. And maybe this is my ceiling. And I want to just let everybody know, that’s not your ceiling. Everybody hits a point where they struggle, and it gets hard. And it doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough to go to the next level. It just means that now you have to work like all the other people had to work a long, long time. Yeah,


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [07:43]

well, I mean, some of the hard parts are trying to juggle everything else you’re doing along with it. For me, my least favorite part would be like statistics or something. Everybody’s got a part that they love, right or the part I I love mine APA. I don’t mind the editing, I don’t mind a lot of that stuff, which other people hate it and you find the things that you need to work on. Let’s just put it that way.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [08:06

Was there a point as you’re going through the dissertation process where you felt really stalled? Or you had one of those reckonings, where you’re having to decide, is this something? Is it worth it? Am I going to finish? Can I finish this reach a moment like that at all?


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [08:19]

They kind of made fun of me for how fast I could do things. Actually I am I’m a Nike person, I’m a Just do it. I don’t procrastinate. So I remember my in the master’s program, I think I’ve made I broke their records of going through it as fast as you can I think I might have in the PhD program as well. I didn’t go back to University of Phoenix for that, I went to North Central for mine, but I picked I’d love their program. And I thought oh, I want to do that. And I I really found it very challenging. But for me, I actually had a professor, I’ve told this story on my radio show before who I had gone through the dissertation process almost I was a almost ABD I can’t remember where it was I was right when you were going to pick your your dissertation topic. And I had this guy who was insane. It was a horrible guy. I only had I’ve never switched professors in my whole life. But this guy I dropped after one conversation. I wish I could remember his name. I kind of want to call him. He I get on the phone with them. And we’re supposed to talk about my topic. And he answers the phone. He says, welcome to the cave. He goes, I’m going to eat you up like jello pudding. This is going to be the hardest course and you’re going to suffer and he’s just as a horrible thing, whatever he said. And I’m like, who is this guy? And so I had to tell him what my topic was going to be and I knew I wanted to study sales performance, but I didn’t know more than that at that point. And he he heard me say this sales performance. But he thought I said, and its relationship to emotional intelligence. And he goes, oh, that would be a great emotional intelligence and sales performance. And I’m like, yeah, yeah, that’s what I said, I had no idea what you’re talking about. Right? So I looked it up. And like, Yeah, that’s a great topic. And it was so new at the time, it wasn’t like, now everybody knows about it, it was so different. But it I remember having the reason I, I, the guy was just kind of crazy. Because the first paper I turned in, within a day, you know, the minute they tell me something’s due, it’s the next day, they have the paper in their hand. And he gave me an A, but he said, you know, just think how much better this would be if you spent time and you did this. And you did that. So I wrote the next paper in a day, like I always did. And then I held on to it for a couple of weeks. And then I gave it to him. And he goes, see how much better that was. So some of these guys are, you know, you’ve got to learn how to work around the different personalities. And I learned


Dr. Russell Strickland  [10:58]

During this degree process for sure


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [11:00]

There is, and I ended up being a doctoral dissertation chair later, at University of Phoenix, and I’ve worked for 10, sometimes 10 universities at one time. So I have looked at all these different programs. And I know, from that aspect, what they offer, and also I was the Editor-in-Chief of the online website, where I blogged every day about online education. So my first book was on online education. And I think it’s really fascinating to look at the different aspects of what you can you know what it takes, I had debt dissertation checklists, I used to post on my blog, I did all kinds of stuff to help students. So what you’re doing is really important, and I think so many people need it.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [11:42]

Well, I mean, there’s so many people that are just sort of lost and alone in this process. And, and have a connection, you know, you don’t have a campus community to turn to, have that connections there. But you mentioned, you know, with the holding onto the paper. Um, I remember we had a, when I was in high school, we had a history teacher, that was horrible about, she had to mark up papers, that was like, her reason for living, it seems like they were a few of us in the class, we were pretty close with our chemistry teacher. And so we were just kind of bitching at him about how she was with grading. And he knew we were, you know, we were good students. And everything’s like, well, you’re, here’s what you do. And this is back when you wrote papers, like


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [12:28]

Handwritten? Yeah.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [12:30]

So usually, you would put your name in the upper right hand corner, you put down a little candidate, and you’d go down a little bit, you would put the title of the paper in the middle and then writing. And he said, well, this time, put the put the date of it on the right and put your name on the left, and then do everything else exactly what you would do. That’s a stupid idea what. And sure enough, she took the marker, circle, the name, drew an arrow over to the other side, and it was supposed to be, and then she felt that peace that she’d marked.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [13:02]

You gave her a little bone,


Dr. Russell Strickland  [13:04]

Something to do.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [13:05]

That’s funny.


Dr. Russell Strickland [ 13:06]

That was and that was it. So we we couldn’t all do that, obviously.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [13:11]

Just randomly picking weird things to throw into your paper for mark. That’s funny.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [13:16]

But but yeah, and that was my first I think my the first recollection I have of dealing with people on a psychological level of like, figuring out what motivates them. And you know,


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [13:27]

So you will deal with all kinds of people in your dissertation process, I have seen just everything, we’re all different.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [13:35]

And your point of firing a professor, at some point, it’s very important that you are strategic about what it is that you want to do what it is you want to accomplish. If you want to write the best dissertation that has ever been written, ask yourself why that’s not necessarily the best use of your time. But if it is what you want to do, then it’s going to do that it’s going to help you to to make this the best paper ever.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [14:02]

Most. Now I would Can I add to that, because I think I’ve learned something very important. Just, you know, if that’s what you want to do, great, but a lot of what you’re learning in the dissertation process is not how to cure cancer, it’s how to write and how to research and and, you know, whether you solve the world’s problems and your dissertation, you know, it most people don’t, it’s the learning the process, mostly, and learning to be a researcher and learning the whole, the whole picture. And so if you try to take off too big of a bite, it’s just going to be more of a impetus, I think, for just failure and down the road. And I think that you find the thing that you’re passionate about and then try to make it as small and manageable as possible. Because for me, I didn’t look at all of emotional intelligence. I looked at sales performance, and I looked at it in mortgage sales professionals and I got very specific Yeah,


Dr. Russell Strickland  [15:02]

Absolutely 100% um, when I was saying, you know, if that’s what you want to do, to write the best dissertation ever, really, I’m saying don’t do. Make choices, you’re an adult, but know what you really want. And understand, think about why you want that. And those folks want to graduate, that’s what they want to do. Because you don’t ask them if you want help from an expert, you don’t go look for a doctoral student, right? You look for a doctor. So yeah, don’t remain a doctoral student.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [15:31]

And don’t do it. You know, I think it slows you down for me that that guy was not good for me because I lose momentum, if you slow me down, and you’re going to slow yourself down with some of this stuff. And then it’s going to become overwhelming. I mean, I used to, you know, you tease around with your students, you have you eat an elephant, one bite at a time? Well, that’s what you have to do in the dissertation process. And it can seem overwhelming when you’re looking at hundreds of pages, potentially, of writing. And if you look at it that way, it’s too much. And you have to just think of one step one step one step, I used to have them start with chapter two, and look at all their literature out there and look for gaps in the literature to see you know, what has not been covered. And just start with little things like that, to give you your your space, because I think people can become overwhelmed. They think too much too big, big, big picture or overwhelming.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [16:24]

See, I actually go even a step further, I tell students to start with chapter three, figure out what it is you can do. And then figure out how to position it so that your committee will approve it, and then start doing all of the work. But until you have a plan, like if you were to pull out the driveway and start driving really disappointed really quickly, because you you don’t know where you’re going, if you’re on track, when you’re going to get there any of those sorts of things. Put a destination on the on the GPS, and you know where you’re going and what you’re going to do when you get there. And it’s a lot easier. And for the students that worked with we found that the last stopping point for people is collecting and analyzing their data. After they’ve done that, the only other things they have to do is get their committee to approve the dissertation, which their committees already predisposed to do because they approve their proposal. Then write the thing. So your committee is already predisposed to do their part. You know how to do your part. That’s it. Yeah, no, collecting the data, you rely on other people analyzing the data can be complicated, you got to get that straight in your head.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [17:33]

You can say that’s the worst. For me, that was the hardest.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [17:38]

Depending I mean, that’s something that a lot of people have have jams about to figure out what you know, if you have a psychological jam about something, just talk to somebody about it, figure out their way around it. So don’t let don’t don’t let the big scary thing that you know, is down the road. concern you too much. Find somebody to help you get through that. Because there are lots of ways to do that.


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [17:59]

Right? Definitely.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [18:01]

But it sounds like you’ve done some really, really cool things since you graduated. And I’d like to talk. First, though, let me ask you, as you were working on this dissertation, sales and emotional intelligence and all this sort of thing. Were you thinking about the Curiosity Code, or some of the things you’re doing now?


Dr. Diane Hamilton  [18:19]

Not not at all. Not thinking anything at that point, I was, you know, I had just come out of I was a pharmaceutical rep before it was in lending and real estate and all that. And then I was teaching and I was just teaching at the time going through that. And I was thinking, well, it’d be nice to teach some more. And as I took on more education-based jobs, which you can’t really get anymore with just a master’s, you’d really need to have a doctorate. But you really get so much opportunity to do a lot of things. And so I took a full time position for the first time. And that’s now the Forbes School of Business as part of University of Arizona here. And that really moved me along because I was doing a lot of things within that where I was working alongside Steve Forbes, and in a really cool people. And it was working as part of that board of advisors, you know, I would go to these meetings, and I’d get to sit next to billionaire Ken Fisher and talk to him and I was interviewing people. I don’t know what part of me wanted to interview Ken Fisher, but that was my first person I had interviewed and he is a billionaire. And he’s not the easiest guy to interview because he’s super smart. And he’s got a lot of wit and he’ll he’ll tease you and you know, he’s not the first one you want to go for, you know what I mean? And he was wonderful, though. And I, I think you know, doing that made me interested in interviewing people. And when I left that job, even though I still work for them as associate faculty. I was running the MBA program at that point when I left and I decided to, I had written a few books right after I wrote my dissertation because now you have a PhD right, writes books, right? So I wrote a book on online education, I wrote a book on personality assessments, from my experience working on emotional intelligence and Myers Briggs and that. And I wrote a book on reinventing your career, because I’ve done it so many times. So I had gone out to go to be a speaker and an author at that point. And because I was setting up my website, and the guy who was putting my website together as a Hall of Fame speaker, really great guy, Ford six did a great job with my website. And as I was talking to him, he said, you know, you need to get some more people interviewing you to update your website to have you more relevant cos it’s been a while since you’ve written books, but so we don’t have new content to put up. So the first person who interviewed me was, had a nationally syndicated radio show. And I had just done a little bit of interviewing with with Ken Fisher and meeting all the people from our speaker’s bureau who had come in all these Forbes 30, under 30. So it met and I was kind of in that mindset. And he’s, you know, did a great job interviewing me, Jim beaches show was great. And I said, How did you get this job? Isn’t it? Well, I think I could get you a position on the show is just, you know, apparently, you had to start in two weeks and have all your guests and all your showed stuff already in two weeks. And I’d never done that at all. So I had to figure out how to do a radio show, I had to figure out how to get the phone calls into my computer into the you know, all my ads on my intro, outro. Everything you can do plus have two weeks of guests ahead of time in the bucket when I started in two weeks. So it was crazy. And I did it. But I had a lot of people I had known like the Forbes 30, under 30 people who had come in to speak and I had the actual my first show was to Forbes 30, under 30. So I it was really so much fun. This is almost five years ago, I’ve interviewed like 1400 people maybe since then. And Ford, the guy who does my website was Diane, I told you to get a little bit of coffee. You did a little more than I thought right?

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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.