When Having the Smarts Is Not Enough with Dr. Gregory Cason

Dr. Gregory Cason  [40:30]

I feel strongly about my acknowledgments page. It was the one thing I worked, I think the hardest on in so many ways, because I wanted it to be, I wanted people to know how sincere I was, and how special each one of them were. I didn’t say thanks to my committee. I named them and talked about the My name different people that helped me along the way. And I named the fellow students who were helpful to me, and I still one section of my dissertation that I’ve reread several times, because it’s weird. It just helped me feel good to realize these people have my back and really helped me.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [41:04]

Yeah, and it’s so so very important. As you’re going through this process to understand that you have told the story on this podcast, I think a number of times one of my first students actually did her research on the types of support you need to be successful as you’re completing your dissertation remotely. So


Dr. Gregory Cason  [41:23]



Dr. Russell Strickland  [41:24]

Community? Well, because that was her experience, right? Just that you gravitated towards your experience for your research? Yeah, for experiences, like I think she literally moved away from the campus community, while she was doing her dissertation to move with her husband or something, I don’t remember the details now. But, but when you when you’re not plugged into that campus community, there’s so many things that go away. And, and she found that you need someone to be able to tell you what the hell to do and how to do it, operational support. And you also need someone to be able to emotionally kind of keep you going with you through it and believe in yourself up. And, and so it’s important for folks to understand that that’s research backed, it’s critical that you have those elements in place if you want to be successful. Don’t try to do this yourself. Reach out.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [42:10]

No. Yeah, I agree with that. 100%. I love that she did that. Because I just like I there’s a difference between the people that put a fire inside of you and the people that light a fire under you to get it. I mean, it was. And also the thing that was really interesting is in my or at least it was to me, I’m so sorry. In my internship, there were four of us doctoral students. We all had, we were all mid-dissertation. So you get to your internship, it’s pretty typical in psychology to not have finished your dissertation because it’s so much, obviously. So we get there, and we’re all working. We’ve all collected our data, we all you know, have gotten to that point, we’re at the point where we’re all writing. So we decided to start a dissertation support group. Well, one person quickly fell away because she didn’t want. She didn’t like, you know, everyone being so good he and pushing, then another person felt like she just couldn’t handle the pressure and stuff. So our dissertation support group became me and this woman who we would go out to the lake in Austin, and talk about our dissertations. And just it was constant positive praise. “You wrote one sentence? Fantastic! That is so great!” You know, and it was really one of the more helpful things is to have the kind of support.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [43:34]

And the thing is, that’s not for everyone. So if you’re sitting here listening, saying, oh, I need somebody to kick my ass and say, why don’t you write two sentences? Get that support! You know, it’s what you want to plug into. So but but it is important that you have that you have that support. So


Dr. Gregory Cason  [43:50]

Yeah. Now if somebody said, why didn’t you write two sentences, I would probably shut down. So that would be the type of support that I wouldn’t deal with. I love celebrating, because I pushed myself hard. I don’t need someone else to push me. The you know, and one thing I could say what was really helpful to me in the dissertation is I did these tricks with myself all the time, I did like 15 minutes, where I would turn 15 minutes, and I would turn on my computer. And if I just stared at the screen for 15 minutes, then I worked on my dissertation for 15 minutes. I didn’t demand certain things. And I knew that if I kept this going, that I would eventually get there. And I did. And eventually it flew, it flowed out of me like a waterfall. But it took me a long time to get there to mine that. The other thing that was really helpful to me is I use something called the Premack Principle, which is a Reinforcement Principle from Psychology that I was fascinated with, which is when you try to reward yourself with, what we call a high frequency behavior, you reward a low frequency behavior. So working on your dissertation becomes a low frequency behavior. It’s something you don’t want to do. And high frequency behavior is something you would do anyway. At the time, we didn’t have cell phones, internet, etc. So what I was doing was, I would say, I can’t watch any TV until I’ve worked on my dissertation for at that time, 15 minutes, half an hour, whatever it was, or I wrote one sentence, whatever I was saying to myself at the time, and, and I, there were several days, I couldn’t watch any TV at all, because I didn’t do my thing. And then I also had like, weekend, you know, I couldn’t go to the lake in Austin, that’s like a big thing to do. I couldn’t go to the lake on the weekend, if I didn’t do X, you know, certain number of days, and I would hold to it and punish myself every time. I would not do my high frequency behavior, if I didn’t also do the dissertation that kept me on a path. And I kept working.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [45:50]

So now I’m speaking to a real psychologist here. So I’m gonna get exposed. But I thought that for most people, doing it the opposite way and rewarding yourself for behavior was considered to be more effective than then then the punishment route or, you know, withdrawing, you know, support or whatever it might be.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [46:12]

I did, it was a reward. But it was a reward when I do it, I could watch TV. I just said that. if you know, people will watch TV, or they’ll look at their cell phone or their look at their, you know, internet, that you can’t do it unless you’ve done your dissertation work. So the punishment, it goes hand in hand with the reward that if you’re not going to do it, then you don’t get your reward.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [46:35]

Right. Sure, sure. And I do think the 15 minute thing is brilliant. I know I’ve used that sometimes when there are there are parts of my job that I don’t enjoy doing, but they have to get done. And, and I’ll do the thing, I’ll set a timer, I’m like, okay, I’m going to do this for 15 minutes, and do the 15 minute experience and, and yet no distractions for that 15 minutes, because I, when I get bored, I might pick up my iPad or something like that and play a little game for a few minutes. And that’s the way I just switch gears, I’m not thinking about and thinking about something else. But I can also avoid a fight over to do for long periods of time that way. And so that 15 minute sprint was something that, you know, I figure I have to be I should be able to do more or less anything for 15 minutes. So I can do this work for 15 minutes, and it gets done. Yes, I think it’s it’s amazing the tricks that your brain will let you play on yourself to get things done.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [47:27]

Yes. But I as a psychologist, I also know that people are very willing to not let those brain tricks happen. They’re very willing to give in, they’re very willing to look at their phone, look at Facebook, etc, etc. So you really have to be an accomplice in your own success. A lot of people think that, you know, oh, if I just do XYZ, then I’ll be No, you’ve got to actually practice the behavior. And you’ve got to set yourself up for success. That sometimes means not doing certain things like looking at your phone, etc. Sometimes when I’m working on my computer, and I keep looking at my phone, I tossed my phone across just to get it away from me, because I realized,


Dr. Russell Strickland  [48:08]

Yeah, yeah. Any other little hacks or bits of advice for folks who are, you know, they’re working through their dissertation, it’s not something they necessarily want to be doing, or at least certain parts of it aren’t, aren’t things they want to be doing? How do you push through and make that happen?


Dr. Gregory Cason  [48:26]

Yeah, it’s, I mean, one of oh gosh, that’s a tough question, in so many ways, but the I mean, I think work on the easy parts sometimes first, and to get your, your your self going, there were certain parts I found very interesting. Because I


Dr. Russell Strickland  [48:43]

Get to build a series of successes then to


Dr. Gregory Cason  [48:45]

Build success, build success, and it’s okay to come back to things and rewrite things, etc, etc. Mistakes will happen. So perfectionism is your enemy. Although, you know, we all have I don’t think there’s a graduate student who doesn’t have perfectionism as part of the process. But But, you know, one of the worst things I ever did is I gave my dissertation to someone else to read. And he looked at it cracked the first page and said, wow, you had a mistake in the first page. Like, I did some grammar mistake that everybody missed, including me. And I thought, wow, that was that was just me. But I in a way, I had to look back on a positive way. And I’m like, I’m so glad I wasn’t so focused on just every detail, I had to just get it done. And it really turned out to be good in the end.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [49:37]

I think that’s a great attitude to have, too. One of the things that makes me most upset with committee members, is when they will grade your grammar and hand back a paper and there’s no real meaningful feedback. It’s just all like word could have done this or Grammarly could have done this or something. And I wasn’t focused on that right now. Yes, it wasn’t maybe up to your standards for submitting it. And I’m sorry about that. But there were still ideas in there that you could have commented on. And I didn’t get that back from you.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [50:09]

Yes, exactly.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [50:11]

Um, so students, if you’re out there listening, and your professors are doing that, hold them accountable for that. Tell them that you want meaningful feedback, and that you’ll hire an editor to fix all of the punctuation when you get to that point, if your professors hung up on that, because that’s really something that the heavy lifting is getting the ideas out there, and the the easy work is to get an editor or for you yourself to go through cleaned it up at the end,


Dr. Gregory Cason  [50:38]

You know, something I have people do that I found accidentally helpful, it’s good to meet with individual members of the committee and to just get, you know, talk with them and have more casual conversation with them. And to find out what makes them tick, because they will ease up when they, when they know that you’re on their side, you’re not trying to counter them. So like the grammar stuff, you know, people get overly focused on that, then I would say, yeah, yeah, sit with the person say, oh, this, you know, this is helpful to you know, this is great, this is helpful. Let’s go through it together and those types of things, and oh, you know, and then look around in their office and talk about different things in their office, but get to know them as a person. They will stop looking at you as much of an object to just ridicule.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [51:35]

Yeah, that’s true. These are people so treat them as people. That’s, that’s good advice. I one of the tricks that often works, yes, again, it’s a psychology hack is when you ask them for help, you know, what, what is it that I need to do to to, to accomplish this goal that I have, and you ask them, and bring them into the problem like that. There’s this thing called reciprocity, where one of the quickest ways that you can make friends with someone is to ask them to do you a favor. As weird as that sounds, that can’t be too big a favor. But if you ask them to do you a favor, then all of a sudden, they feel better because they were validated, they were made to feel important, because you’re asking this favor of them. And so if you can ask a committee member to get involved in the process with you, that can be very helpful as well.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [52:22]

Well, it’s in fact that I, Benjamin Franklin identified that that particular rule, if you will, I call it the Ben Franklin rule, and just say basically asked, he said, you know, borrow a rake from your neighbor and then return. So you know, ask them to borrow their rake if you don’t get along with your neighbor, ask them for a favor. And I did and I actually agree with that. And the thing to do is then also report back to that person how helpful they were. Right. That’s what will really warm them. Like, Oh, here it is, like return the rake.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [52:56]

That’s the best rake ever.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [52:59]



Dr. Russell Strickland  [52:59]

You did such a good job picking out that rake. So well, listen Dr. Cason, I have been really enjoying myself. This has been a great conversation. If folks wanted to reach out to you to continue this conversation at all, what’s the best way for them to, to, to reach out to you or to kind of continue following what you’re doing?


Dr. Gregory Cason  [53:20]

You could go to my website, drgreg.com. I’m on Instagram a lot @askdrgreg, a-s-k-d-r-g-r-e-g. I’m also on Facebook as “Ask Dr. Greg.” I’m also on Twitter as @askdrgeg. So you can go to one of those places and reach out to me. It’s it’s a little overwhelming. I am on LinkedIn, but it’s just professional. It’s really hard keeping up with all the messages, but I do try. So be patient. If you need to get in touch with me directly. Go to my website and just contact me there.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [53:53]

That is awesome. Well, I want to thank you so much for joining us today and Ask Dr. Greg’s pretty easy to remember. But if folks can’t quite keep that straight, go to our blog and dissertationdone.com/blog and we will have everything linked up with your episode. By the time you’re listening to this. So thank you again so much for for being here with us today.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [54:15]

Thank you so much. It was really a pleasure.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [54:17]

Awesome. Well, I’ll just remind everybody briefly that this episode’s been brought to you by Dissertation Done so if you’re looking for some help with your dissertation, go to dissertationdone.com/done. If you’d like to be more of an expert and you have have already earned your doctoral degree, check us out at dissertationdone.com/book either way, we’ll have a conversation about what’s going on with you your life and whether we’re a good fit to work together. In the meantime, though, again, once again, I want to thank you Dr. Cason for being here.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [54:45]

Thank you.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [54:46]

And to everyone else, have a wonderful day and go out and live your unconventional life.


Outro  [54:58]

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.

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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.