March 31, 2005

Do You Deserve a Ph.D.? The Answer is "Yes!"

The response to my newsletter has been great -- I can't believe how many people have filled out my self assessment: "Do You Deserve a Ph.D.?" So many people feel insecure when they are working on their dissertation, despite a long history of scholastic success....

I meaan, think about it. If you're writing your dissertation, you must have done well, most likely quite well, in high school and college. Furthermore, you have the kind of motivation, interest in your subject, and intelligence that would cause you to apply for, and be accepted to graduate school.

Compared to most of the population you're way above average. But you're working and studying in a place like the mythical Lake Wobegon -- all the people are above average. So you begin to lose sight of your own greatness.

It's not a normal human condition to work, produce and create without feedback. Of course, authors and artists do it for a long stretch of time -- but they're crazy half the time. I'm just kidding -- don't write to me about your mother the author. Mine is an artist. Oh... never mind. Anyway,it is not a normal way to live.

Have you read Sartre's Huis Clos (No Exit) Three people are brought to an elegant room to await going to Hell. Soon they realize that being locked up for eternity in a room with each other IS Hell. They are dependent on each other for feedback or the lack thereof. If you simplify this further, you end up with the dissertation process, particularly in the humanities, where you float out there, with little feedback.

The answer, of course, is to seek out feedback. It helps you know you're alive, you exist. Although Sartre decided "l'enfers c'est les autres" (Hell is other people) -- if you seek out feedback from helpful advisors, or in their absence, sympathetic shadow advisors, peer grous, buddies, or editors and coaches, you can take out some of the crazy-making process. "Hell is other people" only applies when you are grouped with the wrong people.

Whatever you do, don't stay holed up in your room thinking that you're the only insecure, dumb one. Everyone feels the way you do. Just seek them out.

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