More Than Just Sweat

I did that little half-marathon today. And I have that little oral prelim meeting on Tuesday. I’ve been pretty freaked out about the latter. Because this semester is already whack and you just never know what will happen next.

Somewhere between miles two and three this morning, I got to thinking about how everyone who does longer races will tell you that you train the best you can, rely on your training to get you through the miles on race day, and let that be enough.

There’s a parallel process here.

I have been well-trained in this program. I know that. This past week, I’ve been wondering if that were enough. Just like I’ve wondered whether my training for this race was enough. What I have consistently found to be true for myself is that race day always goes better than any training day I’ve had. The training runs may be good, but I still enter the race day with some doubt. And then I cross the line and start running. And I move along, mile by mile until I cross the line at the finish.

And so, I’m hoping the same will hold true for me for Tuesday morning. That my training IS enough. That I DO know more than I think. And that my training will carry me through the meeting.

And for your viewing (and inspirational) enjoyment, thanks to Chelsea for supplying this link:


Gibbs’ Rules for Supervision

Many of you know of my love for NCIS. Most of you saw my rants during basketball season about NCIS always being preempted by UNC basketball (I’m not down with it, people). Part of my love for NCIS comes from the team and their chemistry with one another. Most of it comes from my love of Mark Harmon who plays Special Agent Gibbs.


Some of you know of my history with some not so great supervisors. One in particular seems to be making my life…well…hell…these days. So I’d like to give bad supervisors everywhere a page from Gibbs’ play book. Because he does it much better than all of you.


Rule #1 Expect the best from your people.

Rule #2 Believe in your people and trust them to do their job.

Rule #3 Never be unreachable.

Rule #4 Care about your people.

Rule #5 Never let your people down…and they won’t let you down.

Rule #6 Never apologize…it’s a sign of weakness. [But take responsibility for your stuff]

Rule #7 Sometimes you have to get their attention. A little slap to the back of the head is effective. Use sparingly or its effects will wear off.

Rule #8 Be ballsy and equip your people to do the same.

Rule #9 Reward your people’s hard work. Praise is good…CafPows are optional.

Rule #10¬†Laugh with…and sometimes at…your people.

Rule #11 When the job is done, walk away.

Rule #12 Never mess with a Marine’s coffee if you want to live.

Wait…that’s Rule #23.

Never date a coworker…THAT’S Rule #12.

Gibbs has good people who work for him (and themselves). You can’t break up the team, and you can’t give them another boss. It just doesn’t work. What does work is having a boss who’s differentiated and ballsy and caring and concerned about his people and has high expectations and is…well…Gibbs.

Once in a while, I’ve had the opportunity to work with really great supervisors. They were kinda Gibbsian themselves. And so I salute and give thanks for Steve, Terry-Michael, Lil, Mac, and Sue.

Finding the “Break” in Spring Break

For your average grad student (and many undergrads), Spring Break is a misnomer in every sense of the word–assuming you live in, to the north, or the west of North Carolina. It is most assuredly NOT spring right now (it’s 40 degrees outside). And most of us grad students have yet to find the break because the to-do list doesn’t stop during this week. In fact, we stand a chance of at least crossing some things off the list this week, thanks to not having to show up to the many places we ordinarily do.

I spent the first half of the break in the office, along with a friend, both of us working on our respective dissertations. I am pleased to announce that by Wednesday afternoon, my friend submitted her final draft to her committee for her defense. By Tuesday afternoon, I sent an outline to my advisor. By Wednesday afternoon, after working on prep for my oral prelim in now less than two weeks, I was fried. (When you have to ask “The predictor variable is the independent variable, right?”…you need a break.)

We both left the office mid-afternoon on Wednesday. I came home and decided to try to clear my head by breaking in my new meditation cushions. I learned it’s a helluva lot easier to meditate when your brain is smoldering–it doesn’t want to think about anything anyway. Fifteen minutes later, I was in a better state. You see, not only was my brain fried from the past…25 weeks?…of work, but my anxiety was jacked by my upcoming oral. I reached a point where I felt like I knew NOTHING. At all. Whatsoever. Not good when you will have to account for any and every thing you’ve learned in 3.5 years in 2 hours’ time. The meditation helped bring down my anxiety level. So did the realization that I HAD to take a break this week. I HAD to step away from the schoolwork. Or I was going to implode.

Spring break is great for getting work done. No question. But when you’ve been working under the gun for as long as most of us have, you gotta stop for a minute. By Thursday, I stopped. I did zero work. And meditated. And brought the anxiety back down. This morning, I got a massage (so now my neck moves in all directions again). This afternoon, I started looking over prelim stuff again. And I was fresher and more ready to integrate and prepare for the firing squad.

A funny thing, that spring break. By the time it gets here we so desperately need it. Yet so often, we keep pushing through. And that’s only good if you can truly be productive. But for me and my people from school, we aren’t productive at this point. We’re just tired. And we really really should take the advice we so often dole out and rest. Even if it’s just for a day.

Things you should know

before starting a PhD program:

1. It is an endurance contest (i.e., marathon)…that lasts for 5 years.

2. It is also a 5-year long rush week…complete with hazing.

3. You get no mulligans. Period.

4. They call it a training program, but they expect you to be perfect. Every time.

5. You must work hard…and find your own reward system. There is no sticker chart. Unless your fellow students set one up for you. In which case you should return the favor. And get those really cute stickers.

BUT if you survive all that…you get a fuzzy little hat with fuzzy stripes on your gown and the title of Doctor in front of your name.¬†