by Lian Partlow | April 1, 2010
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
How much do we acknowledge to ourselves that success on our PhD journey results from preparation and learning from failure? Hard work, yes, I think that most of us expect to work hard in a PhD program. But preparation and failure?
When I started my PhD program I thought that having a prior degree in the same field had prepared me to start my PhD program successfully. In my first semester I discovered that I was unprepared for the advanced level of critical thinking, discussion, and reading of scholarly literature expected of doctoral students. I had to learn how to go beyond what I was reading in my courses about subjects and be able to place them in scholarly context. To prepare for success in my PhD journey meant learning all I could outside of my required readings, delving into professional journals to familiarize myself with scholarly debates. Preparation meant changing my reading habits and acclimatizing myself to the academic world. Preparation helped me be more successful in courses, pass my comprehensive exam, and move into dissertation research.
And failure? Oh yes, I nearly failed one of my first semester courses. Recovering from the blow, I learned more was expected of me than I first thought. I picked myself up and started asking more questions of my faculty and colleagues, getting the guidance I needed to be successful. I immersed myself in professional journals and library resources to see what all the fuss was about. Indeed, I found that the more I read, the more I made connections and started to see all that my academic field had to offer, and I found it fascinating!
Ask yourself how you are preparing for success in your doctoral program. Ask an academic advisor for help preparing to be successful. What steps are you taking to make the connections you need to the scholarly literature in your field? How are you learning from failure?