What Motivates You To Keep Going With Your PhD & Research: Building A Community


So here is the thing, you might be wondering why I am doing the R3ciprocity Project. The project takes away from my own research in the short-term, and ultimately makes me appear unproductive as a researcher. Absolutely, it comes at a cost of becoming a research productive professor. (Once you are done reading this blog post, you might want to read this one on building an editing software.)

However, I think you are likely skeptical that I am purely altruistic, and you are likely right. However, you will likely understand the project a bit more if you read about my story. There where soooo many things against me to become a professor.

  • I grew in a town that was 4 hours from any university (Dryden, Ontario, Canada).
  • I also had parents with only a high school education (they are amazing, and I owe all of this to them). I was the first of my entire extended family to go to university.
  • I was in Special Ed until grade 5. It turns out that I had ADHD, but you would never know because I am a pretty chill person. There is a type of ADHD that is not hyperactive.
  • I had a lot of family violence when I was growing up. My sister was shot and killed just before I was born. As you can imagine, this did not make life easy for my parents.
  • My parents had 6 kids on one working class income. My Dad was a immigrant to Canada, and my Mom had to deal with the aftermath of a parent who emotionally suffered from being in the WW2.
  • And, I was the last to be picked in every sport. EVERYTIME.

You would think that this would have hindered me growing up. Conventional wisdom, and virtually all research would suggest that I was at a disadvantage.

And, yet, I am a tenured professor in one of the best Colleges of Business in the world.

Why? My parents taught me to be nice, respect myself and others, love God, and work regularly. We did not read a lot as kids. We did not have much. But, both of my parents always worked at being curious and being a good family to each other.

Higher Education Is Not Fair.

You can’t tell me that higher education and the research world is fair. Indeed, there is a large literature on the science of science, and it largely suggests that it is not. People get rewarded in academia that look similar, and that act similar to each other. People without the family support and morals that my parents taught me would not be so lucky. So many people quit their aspirations to be a professor, far before we even know they dreamt about becoming a professor or researcher. (Here is a blog post about PhDs that quit.)

It is highly probable that there is a massive audience of people in this world that would love to do research. However, no one is telling them that doing research is a possible career, and that it can help society. We need tools to not only do the work, but to also tell people that they CAN and SHOULD do the work.

I struggle with my ability to writing and communicate with the world. Yet, we are at a point in time where we do not need to. The world has so many software tool-kits that we can assemble to make our job as researchers better. We simply need someone that is willing to put together the parts to help people see that they can be not only productive, but that they can do research. There are two parts to helping us researchers and academics do better.

Tool 1: R3ciprocity Editing and Peer Feedback Software

My initial thoughts were that we simply need software that was cool and helped us write. That is why we are building www.r3ciprocity.com. It is a sharing economy editing software. The software is built to mimic the academic review process, but also to make our life easier. It is built to encourage reciprocity and helping of others. (You can check out this blog post about how to log into the software and buy credits to help with the project).

I also realized that this would be an important tool to do better organization science to validate our theories. Having a tool to experimentally validate our knowledge on something that matters will greatly accelerate our efforts. (Here is a great blog post about experimentation on the platform if this is something that interests you.) Honestly, I have grown a bit frustrated with the state of our scientific knowledge of organizations. This tool will greatly advance our knowledge because we can validate what we know and don’t know about research fields like strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, and organizational theory. At this moment, it is pretty hard to validate many of the theories in our field.

Tool 2: Encouragement And Building An Audience

After I built the platform and put it on the internet, I realized that I needed an audience, so I started posting stuff on the internet (You can subscribe to the YouTube channel). I quickly realized that many people were unhappy or sad with research process and academia after seeing what videos where resonating with my audience. I realized that I was one of them.

The goal then is not to only build this cool software, but to also help to tell people that they CAN and SHOULD do the work. What I realized is that many people had a tremendous amount of self-doubt as graduate students, researchers, and professors.

We have so many self-doubts as researchers and scholars. This was and will be a big stress in my life.

  • When you are a grad student, we feel guilty for not being able to save much money for the future. Many of us face this fear as professors and researchers too.
  • Most of us work on projects that take far longer than what most people do in the ‘real world.’
  • We face criticism and negative feedback daily. (This blog post will greatly help you if you are dealing negative feedback.)
  • And, we have to constantly compare ourselves with outliers in the research community. The constant question, is how come you can’t be like so-so (insert famous scholar here).

Self-doubt and dealing with the angst of research is fundamental to solving our problems. If you are going to do something innovative, you are going to have a lot of self-doubt, so we have to learn how embrace it. (Check out this blog post on self-doubt as a researcher.)

Everyday, it’s a struggle to keep going with the academic battle, but I do for the my family and for the ideas. It does get easier to see ideas, but it is never easy to sell the idea to an audience.

Thus, after seeing the issues that people were dealing, I wanted to do something about it. I think I have now built the largest YouTube channel about doing research in the world. I will continue to work on it, and help you out. I will continue to encourage you to keep going, and working hard. I will continue to tell you that YOUR WORK MATTERS.

If you need more motivation, check out this blog post or watch the following video:

It’s funny because we have people in kindergarten that encourage our efforts, but after some point in our life, we believe that this is too childlike. Screw convention. Be a child. We all need to be treated with respect and encouraged to be authentic, work hard, and love others.

You Can Do This

Coming back to my own experience, let’s hope that this project gives you the moral support and help that you need, even if you don’t have the family support, support at your university, or support in your life. I am here to tell you that if I can do this thing, so can you.

If you believe in the R3ciprocity Project, please share the word and buy credits to help the project. Thank you. And, take care!

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