Written by Ed Cook.
Recently, I successfully defended my dissertation. That sentence is an incredible understatement of my emotions. The lead up to the day of the defense was laden with anxiety. Despite the assurances of certain success from so many friends and family, I was not certain. As I waited in the hallway for the committee to deliberate, talking with the friends and colleagues who had come to watch the presentation, I was fatalistic about the future. I hadn’t had that feeling since I was on the deck of aircraft carrier having completed my initial landings aboard the ship and now waiting to hear if I had passed. I mused over my fate: “Well no matter what I’m a pilot that has managed to land on a carrier, a tailhooker. That can’t ever be taken away.” Barely before getting into the back of the jet, the instructor said over the comms system, “Clear on the canopy, Cook you qual’ed!” I let an involuntary and joyful scream that had to have penetrated my oxygen mask, the Plexiglas canopy, and the jet noise all around. That was some Joy at Work!
As the door opened and my adviser stepped out, he said, “Congratulations, Dr. Cook.” I managed not to yell in the halls of the VCU School of Business but my smile was as big as it had been on the aircraft carrier. The committee congratulated me, and I thanked them. The weight of an eight-year labor to build these ideas had ended. My degree was a Ph.D. in Systems Modeling and Analysis but my dissertation was about Group Decision-Making. Ironically, I now had a significant decision to make that would involve several groups: “what to do now?” I had already begun teaching at the University of Richmond and would continue to do that. The Change Decision was continuing to grow and there was more work there. But what else? Fly more? Learn to draw? Start rowing on the James? Write a book? Publish in academic journals?
So many possibilities. Fortunately, for the immediate, I pushed all that aside and went out with all those friends to grab a celebratory drink and a night of rest without having to wake up thinking about the next step in the dissertation. With some space to think of the question: “what’s next?”, I remembered my watch-word for this year: balance. I had been so focused on so many things that parts of my life were squeezed out. Now I could balance. So the specifics remain to be seen, but I will do some of all of these things, but at a pace that respects the need to balance.