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Mister, Doctor, or Does it Matter?

Mister, Doctor, or Does it Matter?

Mister, Doctor, or Does It Matter?

     

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    My mother was the secretary at Glennwood Baptist Church in Morris, Alabama for about eight or nine years. My parents attended Glennwood for a while, and the pastor (David Bays) is someone I respect and admire very greatly. Even when I moved to St. Louis, after I got married, and after Shannon and I moved to Memphis, we continued to get a newsletter from Glennwood, and I enjoyed staying abreast of what is going on there. The newsletters that came to our house changed shortly after I defended my dissertation in May, 2006. “Mr. and Mrs. William Arthur Carden” became “Dr. and Mrs. William Arthur Carden.” In trademark display of motherly pride, I’m sure Mom really enjoyed changing “Mr.” to “Dr.” in the church’s mail-merge.

    Getting a PhD is an accomplishment and it is rightly something to be proud of; however, it also provides, for many, an occasion for conceit bordering on arrogance and tactlessness. A few days before Christmas in 2007, I was flipping through my in-laws’ copy of the Birmingham News when I came across a letter to “Miss Manners” from someone who had sent a Christmas card to a cousin with a PhD. The card had been addressed to “Mr. So-and-so” rather than “Dr. So-and-so.” Instead of responding with grace, as one might have hoped that someone of Dr. So-and-so’s high stature would, apparently he wrote back with a self-addressed envelope to “Dr. So-and-so,” a copy of his diploma, and a note saying that it is customary to refer to someone of his stature as “Dr. So-and-so” or “Firstname So-and-so, PhD.”

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    My thought: wow. That’s pretty insecure.

    This caught my eye in part because I’ll admit, I sometimes chafe–with tongue planted firmly in cheek–at getting stuff addressed to “Mr. Carden” when I have earned the right to be addressed as “Dr. Carden,” presumably. When I get arrogant about it, I remember Michael Myers in one of the Austin Powers movies as “Dr. Evil,” reminding people that he “didn’t spend five years in Evil medical school to be called mister, thank you very much.” What a joke.

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    Economist Tyler Cowen has blogged about how, apparently, people who conspicuously refer to themselves as “Dr.” or “Firstname Lastname, PhD” are often those with arguments or claims that are somewhat weak and that need to be bolstered with an air of authority. While I will admit that qualifications and affiliations are important signals—I’m much more likely to listen to a PhD economist at Harvard in a discussion of the minimum wage than I am to listen to someone who has never taken an economics class but nonetheless maintains a very strong opinion about the subject—reliance on authority is the weakest form of argument or evidence. There are a lot of smart people saying a lot of very off-base things. Nonetheless, they have the credentials to back themselves up. As people stay in school longer and as life expectancies increase, the letters “PhD” will come to have far less signaling value.

    Dr. F.A. Hayek’s Nobel Prize address was entitled “the pretence of knowledge,” and while it sought to upbraid those who thought that central planning (or coherent macroeconomic policy) were possible, it speaks today to those who think they are something when they are not. Just because you have a PhD doesn’t mean that you have automatically earned glory, respect, and approbation. While it is customary (and wise) for people to address you properly or defer to you in areas where you have expertise, it is grotesquely immature to insist upon it.

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    So what’s the message, then, to the newly-minted PhD and to those around people who have doctorates? For the friend or relative, it is customary to refer to someone as “Doctor” in formal communication. This doesn’t give someone the right to get his or her underwear bunched up if someone forgets to say “Doctor” or “PhD” or “Grand Poo-bah” or what have you. If you have something important to say, let that stand on its own merits. If you want to be respected and loved, be respectable and loveable. Don’t rely on the fact that you spent five, six, seven, or however many years grinding away at a graduate degree to earn your favor in another’s eyes.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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