Musings: 6 Months Post-Ph.D.

6monts6 months (and 2 days) ago, I submitted my dissertation and officially finished my Ph.D. A lot has happened since then. It’s taken a lot of work, but I’m finally settling into a new routine and crafting new goals for the future.

I’ve also been starting to accept that I spent a lot of my academic career running away from my true desire to be a jazz bassist. In a way, I’ve come full-circle – albeit with a more disciplined mind and injury-prone body than I had at age 19.

Although playing and teaching jazz/bass is once again my main thing, I’m still cultivating my various interests. To that end, I’m hoping to get on a weekly blogging schedule (no more alternating between months-long dry spells and cranking out daily posts) covering my main interests. Here is the tentative order, which I’m on-track to complete for December (albeit with a disruption for Christmas break):

Week 1: Monthly Newsletter, with information about teaching, gigs, publications, and musical practice

Week 2: LP Stitch, with photos and descriptions of my monthly cross-stitch projects (may eventually turn into a publication of some sort)

Week 3: Musings, in which I write about business, productivity, yoga, life after Ph.D., etc. (this post is the 1st official entry for this category)

Week 4: Doctor’s Notes, 1-page, comic-style summaries of non-fiction books – the unofficial sequel to Dissertation Comics (1st post coming soon)

My (mini-)musing for this month concerns the concept of a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Although this type goal is usually found in business mission statements, I’ve been reading more and more materials urging individuals to identify their own BHAG.

For me, getting a Ph.D. was very much a BHAG. As hard as it was, it was a clearly defined path. Had I stayed in academia, I would’ve segued into even bigger/hairier/more audacious goals, such as publishing an academic book, securing a tenure-track job, and getting tenure.

When I moved off the clearly defined path of academia, it was as scary as it was liberating. I realize now that a lot of the problem was that I didn’t have a clearly-defined BHAG in place for after graduation. As a result, I felt aimless and depressed in the months following graduation.

A lot of the reason why I resisted developing a BHAG was that I was tired of the hyper-specialization inherent in academia. I didn’t want to have just one goal. However, I’ve since realized that I need to have some kind of ambitious goals to guide me.

As of now, I have the following set of tentative goals based on my major areas of interest:

Jazz BHAG: Teach jazz musicians on any instrument, of any level, and in any setting how to efficiently and effectively practice in order to achieve their own goals

Productivity BHAG: Write the definitive guide to productivity for Renaissance-types (unlike most books that assume readers are workaholics with no outside interests or responsibilities)

Yoga BHAG: Be trained to teach yoga classes part-time, with individualized teaching style emphasizing practical applications of movement (playing an instrument,
managing pain, etc.)

Cross-Stitch BHAG: Through portfolio and/or publication(s), launch a resurgence of counted cross-stitch as a hip and trendy craft (a la knitting)

(Obviously these goals aren’t as big/hairy/audacious as they could be if I just had one, but I believe that collectively they’re pretty ambitious)

To anyone in graduate school or some other settings with a built-in BHAG, I would say this: start thinking about your future BHAG(s) now, even though it will inevitably change over time. You may follow a well-worn path or venture out into uncharted areas. By having a flexible plan, you will be much more in-control of your life, career, and well-being.

Author: Leah Pogwizd

Bassist, Instructor, Writer

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