Well graduation season is among us and I will be attending some graduation parties this spring. Most importantly, my girlfriend, Ashley, is graduating from Drake University Law School this weekend. As a side note, Ashley also just won the Lincoln, Nebraska marathon with a 2:50:06 (Awesome!). Since we are in the midst of graduation season I thought about the word degree and decided to look up the definition. Well here is the first definition and it seems appropriate: Degree noun
  1. any of a series of steps or stages, as in a process or course of action; a point in any scale.

The sixth definition is more common for graduation:  Degree noun

6. Education. an academic title conferred by universities and colleges as an indication of the completion of a course of study, or as an honorary recognition of achievement.


While Ashley is graduating and getting her Juris Doctor (JD) degree, I reflect on some sage advice my dad gave me when I was graduating from engineering school and interviewing for jobs; get a PhD degree. Now this is the not the type of PhD that my best friend, Scott Sibbel, is a candidate for at the University of Colorado (and hopefully graduating in December). This PhD is an acronym my dad uses while interviewing for new hires. PhD stands for Poor, Hungry, Driven. The PhD degree is really only a degree according to the first definition; it is really more of an attitude than an actual degree. A PhD degree is a series of steps in a course of action towards success. It is an attitude about work and success that is reflected in everything the candidate says and does. It is the attitude that success is the only possible solution and that no amount of work is going to prohibit this candidate from getting the job done. Doing whatever it takes…that is the PhD degree summarized. If your job requires you to work all weekend to get a project done, then so be it. If I promised a proposal to my boss at 4 PM on Thursday and I have to spend the night at work on Wednesday to make sure it gets done, then I’ll be drinking Red Bull and eating PowerBars while I crank through a proposal in the middle of the night.


When I left my job to become a triathlete I was right back at the bottom of the totem pole. I had to scrape and claw just to finish in the prize money. I was poor, hungry, and driven. I was living off a money market account I accrued while working. I knew I would be successful as a triathlete, but I had to pay my dues. I had to earn that PhD degree the hard way, by taking the necessary steps in a course of action towards my goal. Today I am still trying to pay my dues on the way to the top and I carry that PhD degree with me. I have several important steps along the way: I need to win an Ironman, I need to race more consistently, I need to learn all that my body is capable of performing, and I need to devise and implement a plan to win Kona. This is no small task but the attitude is the most important part of the process. If the attitude is there, the work will be more enjoyable, and results will be better appreciated.


I just started my final preparations for Ironman Coeur d’Alene and I am in the midst of doing some tough workouts and long days. I have a very resolute focus right now on the process and I am counting down the days to the race. Enjoying the process is as much a part of job as performing on race day. Setting a goal, working as hard as you can to accomplish that goal, and then at the end of the night resting your head on your pillow knowing you put everything you had into achieving that goal, is the essence of the PhD degree. So while you attend some graduation parties this spring and maybe the parties of some people who spent enough time, money, and effort to get a PhD like Scott (or a JD like Ashley), remember the real PhD degree comes in the attitude. Take your PhD degree with you every day in everything you do, and know the result of what you are doing, SUCCESS!


Work Hard,