Episode #76

90% Awesome

Is your career 90% awesome? Do you spend most of your time doing things that are important for your scholarly work? I can show you how to get there.


In my last episode I talked about what radical change in academia looks like. The outcome of that radical change is that we build careers that are 90% awesome. Careers in which we do things we love 90% of the time. 

When you first wanted to become an academic, you got into it for the act of creation, the making of knowledge that had the potential to change the world. But what happened to this aspiration when it came in contact with reality? 

Our ruthless academic culture–the one that exploits contingent faculty and graduate students, squeezes tenure-track faculty into more and more teaching and service, and more and more unpaid admin, and more and more minutiae–has led you to believe something I’m not ok with. 

It led you to believe that you have to suffer to do the scholarly work. I’m here today to tell you the most important message you need to experience radical change in 2021: You don’t have to suffer. You’re allowed to strive for a career that’s 90% awesome. Your career is made up from the activities you do every day. And if you hate most of the things you do every day, your career is going to be 90% awful.


Choosing Yourself

It is ingrained in us at every turn that time, energy, and money are scarce in academia. These beliefs are enforced by us being underpaid as graduate students, expected to work nights and weekends out of “passion” or because “that’s what I had to do when I was a graduate student.” Awful.

This works out perfectly for institutions because by the time we get tenure-track jobs, we are “just lucky to have a steady job.” So, we pretty much tolerate the culture of overwork and the glorification of busy, the toxic colleagues and the “we don’t have money for that” messaging because we are so ingrained in scarcity that we feel like we have no choice but to suck it up, buttercup. And still, we spend sleepless nights wondering if our publications and grants are enough to get us tenure or full. 

“We cannot collectively change academia if we keep believing in awful, in suffering, and in settling.” -Cathy Mazak

If we’ve learned anything as academics over the last year, it should be that we need to deeply and profoundly make choices that go in the service of ourselves, because our institutions will not have our back. 

Academics who choose themselves, and who have put the systems and processes in place to support this deep belief in their own work and worth, are not scared by all the uncertainty around us and the ever-impending crisis in their institutions. That’s because they know that what they are building is not dependent on their institutions. What they are building is bigger than that. 

“The message for all academics, loud and clear, is: choose yourself.” -Cathy Mazak

Achieving 90% Awesome

Achieving this kind of career is not some dreamy, esoteric thing. It is achieved through two things I’ve talked about in past episodes: 

  • Values
  • Systems

The values part is easy. You just have to believe that academia should be changed, radically, and that you are worthy of the career you want. Done.

The systems part is harder because the systems behind a mission-driven academic career, a career where your scholarly work, not the minutiae of emails and committee meetings, drives your day-to-day routine, are hidden. Most of us know that our advisors got work done, but how they got work done is absolutely still a mystery when we graduate. Or maybe we did see how they got work done, and it was by driving themselves into the ground.

But these systems do exist! I’ve been teaching them (and refining them) for myself for almost 20 years, and for hundreds of other academics for almost five years. You really only need three sets of systems: 

  • Time management systems
  • Writing systems
  • Pipeline & planning systems

So for all you skeptics out there, if you are onboard with the idea that the values we espouse inside of academia need to change, then all you need to start living out those values is a set of systems that are 100% learnable.

I teach these systems inside of Navigate: Your Writing Roadmap, and if you want to be sure to get all the info when I open the doors for enrollment from Tuesday, April 27 to Monday, May 3, join the waitlist here. If you’re ready for a radical change in academia, you need to be in this cohort!

Get on the Waitlist!

Be one of the first 10 to sign up  and you’ll get a free spot at our retreat! And, if you’re thinking about joining the #radicalcohort of Navigate, we want you to know that we’re offering a reduced payment plan so that you can get started in the program for $247 (with 8 additional payments of $247 monthly after that). If you’d rather pay in full, Navigate will be at the special lump-payment price of $1997.

Pulled in a thousand directions and can’t seem to carve out time to write? Download my   10 Ways to Make Time to Write cheat sheet for ideas to implement today!

Connect with me:

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Follow me on Clubhouse: @cathymazak 


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