My Class Ring



“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
– Booker T. Washington

In high school, my parents gave me to option to have either a letter jacket or a class ring. At that time, and being a member of the band, it was a much cooler option to go with the jacket. I had a school letter to put on it and was able to fit in with so many other band and classmates at football games. It was more about fitting in for me during those years.

Fast forward to around 2008… I was in Chicago attending a required residency for my PhD program. There was a Jostens class ring table set up for a few days of the event, allowing learners to take advantage of purchasing their cap and gown, graduation invitations, class rings, and more. I was still a couple years out from graduation, but for some reason I was yearning for a class ring. My thought was that I would start wearing it once it was delivered to keep up the motivation to finish my program. I splurged and bought a beautiful ring, with the maroon colored stone for my university’s color, the letters PhD on one side and 2010 on the other side, and a little diamond chip on either side too. When it was delivered, I was ecstatic and began wearing it proudly.

What happened from there? You guessed it – life happened. While the ring was a piece of motivation to me, it wasn’t enough to get me to the graduation stage in 2010. That year came and went and I remained at the dissertation writing table making progress – slowly, but surely. Numerous classmates that had the vision of graduating in or around 2010 posted comments and pictures of their diplomas. The dissertation process took much longer than I had planned, which I should have suspected with my sensitive topic, trying to continue working full-time, and anything else life threw at me during those challenging years. Regardless, I continued wearing that ring.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013…I had completed my program requirements and officially graduated with my PhD on January 31, 2013 and walked the graduation stage in Long Beach, California that spring (with that same class ring still on my finger). That fall, I was going through some items and found my paperwork and the ring box from Jostens that I had received so many years earlier. I went to the Jostens website and was trying to find out if there was an affordable and easy way to get the graduation year changed on my ring, since it was now official. I printed out the form and filled it out – I believe the price was less than $30 to get the year changed on the ring. The completed form remained on my desk for a couple months, and for some reason I did not mail it in. One day, I looked at the completed form and then looked at my ring. I shredded the form and decided to keep the ring exactly as it was.

The reminder of continuing to strive towards my goal, despite being years off about when it would happen reminded me how I achieved so much more in my journey towards that diploma. The growth a person goes through during life experiences, good and bad, is simply amazing. Every time I look down at my class ring now, I’m reminded of that.



Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on May 2, 2016

How to Get Out of a Funk – Step #1: Secure an Accountability Partner

Capella 1


Accountability. It is something that many people feel they can do on their own, but the truth is that, a majority of the time, you need some external form of support. When I was working on my dissertation, I found the process to be an emotional roller coaster. On top of life happening around me, I was doing my best to dedicate myself to researching and writing my dissertation.

There was a period of time when I thought I would not be able to make the finish line.

I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and unable to think straight was where I took up residence.

That was, until a classmate of mine, Sandy, and I talked. We talked through the struggles I was facing as well as opportunities I had to help get me out of that funk and get focused again. She advised that she would be my accountability partner, and we agreed upon how that relationship would work. For an unknown period of days, I would focus on doing something related to my research for a minimum of 15 minutes each day. It could be writing, editing, or researching, but I had to spend that minimum amount of time being focused on dissertation-related work. At the end of each day, I would e-mail Sandy and let her know what I did during my 15 minutes that day, as well as what I was planning to do the next day.

I admit that the first week was difficult, as I was feeling at the bottom of that roller coaster, exhausted and frustrated, filled with self-doubt about my abilities to do what I needed to do.

During that first week, those 15-minutes each day was a bit of a struggle.

As I got into the process of being held accountable, and planning ahead, my 15 minutes turned into 30 minutes, and then an hour or longer. Yes, there were still some days where 15 minutes was the maximum due to other obligations (e.g., my full-time job). What I noticed though is that I was able to get back on track and get interested in my work again.

During that few months that Sandy accepted my daily e-mails, there were two occasions where I did nothing and failed to send my evening update. I don’t remember why I missed those two days, but I know I didn’t send those e-mails on purpose. I was worried because I had not kept my end of the bargain. I felt like I was not only disappointing myself, but also my accountability partner. She was great and called me out on it, but in a delicate way to ask what was going on and how she could help.

Do you need a formal accountability partner set-up all the time? No. Throughout my life, the times when I went looking for an accountability partner, through a friend, co-worker, or life/career coach, was when I needed support, encouragement, and a bit of a kick in the butt to get moving. I needed to hear what I may not have wanted to hear, and for someone to challenge me to do what I knew I could do, but some fear was holding me back from doing it. In each of those instances, I learned something about myself and made significant strides in my life.

When have you secured an accountability partner? What was the outcome?


Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on April 28, 2106

Almost Kicked Out of College

Believe it or not, I almost got kicked out of college.

After enrolling at a small, private college after high school and taking classes for a quarter, I realized I was not interested in computer science (my initial major), and was not a fan of the small college atmosphere at that time. So what did I do? I made a massive change and transferred to a large, public, well-known university in town. This was only the beginning of the numerous changes I made during my undergraduate years.

The transfers between universities during my undergraduate years are not totally clear to me now, but I know that I attended 4 academic institutions over 8 years, all while working 32-40 hours a week (worked a variety of evening, weekend, and day shifts throughout that time). At one point, I was taking classes at the large, public university I mentioned above (I was there, left, and went back later for a stint), and although I was having a great time personally, my grades were reflecting the lack of focus on my studies.

After a quarter or two went by, I received a warning letter from the university stating that my GPA was 1 point something and that, if I did not pick up my grades in the coming quarter, I would be asked to leave the school. I was mortified, and hit hard by that.

It was definitely a wake-up call.

With that letter, I switched to a community college where I was able to maintain a balance between work, classes, studying, and life.

Once my GPA was under control, I identified what I wanted to major in and researched universities where I would be able to complete my bachelor’s degree without jeopardizing my ability to maintain my GPA. There was a local university where I could earn my Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in literary studies. The only caveat was that I would need to take 1-2 courses during the day. Thankfully, when I got to that point in the program, my manager allowed me to take a day course and make up the time by working later.

A little over 2 years, I completed my degree requirements and graduated with a GPA just under 3.5. My GPA continued to climb during my Masters of Business Administration program, and hit the roof when I completed the course requirements for my PhD program (achieved a 4.00 cumulative GPA and graduated with honors)! Without the kick in the butt I felt from that warning letter, I may have continued on the same path I was and not taken notice that I needed to straighten up and get focused.

Have you ever had a kick in the butt moment that caused you to get back on track?

Please share in the comments below.


Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on April 20, 2016

Visual Learning Saved My Dissertation


In 2013, Forbes referenced the Social Science Research Network’s finding that 65% of the population consists of visual learners.1 This is reassuring to me, as both a professor and a visual learner myself. In this post, I’ll share two ways in which the use of visual learning techniques decreased my frustration and increased output.

Pin the Research Article on the Venn Diagram

When I worked on the first chapter of my dissertation, I developed a Venn diagram to reflect my area of focus. This provided insight into the three large bodies of literature, as well as where they intersect.

The visual above was extremely useful to me in developing the foundation for my dissertation research, and served as the springboard necessary to launch me into writing Chapter 2, the literature review. I drew the diagram on large poster board and hung it above my desk. As I went through several articles in my reference library (EndNote) and additional articles in the school’s on-line library resources, I wrote a brief note, author, and year on a small post-it note and put it in the area of the diagram it most closely related, as well in an area on the board based on its relevance (e.g., closer to the intersection, middle, or on the outer rim of the circle).

This exercise made for a much simpler process in developing the framework and fill in the details and support within the literature review.

Post-It® Note Wallpaper

In addition to using the Venn Diagram, I also found the use of extra-large matrices beneficial (see below). After I collected all of the data from my research participants, there were pages and pages of transcriptions. Thinking about next steps – analysis and synthesis, was overwhelming to say the least.

Both my living room and kitchen had one wall each wallpapered with paper (using huge poster size rolls). I then created rows and columns with marker and sheets of paper and labeled them. As I identified a theme, it was written as a column header, whereas the rows were already pre-determined by the stage of the process I was researching. Using different colored regular sized Post-it® notes for each research participant, I went through the transcripts word by word, and noted specific responses. I would adhere the Post-it® to the wall matrix once I completed each transcript.

At the end of that exercise, I was able to see what themes emerged, which of those themes was most significant, what theme appeared in what stage of the process, etc.

From there, it was a much smoother process to begin the framework for the analysis and synthesize of data collected from research participants, and compare and contrast it against the literature I had found through the exercise I mentioned earlier.


Without the use of these visual learning techniques, I believe my frustration level through the dissertation process would have been much higher than it was. If there are concepts that become too difficult to grasp through reading, I encourage you to consider how you can visualize the information in order to develop a better understanding.

How have you benefited from the use of visual learning techniques?

Please share what you did and how it was helpful in the comments below.

Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on April 13, 2105

A Reason to Embrace Feedback


I remember the day I received the first draft of a portion of my dissertation’s first chapter back from my mentor. While I have never considered myself a superb writer, I thought my writing had improved throughout my undergraduate and graduate coursework. I still remember reading through my mentor’s marks and comments and experiencing a heaviness within my chest. She and I had a call to discuss a few days later and I remember hanging up from that call and sobbing. A million thoughts of “I’m not good enough” and “What the #@!% am I doing in this program?” were going through my head during that time.

The last time I had that feeling in an academic setting was during my undergrad from a professor grading my literature review papers. Even more recent was when an attorney in the organization I worked provided feedback on a contract I was helping to negotiate with a client. Across all these scenarios, that heaviness that settled in my chest – what I thought was a hit to my ego – was really a way in which that professor, attorney, and my dissertation mentor were helping me to learn and grow.

There was something about that tough love that stung. What was most beneficial for me though, is that I didn’t let it keep me down. It would have been easy to get frustrated and let anger take hold. What would that have solved though? I would have only hurt myself and regressed versus improving, advancing and possibly doing something amazing.

Throughout the three years that I had the opportunity to work with my dissertation mentor, she made a comment early on that I didn’t realize the meaning of at the time. She told me that she would know I was becoming a scholar practitioner when I started to disagree with her. There was many a time that I accepted her track changes and responded with yes, agree, or understandwhen we talked during that first year. It wasn’t until I was deeper into my research and became even more passionate about the process and my work, that I became the expert in my work and my topic. At that point, I wasn’t afraid to disagree or debate with her because I knew that I knew my stuff.

Don’t take feedback for granted. It is not meant to tear you down, but to challenge you, build you up, and strengthen your abilities. It took me over 300 drafts of my dissertation to prepare it for publication. Being open to the feedback and helped me to learn, grow, and become the successful person I am today.

When have you received difficult feedback, but later realized it was beneficial?


Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on April 5, 2016

“Clear the Clutter, Clear Your Mind”



IMG_1015Do you have a dedicated space for homework or to work from home? Is it functional?


What does your bedroom closet look like right now? How much time does it take you to find something to wear each morning?


Is there a junk room in your house or apartment? Or has every room turned into a junk room?


If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of the questions above, you have room to create some efficiency in your life (pun intended). The phrase “clear the clutter, clear your mind” is so true! I speak from experience!


Let’s start with the bedroom closet. There are 2 humongous walk in closets in my master bedroom. One could have been turned into a small bathroom with a stand up shower, had the original owner added that feature (or us, if we felt the urge and found the money to do so). My husband took the smaller of the closets, the long and narrow one; whereas I took the larger, more square shaped closet. I’ll tell you about my closet space and experience, because his still sits piled high with baskets and boxes of clothing and other stuff. I decided to tackle cleaning up my closet last year, and was able to fill 6 large trash bags with clothes to donate and 1 bag with clothes to trash. I made room to add shelves, a necklace hanger the hubby made for me, and 2 dressers – one small and one large. It is quite nice now, and I can easily find what I need quickly, without much searching around. It’s also much easier to put clothes away after washing, as everything pretty much has its place. So, how did I get it from piled high and not able to step in the doorway anymore to cleaned up and manageable?


The first step I took was to get two large boxes and write ‘Keep’ and ‘Donate’ on separate sheets of paper and tape those to the boxes. I also got a large trash bag and hung it on the door knob for trash. I started at the first pile near the door and began to sort. If I couldn’t decide where something should go, I either put it in ‘Keep’ or put it on the bed so I could decide later. This process took many hours and was broken up into several days. When I was overwhelmed and ready to take a break, I stopped, piled the boxes on top of each other in the corner of the room and took the trash out. One rule of thumb that can be used is, if something hasn’t been worn or used in 6 or 12 months, donate or trash it. This was helpful to me, and other than a few sentimental items, made it easy to sort. While it is a tiring exercise, it is well worth the reward at the end – the ability to use that space and find what you need to keep moving throughout your day! Consider all the other things you could be doing during the 30 minutes it takes you to find the perfect shirt or pair of pants to wear in the morning.


I have tried several times to arrange a work space within my larger spare room that made it inviting to work in and spend time in, especially outside of a work from home kind of day, when I needed to concentrate on writing a blog post or other Beyond the Stone Wall business needs. I used to have two 8 foot tables that met in the corner of the room. This provided me with a significant amount of desk space, but swallowed up much of the room and ended up getting cluttered very quickly. I started throwing extra boxes/buckets/etc. on the floor and piling up papers on one end of the desk. It became extremely uninviting, and I ended up working from home several days during that time at the kitchen table instead of in the dedicated office space I had! I took the same approach to my office space as I had my closet, with the two boxes (keep or donate) and one bag for trash. I decided to take out one of the 8 foot tables, install shelves for my books (and remove the three large bookcases that were crowding in the room, and added a cubed shelving unit (3×4) and a half-sized bookcase unit with doors for my printer.


Although it sounds like I added a LOT, I took out so much! I had to make sure that what I put back into that room wasn’t nearly as much as what I took out (or I’d wind up in the same predicament). With the pieces of furniture, I have now, I was able to hide my ‘keep’ items nicely. Not only did I remove three large bookcases, I narrowed down my book collection to what would fit on three 6 foot shelves. I also went through all of the scrapbook and crafting materials I had, and filled my entire trunk full of items to give to a friend for her two young girls to enjoy. Even recently, I went through two file cabinet drawers (that are in the office closet) and purged about 80% of the paper there. A majority of that was from my undergrad and graduate classes – notes I had and papers I wrote. I kept a few, but realized I would NEVER look at the rest (and had not really looked at them since I graduated with my MBA in 2006)!


The feeling I had when I was able to use that space again was amazing. It is much easier to keep clean, I make an effort to put things back in their place after using them, and trash items that are only temporary or no longer needed. It is a space that I enjoy spending time in, and typically go to when my husband is at work. Instead of watching TV in the living room, I enjoy spending time in the office with windows open, a candle lit, music in the background, and surrounded by an organized area. It has allowed me to focus on what is at hand, instead of holding on to the stress of a pile of paper here, or boxes of junk in the corner, bookshelves gathering dust, etc.


Have you taken the time in the last six months to do a good cleaning of a space in your home or apartment? I’d love to hear the process you used, and how that space makes you feel now!


After pictures of my home office, and how it remains today (including the one at the top of this post)…



desk pic

Meeting Mayhem: How to Control an Out of Hand Attendee List


Just because an individual receives an invitation to a meeting does not mean they must attend. The lines seem to have blurred between the ‘required’ line in a meeting invite and the ‘cc’ or ‘fyi’ line – often times more so for attendees themselves than for the meeting organizers.
Three questions to ponder here:

1. Why is this?

2. How do we fix this?

3. What if we don’t fix it?

There are some individuals that believe their attendance at meetings equals their importance in the organization. Their “visual” presence, whether via in person, on the virtual presentation screen, as a caller in the conference line, etc. reminds people that they exist. They exist and are a part of the organization.

Take a step back and consider how many of the individuals in your last meeting actually spoke.

Problem-Solving Personnel
Not to say that speaking equals importance, rather think about those who really contributed to the core issue being discussed. Those individuals who really knew what they were talking about and had the knowledge needed to solve the problem.

Awesome Administratives
Now, think about which of the individuals in that meeting needed to hear the problem-solving as it was happening – play by play. These may be individuals that fit into the first category, or maybe these are employees in training and learning the process, or those that are facilitating or taking notes for those in the first category (the latter being the administrative roles of meetings).

Results-Driven Radicals
Did the individuals above need to hear the process of solving the issue at hand, or did they instead really only need to know the final decision? Often times, managers, unless there are issues or conflicts during the problem solving process, will be presented with recommendations or decisions made by the team as a result of the meeting — after the meeting has taken place.

Lonely Lingerers
Lastly, there are often lingerers, or individuals that have asked to be invited, barged in, or were not sure if they should decline or not (maybe those people that feel that, if they are invited, they need to go to the meeting). Basically, you don’t know why they are there, and often, they don’t really know either.


Now, take a look at the attendees at a meeting you recently attended where you or others thought maybe it was a bit too jam packed. Go through the attendee list and break out those individuals into the 4 categories above. How many people are eliminated because they fell into one of the last 2 buckets?


If you walked through the above exercise and are in a land of meeting overload, you are probably thinking holy schnikeys!
So, how do we fix this? Here are a few hard and fast tips to help provide clarity in these situations:


  • Think about this — the meeting organizer is the gatekeeper. That person typically determines who is or can be included in the invitation for a particular meeting. That person needs to strongly consider the four types of meeting attendees, and ensure that only problem-solving personnel and amazing administratives are included on the invite list. The meeting organizer may not always be popular as a result of this, but imagine ALL the time and energy it will save those who do not really need to be there in the first place!


  • Do not use ‘cc’ or ‘fyi’ on meetings, as those individuals falling into these categories may feel a need to come anyway (lonely lingerers), or not understand what their role is in the process. Instead, if there are other people that you do not need in the meeting, but want to ensure are informed of meeting results (primarily the results-driven radicals), tell them you will include them in on the meeting notes.


  • If you want to ensure results-driven radicals know a meeting will happen, send them a brief note to let them know beforehand, while also including that “no need to attend the meeting, as meeting notes will be sent afterwards.” If escalations or approvals are needed as a result of discussion within the meeting, that should be assigned to the appropriate individual within the meeting to take away.


  • Are you a results-driven radical or a lonely lingerer that has been invited to a meeting you know you don’t really need to attend? It’s your responsibility to ensure the meeting organizer is aware of your role and your need, if one exists (e.g., if you need meeting notes, in order to see recommendations, impacts, and/or decisioning made). If you are in one of these categories and NOT pushing back, you are only failing your team and wasting your own precious time.


Here is the issue with not fixing this growing problem. First, the problem will continue to swell and the number of meetings needed to attempt to fix a problem will multiply immensely. Second, consider the pure number of man hours being WASTED by not fixing this growing issue. We already waste on average 1 hour of time per day, but that number is significantly understated if we consider the number of meetings people attend on a DAILY basis that do not directly impact them, or that they cannot get the results of afterwards.


It is up to meeting organizers take action when results-driven radicals and lonely lingerers attempt to creep into the invite list. It is also the meeting attendee’s responsibility to ensure they are only attending meetings where they fall into the problem-solving personnel or amazing administratives roles for a specific meeting. If not, get the hell off the meeting invite and use that time wisely!


Action Planning 101

Have you ever developed an action plan?

An action plan can be compared to developing a road map to meet the goals of a person or organization. Individuals or groups use action plans to help further detail the process to implementing their goals.


If an action plan is developed at the on-set of a project or a year, and never looked at again, they are not useful. It is important that an action plan is reviewed and updated on a regular basis after its initial design. Reviewing and making updates serves as a method of accountability, ensuring that the person or people involved in the actions noted within the plan stay on task.


There are many instances when an action plan is beneficial. Here are a few examples:

  • An individual may develop an action plan to break out their fitness goals and align them with specifics tasks, time frames, and methods to stay accountable.
  • A business owner may use an action plan to determine the path to meeting or exceeding forecasted results and/or improved productivity.
  • Managers and their teams in a corporate environment may use action plans to detail next steps as a result of employee feedback in an annual survey.


When developing an action plan, it is important to include the who, what, when, and how for each task.

  • Who represents the person(s) responsible for a specified task. If the action plan is for an individual, the who is likely to be that person, whereas if the action plan is for a team, one or more individuals within the team would be assigned to each task.
  • What is a detailed description of what tasks need completed to reach the goal. Identify several tasks that will need completed in order to reach the larger goals. These can easily be organized with the use of bullet points within your action plan.
  • When represents the time frame in which assigned who will complete thejourney2 action plan item. Time frames should be set realistically, and have a clear start and/or stop date. Using the time frame of ‘ongoing’ is not helpful to implementing the task, as there is no indication when the action will begin or end. If unsure of whether there is a specific end date, include an evaluation date in the place of an end date. This will allow the individual or group to take a look at the task to evaluate its effectiveness at that point, and determine whether to continue or end the specific action.
  • How is the specifics of what will be done to carry out the specified task. Consider whether help is needed from other individuals or teams to complete the task? Will the assigned who need to request access, sign up for membership somewhere, or reach out to a person or organization, to help complete the task?

Considering developing an action plan to take your goals from
words on a paper to actions in real-life?


Free Stuff


FREE Action Plan Template

FREE 12-minute Action Plan instructional video





AMAZING THINGS are happening!

It’s been a month and a half since I’ve written a blog post. More amazingly, so much has happened since October to now! I completed Lewis Howe’s School of Greatness Academy (SOGA 4.0) and discovered my niche. I not only discovered my niche during that time, but my passion took the driver’s seat and went full force into developing the inFOCUS Student Accountability Group that I officially announced this past week. It’s amazing how much you get accomplished when you are in the right space and going the right direction. I’ve had my coaching business, Beyond the Stone Wall, in place since June of 2014, but definitely knew that it would take some time to build a good foundation. I know it’s not completely built, but it has come SO far in just under the 2 years it has been up and running. Finding my niche has been the most challenging part, which I got in the way of, not realizing it was in my own story!

Through the experience of building Beyond the Stone Wall, I am amazed at the increased levels of confidence I have gained in myself. Passion + Confidence = BOOM!

The possibilities are endless and I am pumped up about what the coming months hold! Hope to see and interact with you, whether it’s in the inFOCUS group, in the FaceBook page or group, or during an upcoming event!


Prioritization is Key

People have used to-do lists for many years, whether on a piece of paper or electronically (I am really enjoying the Asana app right now)! While to-do lists are helpful, they can get out of hand quickly. What I mean by this is that the number of items on your list has the ability to grow exponentially. All control goes out the window and anxiety creeps in as your list(s) grow longer by the minute, hour, or day.

Prioritization aligns tasks in an orderly fashion, helping the list maker determine the appropriate order in which each item needs completed. With people holding numerous roles and taking on more depending on the day, prioritization is critical to achieving success. Without it, everything is considered equal, and each item has the potential to be both important and urgent.

To ensure I maintain my sanity, I have had to learn the art of saying “no” to some opportunities that come my way. Setting goals and prioritizing has helped me rid myself of the guilt that used to come with saying no. There have also been times when I have said no to something I would enjoy, because it would not be worth the expense of throwing off my current balance.

prioritizeBelow are a few exercises you might consider to help prioritize all that you have to do.

  • Stoplight Game: The stoplight approach is where you look at all that you are doing and drop those tasks into 3 distinct buckets: (1) what I can stop doing; (2) what can I do less of; and (3) what can I start doing? This is a helpful exercise for individuals and teams. Once you develop your goals, this exercise becomes even more helpful, as you align what you are doing to your goals and begin to see value-add and non value-add tasks appear, making it a bit easier to see what falls into each of the three buckets.


  • ABCs and 123s: In a planner or notebook, write down all of the items that you need to do for the day. Next to them, write A, B, or C based on how high of a priority they are (A is highest priority, B is next highest, etc.). From there, prioritize your A items by adding 1, 2, 3, and then move and apply the same to the B items, etc. Now, you are able to work from A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. to complete your action items. For some individuals, this exercise may be overwhelming, whereas it may be the perfect match for someone that is extremely detail oriented.


  • Top 3: In the morning, write down the top 3 action items you need to accomplish during the day. If nothing else, you need to get those items completed. One consideration is to ensure your items are not HUGE tasks, but reasonable to complete during the day. Keep this list near you throughout the day as a reminder of what your focus should be. A friend of mine uses post-it notes for this approach and puts them on the wall in front of her work station.


What other approaches do you use, or have you used, to help prioritize all that is on your plate?