Tune Out the Dissuaders It’s your career, so trust your instincts about the way forward. Don’t get deterred by those who don’t get it. From the President
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From the President  |   October 01, 2018
Tune Out the Dissuaders
Author Notes
  • Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former vice president for student affairs at Trident College and developer of the interdisciplinary graduate communication sciences and disorders program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also past chair of ASHA’s Committee on Honors and past coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, among other ASHA posts. elisedavismcfarland@gmail.com
    Elise Davis-McFarland, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former vice president for student affairs at Trident College and developer of the interdisciplinary graduate communication sciences and disorders program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also past chair of ASHA’s Committee on Honors and past coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 14, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, among other ASHA posts. elisedavismcfarland@gmail.com×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / From the President
From the President   |   October 01, 2018
Tune Out the Dissuaders
The ASHA Leader, October 2018, Vol. 23, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.23102018.6
The ASHA Leader, October 2018, Vol. 23, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.23102018.6
“Life purpose is the reason for your existence. It’s why you are here on this Earth.”
—Myrko Thum
My mother used to ask me, “What is your purpose?” What she meant depended on the situation. She could be asking, “What do you mean?” (She valued communication and always wanted me to consider what I wanted to say before speaking.) But her question could also mean, “What are you doing?” or “What are you going to do?” Sometimes it was obvious she expected an answer. Other times I understood she was encouraging me to think carefully about what I was doing, what I had said, or my plans for the future.
So when I announced I’d selected the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) for my undergraduate studies—instead of attending a smaller college just blocks from our house—she naturally asked why. Part of it was not wanting to stay home, but there was a much bigger reason. I knew UNCG had a strong speech-language pathology program, and I wanted to become a speech-language pathologist.
I wanted to help people, especially children, embrace communication as I’d been taught to. I’d been a member of my high school debate team. I loved words, and I knew that facts clearly presented could influence people. In the church I grew up in, congregants would sometimes shout, “Say it plain,” in response to the minister’s preaching—to urge him to continue. I wanted to help children “say it plain” so they, too, would be understood and encouraged in their communication.
This was my purpose, and I wanted to fulfill it.

People who don’t support you consume your time but provide nothing to help you realize your dream.

A purpose pothole
What I hadn’t anticipated was that I might get derailed. Throughout my undergraduate years, I enjoyed my audiology and speech-language pathology courses and had inspiring, encouraging instructors. Excited about my future as an SLP, I prepared to apply to graduate school. But when I asked one of my instructors for a recommendation, she discouraged me from applying. (At the time, I was too intimidated to ask her why. She later told me that because my grade-point average wasn’t in the high 3’s, she doubted I could handle it academically.)
I was devastated. Had I chosen the wrong future for myself? Perhaps I wasn’t good enough to be an SLP. Maybe I wouldn’t do well in graduate school. I told my mother what my instructor said and shared my concerns. As always, she asked, “What is your purpose?” I told her it was the same as ever. I wanted to be an SLP.
Well then, she advised me, go on to graduate school. If I didn’t do well, maybe it would mean my instructor was correct, and I wasn’t ready for the challenges of graduate school, or perhaps even for the profession. But if I did well, I would prove the opposite to be true. There it was, plain and simple. If I was convinced of my purpose, I should go for it—a line of thinking also espoused by Roy Spence, founder of The Purpose Institute, who at next month’s ASHA Convention will deliver a keynote speech on staying true to our career calling.
Having heard my calling, I moved ahead with plans to attend graduate school. And I performed well there—earning a 3.8 GPA—and went on in a profession that led me beyond my work as a school SLP, to becoming a faculty member, researcher and administrator, and into rewarding leadership positions.
Pursue your passion
This is what I learned: Do not be persuaded from your path based on others’ opinions. In pursuing your passion, listen to those who support and believe in you. I gave my instructor power and influence without realizing she didn’t really understand me, my potential or even why I wanted to be an SLP. She almost took my dream.
In addition to my purpose as an SLP, I have a purpose as a wife, mother, grandmother, family member, citizen, friend, traveler and woman of faith, among others. Periodically, I stop to assess myself in each of those roles. Am I being true to who I should be in each of them? Am I devoting the time and attention to each of these areas? Is there more I could do?
Your purpose should be your passion. It is yours to keep, nurture and fulfill. Pursuing it focuses you in a way that allows you to have your best life. Surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you. People who don’t do that consume your time but provide nothing to help you realize your dream. Be deliberate and persistent about your pursuit. Be clear about your priorities and be willing to put aside less important things.
Don’t let anyone dissuade you from your calling. It is yours, and you must pursue it if you are to become the person you are destined to be.
Editor’s note: New communication sciences and disorders career guidance is now available through ASHA’s Career Portal, at careers.asha.org.
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October 2018
Volume 23, Issue 10