Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Failure to Launch

Written by: on January 26, 2023

I was not looking forward to preparing for this week’s blog. I didn’t know why but I suspect it was because I elected not to purchase the book but to download it. I knew that it probably was not a good decision because I have never been a fan of e-books, I am old school. I like to touch and feel my material…I love actual books, especially hard bound books. I still go the library and check out books. There is something about the smell of a library book that brings back fond childhood memories. I went to the library every Wednesday after school as a child, I would catch the bus from in front of the small Catholic School that me and my siblings (and everyone that we knew) attended to the front door of the Main Library in Downtown Nashville. For two wonderful hours I would explore every inch of the building and at 5:10 my Daddy would walk through the door, grab my hand and carry my books to the car. The staff knew me and Daddy by name and they knew my reading preferences. They were so familiar with us that they would call my Daddy when I arrived to let him know that I had arrived safely. We have raised our children to be avid readers. I have passed my love and appreciation to libraries and books to my children. They are 30, 14, and 12 and if given the choice they will choose the library over Barnes & Noble any day of the week. It is one of our happy places.
I knew that I had no choice but to work past my dislike of e-books and get started and find out what exactly is a threshold concept and why are we reading about it. So, with my newly found inspectional reading skills I looked for the answer, there it was on the first few pages. “A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress.”(1) I felt a shift reading this. I have not only been struggling with the reading for this week’s blog, but I have honestly been struggling with how my NPO has changed since my Discovery Workshop. I have not really made peace with what I now understand my actual stakeholder group is and what I originally thought it was. I have felt a bit stalled. I needed (need) “an opening up to a previously inaccessible way of thinking about” my NPO. I need a greater investment of time, energy, excitement and commitment to my topic. School has always been easy for me, this new feeling of not having a grasp on things is totally unfamiliar territory for me and I don’t like it. As I continued reading, I discovered that a threshold concept has some distinct characteristics, it is to be: Transformative, Probably Irreversible, Integrative, Often Bounded, and Potentially Troublesome. BOOM! That was my AHA moment! This work is not supposed to be comfortable, easy. There is no opportunity to learn, explore, discover in what is familiar and comfortable. I needed to have a true “Metacognitive Experience (ME) the interface between the person and the task.”(2) This interface, full immersion is the only way that I can master my research, and for me the goal is mastery.
To achieve a greater level of engagement, I know that I must make some hard decisions. There are some things that I have to let go, at least for now. I have been hesitant to make these decisions because they are activities and commitments that bring me joy. This hesitancy has negatively impacted my ability to be fully engaged, to fully launch. Efklides explains the difference between being fully engaged and moderately engaged. “Specifically, our research has shown that the more students get engaged in a knowledge domain, the more aware they become of their capability to deal with the concepts and procedures specific to that domain. They also become aware of the features and processing demands of the tasks that presuppose these concepts. Thus, they make informed decisions how to regulate their learning to advance their skills or quit learning efforts. Students who continue to work are the ‘ideal’ students. These students realize the importance of threshold concepts and invest effort on them based on intrinsic feedback and intrinsic motivation from their ME. ‘Ideal students’ are, however, the very minority.”(3)
She further explains where many students are. “The majority of students will follow different routes. One route is followed by students who, despite their competence in a knowledge domain, underestimate their capability, overestimate the difficulty experienced and effort invested, lack confidence and, finally, gain no satisfaction from engagement with task in that domain. These students will not work on threshold concepts, or they will only do it if they have to. Yet, they will not capitalize on their work.”(4)
For me, it goes back to the motivation, wonderment, excitement, and exploration that I had in my early days of learning. To merely stay on the surface was not an option for me then. I had to get to the core of the concept, master the task. I had to be the “ideal” student/learner. This desire is still present for me. Although, I have a healthy understanding of my limitations, I still strive to be better each day. I am pleased to discover that my discomfort with my NPO and my stakeholder group is common and also characteristic of the need for a Metacognitive Experience. I am pruning away the areas that are limiting my ability to fully engage, fully launch. Keep me in Prayer and I’ll keep you posted.

1. Jan Meyer and Ray Land, Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge London: Routledge, 2012, 3.
2. IBID. 51
3. IBID.64-65
4. IBID.65

About the Author


Jonita Fair-Payton

11 responses to “Failure to Launch”

  1. Scott Dickie says:

    Hi Jonita,

    Thanks for your honest reflections. If I understand you correctly, I think I may be wrestling with a similar ‘dance’ at this stage of the doctoral process: enough ‘skin in the game’ to not get behind…but probably not immersed enough to have this expensive and time-consuming journey get me through a ‘threshold’ and be truly transformative. As I read your post, I recognized two contrasting desires within me related to this journey: I’d like it to be easy….and I’d like it to be transformative. I don’t need to read a thick academic book to realize I can have one or the other of those desires….but not both simultaneously. So…I’ve got some further figuring, calendaring, prioritizing, and peace-making to do in this journey to get to where I truly want to arrive (hint: the transformation part!). Thanks for causing me to ponder more deeply.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      YES…I fully expected it to be easy and life-altering. I am quickly realizing that this is going to challenge me and if I want to be successful, I will have to make some significant sacrifices. I’m still trying to make peace with what I am going to have to say “no” to because honestly it will be activities that I really enjoy. I am pondering with you!

  2. Esther Edwards says:

    Thanks for articulating so much of what I am feeling (and by the way, I noticed you gave yourself the category of “drama”:)) Blackie, Case, and Jawitz state in our reading that “Knowledge may be emotionally neutral…However, the manner in which an individual interacts with knowledge is emotionally charged.” (p. 5) I desire, my work to be legitimately doctoral level, but also desire it to resonate deep within me emotionally as I formulate and research. How can one keep that emotion alive and well and still afloat amidst all the learning curves, inner dialogue, upcoming deadlines, and life as it occurs? I know God is faithful and is with us…journeying with you.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      LOL! I was wondering if anyone would notice how I categorized my post. I love your statement, “I desire, my work to be legitimately doctoral level, but also desire it to resonate deep within me emotionally as I formulate and research.” I have that same desire but I’m also struggling with not wanting to change any of the existing activities in my life. I know deep down that it will be necessary to give some things up or hit pause on them if I want to succeed in this program. I have to reach a balance. I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this journey.

  3. Kally Elliott says:

    I deeply feel your struggle with not wanting to change any of the existing activities in your life for this doctoral work! Dang it! Instead of editing my activities I am adding more and more! Some of that is because with inflation I need to make more money so I am starting to do personal training on the side for some extra cash. Along with that comes continuing education for personal training…which is many hours in front of the computer. Add to that full time pastoral work and being a mom to four kids, I’m kind of struggling, living on the edge of panic…can I really do this!?!

    So thank you for the reminder, “This work is not supposed to be comfortable, easy. There is no opportunity to learn, explore, discover in what is familiar and comfortable. I needed to have a true “Metacognitive Experience (ME) the interface between the person and the task.”(2) This interface, full immersion is the only way that I can master my research, and for me the goal is mastery.”

    I don’t know that for me, the goal is mastery, but it is to create an important ministry that will hopefully touch the lives of many. And my goal is also to leave this program changed in many ways – seeing the world in a new way, crossing the threshold of many concepts, and with a new identity, one that is assured, “Yep. I can do this.”

  4. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    I seek to bring awareness to an issue that is so prevalent but not talked about. I believe that because there is not a lot of research on the topic that it is easily dismissed as not valid or “not a thing”! This is where the mastery comes in. We share the desire to have a great and lasting impact and touch lives. It won’t be without obstacles, but we can do this!
    (I’d love to talk to you about my NPO)

  5. mm Russell Chun says:

    There is a joy in the journey. There is even more joy when you share that journey. In our last conversation you described this AHA experience. It really is a THING. When the light bulb comes on. Sometimes it is after avid (and frustrating research). Sometimes it is in that Default Mode (shall we call it resting?). Sometimes it is an external force banging you about the head and shoulders. Thanks for sharing…Shalom Russ

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      Our Friday Peer Prayer Time is so special to me. Thank you for having the wisdom to know that it was necessary. I look forward being able to freely share our concerns, openly talk through our challenges and be in close community with one another. It is a gift.

  6. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    I too can resonate with the challenge of balance in all this work. On one hand we are reminded that this is doctoral level work and therefore will stretch us intellectually and investment of time. There was one thing I really grabbed onto in Cape Town, both with what Jason said but also with our tour of Desmond Tutu foundation and that was JOY! When I’m feeling overwhelmed (or the urge to procrastinate) I try real hard to be in the moment and think about JOY, do I have it in my life? Do I have another moment to after this one to feel Joy if I’m not feeling it now? Being intentional with finding Joy has been my way through all this. (Sometimes it’s rewarding myself for sitting down and doing the work). Jonita, what brings you Joy? What about your NPO motivates you? Did you have some of those threshold learnings that helped you to pursue this doctorate?

  7. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    Jana…really good questions! I am finding joy in this season in so many areas. I have been intentional, since March, to re-discovering my ‘joy center’. It has been a refreshing journey.

  8. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    I feel what you feel, Jonita. A printed book with notes here and there and colorful lines filling the pages is a method that still works for me. I loved the ritual and am still struggling with this e-book ritual. However, time constraints forced me to become acquainted and comfortable with the e-book. E-books are also compatible to be carried anywhere and readable at any time. However, I like your spirit. I think it is needed as well as discipline to pass the threshold and walk through the portal.

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