On this page, I will post information I feel is valuable to my students.  It is material that, looking back, I would have profited from had I received it as an undergraduate.


I received the following e-mail from a student after I had posted mid-term grades.  This student had turned in almost no weekly reports on time.

Mr. Ballard,

I was wondering if there was anything I could do to get any of the points back on my late labs. I know my bad grades are my own fault for turning the reports in late and I should have come to you earlier about extensions on them or something like that, but I really need to pass this lab class with a C and I'm willing to do just about anything it takes to do so. I also did not do as well on my first formal report as I expected. Would it be possible for me to resubmit the first formal report for more points? If there is anything that I can do to get a better grade than I have now please let me know.

Thank you very much for your time,

The following is my response.

Dear Student:


The most valuable lessons you will learn in college will not come out of books. If I grant your request, the lesson you can learn is that whining is a substitute for planning and setting priorities. The professional world will not tolerate whining, let alone reward it. I would be doing you a disservice by rewarding behavior at UD that will be punished in the professional world. I will not enable you to learn lessons that will serve you ill in your career.

This is college, not high school. If you think this is harsh, just try whining as a substitute for planning and setting priorities in the professional world and see where it gets you. HINT: If you try it, have your resume updated.


Dear Graduate…  (June 19, 2006 Business Week column by Jack and Suzy Welch—reproduced by permission.) 

As an ambitious 22-year-old readying to enter the corporate world, how can I quickly distinguish myself as a winner?  -Dain Zaitz, Corvalis, Ore. 

First of all, forget some of the most basic habits you learned in school.  Once you are in the real world—and it doesn’t make any difference if you are 22 or 62, starting your first job or your fifth—the way to look great and get ahead is to overdeliver.  For years you’ve been taught the virtue of meeting specific expectations.  And you’ve been trained to believe that an A-plus performance means fully answering every question the teacher asks.  Those days are over.

            To get an A-plus in business, you have to expand the organization’s expectations of you and then exceed them, and you have to fully answer every question the “teachers” ask, plus a slew they didn’t think of.

            Your goal, in other words, should be to make your bosses smarter, your team more effective, and the whole company more competitive because of your energy, creativity, and insights.  And you thought school was hard!

            Don’t panic.  Just get in there and start thinking big.  If your boss asks you for a report on the outlook for one of your company’s products for the next year, you can be sure she already has a solid sense of the answer.  So go beyond being the grunt assigned to confirm her hunch.  Do the extra legwork and data-crunching to give her something that really expands her thinking—an analysis, for instance, of how the entire industry might play out over the next three years.  What new companies and products might emerge?  What technologies could change the game?  Could someone, perhaps your own company, move production to China?

            In other words, give your boss shock and awe—something compelling that she can report to her bosses.  In time, those kinds of ideas will move the company forward, and move you upward.

            But be careful.  People who strive to overdeliver can swiftly self-destruct if their exciting suggestions are seen by others as unfettered braggadocio, not-so-subtle ladder scaling, or both.  That’s right.  Personal ambition can backfire.

            Now, we’re not saying curb your enthusiasm.  But the minute you wear career lust on your sleeve, you run the risk of alienating people, in particular your peers.  They will soon come to doubt the motives of your hard work.  They will see any comments you make about, say, how the team could operate better, as political jockeying.  And they will eventually peg you as an unrestrained striver, and, in the long run, that’s a label that all the A-plus performing in the world can’t overcome.  So by means, overdeliver—but keep your desire to distinguish yourself as a winner to yourself.  You’ll become one faster.


I have had many conversations with a manager at a local Hardee's who came up with the most succinct advice for professional success I have yet heard:  "Own the job."