Dean Chronicles: The Pretty Good Student

May you be challenged to stand out from the crowd as we begin a new school year. A message from Dr. Rick Lytle:

After working with undergraduate business students at two universities for nearly twenty years, I’m very proud of the many who stand out from the crowd.

But I can also tell you that many students desire to be average or common. Most freshmen cower regarding greatness. They begin their collegiate experience attending to generic life. Their visions are shallow, myopic, and focused mainly on personal survival. Their benchmarks are set predominantly by their peers and society at large.

Few students have visions of excellence or distinction when they enter college. That is why I have dedicated my life to “higher education” – which is another way to say, “education from above” that is powered by God’s perspective. I seek to create visions of excellence and produce a brand of education that is eternal. I hope and pray someday all my students see their true potential.

Each year, my first attack against the notion of generic comes at the beginning of the semester. I have my students stand in our first class together and read aloud Charles Osgood’s poem entitled “Pretty Good.” I read the poem aloud. Students repeat the refrain, “pretty good.” Imagine the classroom scene the first day of class as a freshman.

There was once a pretty good student who sat in a pretty good class.
And he had a pretty good teacher who always let pretty good pass.
He wasn’t terrific at reading. He wasn’t a whiz-bang at math.
But for him, education was leading straight down a pretty good path.
He didn’t find school too exciting, though he wanted to do pretty well.
He did have some trouble with writing because nobody had taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems, pretty good was regarded as fine.
Five plus five needn’t always add up to ten. A pretty good answer was nine.
The pretty good class that he sat in was there in a pretty good school.
And this student was not an exception. On the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good school that he went to was there in a pretty good town.
And nobody seemed to notice, he couldn’t tell a verb from a noun.
This pretty good student in fact, was part of a pretty good mob.
And the first time he knew what he lacked, was when he
looked for a pretty good job. It was then, when he sought
a position, he discovered that life could be tough.
And he soon had a sneaking suspicion, pretty good
might not be good enough. The pretty good town in our story
was there in a pretty good state, which had pretty good aspirations,
and prayed for a pretty good fate. There once was a pretty good nation,
proud of the greatness it had, which learned much too late,
if you want to be great, pretty good, is in fact, pretty bad.

All too often, the pretty good student wants opportunities to participate in the best classes, premium internships and high-paying jobs. Unfortunately, on earth and in heaven, pretty good earns few opportunities and rewards. time and again the “good enough” worker wonders why she was released from her job. Too often the “average” business finds itself in decline and financial turmoil. Ordinary church leaders discover, to their surprise, that the body is dying. Run-of-the-mill husbands and wives find their partners solemn and their marriages falling apart. Mediocre parents struggle over the moral and spiritual drift of their children. Please know that lives of distinction never result from ordinary living. Good enough never is!

Once while teaching in the marketplace, Jesus told a great story about true value. An employer gave three workers money according to their abilities. Two workers doubled their money. A third worker buried his money. When the employer asked how they were doing, he was happy that two of his workers doubled his investments. He was furious at the one who had buried the money and returned the same amount. The employer said the third worker could have at least put the money in the bank to draw interest. Then he fired the third worker, calling him a wicked, lazy servant.

Burying your talent is easy. You need no desire to be great, no set of deliberate practices,  and you certainly have no need for a distinctive and compelling set of promises and actions. You won’t stand for anything, and no one will follow.

On the other hand, if you want to do something extraordinary with what you have been given by God, you are moving toward the starting line in the race to build a brand that matters. You can take your talents and multiply them and not only bring your employer but your Creator a great return on the investment in your life.

 Excerpted from Abandon The Ordinary, by Dr. Rick Lytle

Summer Reading Suggestions

Looking for some books to read this summer that are more meat than fluff? Need suggestions for books to add to your Kindle that you got dad for Father’s Day? Check out these three suggestions from Dr. Lytle’s summer reading list:

1.  “Onward” by Howard Schultz – the story of Starbucks comeback.

From Amazon's Kindle store

2.  “Four Seasons” – service quality book about the Four Seasons brand and how service established their success.

From Amazon's Kindle store

3.  “Jesus Calling” – a daily devotional book that all the CEO’s at CEO Forum are using in their spiritual walk.

From Amazon's Kindle store

Let us know if you’ve read any of the above titles and what you thought!

Dean Chronicles: Wrapping up my time in Asia

Hong Kong

A quick note from Dr. Lytle as he prepares to leave Hong Kong and head back to Texas:

Beijing ended well.  Visits with key business professionals from major companies like GE and Vermeer were highly successful.  Also, a visit with a major professor at Beijing University (The Premiere University) and businessman seemed quite profitable in terms of opportunity.  The China Business Conference was well attended and my session was well received.  In fact, I gave out all of my business cards without thinking so I had none for my trips to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Our Singapore visit was most fruitful.  I visited with numerous Christian professionals and spent an entire day touring the city visiting the central business/financial district, local landmarks, and Sanatos Island – an international resort complex recently developed.

Additionally, I taught a half day seminar using material out of my book.  27 Christian business persons were with us all day.  It was extremely encouraging.  Their faith and desire to be who God wants them to be is inspirational.  Several key contacts were made with nationals who have done their education in the states at Harvard, George Washington, and Cornell.  I guess there are at least 4-5 solid opportunities for day-long corporate visits:

1.  Hospitality/Retail – Principal West Paces Hotel Group, Cappella Resort on Sanatos Island (Harvard MBA).

2.  Vice Chairman-Asia of Austria New Zealand Bank.  Had dinner in his home.
3.  CIO Austria New Zealand Bank.
4.  Chancellor – Nanyang Technological University
5.  Chairman and CEO – major environmental company in Singapore and former CEO of major industrial U.S. company.

In Hong Kong we met with a new contact from Walmart who has recently been placed in Hong Kong with his family.  They are from Heber Springs and we discussed a variety of mutual friends from Harding and Walmart.  He has offered office, store, and distribution center visits on the mainland.

Spent a 1/2 day touring the city – visiting the container shipyards at one of the world’s busiest ports.  Also, spent 1/2 day at Hong Kong Baptist University meeting with International personnel exploring opportunities for our students at their university during short summer programs.

Mike Willoughby and I met with Dr. Victor Fung high atop his high rise office building.  He is Harvard educated and runs a multi-billion dollar enterprise including Asian franchises for Toys R Us and 7-11.  He committed to hosting our students for a day within his operations and put us in touch with his Director for the Victor and William Fung Foundation.  He will be a good contact moving forward.

I leave for the airport in a few hours. Overall, it’s been a very successful trip! I’ve been blessed, encouraged and challenged. There are so many incredible opportunities here for our students. With God’s guidance and provision – I look forward to returning in the future with our business students.

Dean Chronicles: Dr. Lytle’s Asian Tour

Dr. Lytle checks in with us from his travels in Asia:

Since May 15 I have been on an Asian tour, meeting Christian business professionals in their home countries. May 15-18 was spent in Beijing, China where I had the opportunity to have dinner with several Christian business people serving in China with major U.S. companies. I was also asked to speak at a conference of around 200 Asian business professionals. My topic was Service Matters: Building Brand Advantage through Service Excellence. Today (May 19), we landed in Singapore. We will be holding a variety of meetings with Christian business professionals here as well. On Saturday, I will speak to the CEO Forum-Asia group on my book, Abandoning the Ordinary. Sunday we leave for Hong Kong to do more of the same. Additionally, I am exploring and crafting opportunities for our business and technology students to study abroad during their time in our programs at ACU. One of the great privileges of this trip is the opportunity to be mentored by Mr. Dick Schulz, former Iowa Basketball coach, former Cornell Athletic Director, former president of the NCAA, and former Secretary General for the U.S. Olympic Committee. He is a man of faith who has had an extraordinary life of service to God and man and family. Asia is an amazing part of the world – certainly the focus of the most dynamic and significant global development over the next 30 years.

God bless,


Dr. Lytle at a speaking engagement in Beijing

Dean Chronicles: Arizona State’s Services Leadership Institute

Dr. Rick Lytle received his PhD in Marketing from Arizona State. He’s been invited back this month to attend their 25th annual Services Leadership Institute, which is focusing on “Do you know what your customers truly want from you?”. Leading academicians and many CEOs from Fortune 500 companies are gathering for three days in the desert where they will address the following questions and challenges:

  • Do you know what your customers truly want from you?
  • How do they need to receive your service offerings in the way that works best for them?
  • What is the price the are willing to pay?
  • What is the service experience they are expecting?

We checked in with Dr. Lytle while in Tempe to hear how things are going. Here’s what he said:

It is my first time back in 20 years.  My professors extended me an opportunity to come and participate in the Institute this Spring where I used to do research as a doctoral student years ago.  Today, ASU’s Center for Services Leadership is the premier center in the world for the study of Services Marketing.  It is an honor to be back.

My focus areas were services marketing and strategy.  I am seeking to stay current in my academic discipline though serving as dean.  My purpose in coming is threefold 1) stay current in the discipline to further my teaching and research, 2)preparing to teach a services marketing class in our curriculum, and 3) I am beginning to work on a second book based on my dissertation research in this field.

I am gathered with about 40 managers from organizations like GE, Siemens, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mayo Clinic, Abbott Labs, and CVS Caremark. Our first session today was led by Dr. Roger Hallowell former Harvard Professor and Services Marketing expert.  One take away, don’t pay people excess money, pay them excess attention if you want to create a culture of service excellence and performance.