Wouldacouldashoulda: Curry School Teaches ‘No Limits’ Thinking

Margaret BradleyGuest post by
Margaret R. Bradley
(M.Ed. ’73, Ph.D. ‘78 Ed Psych)

I came to the Curry School in the 1970s with a love of learning and hazy goals. I left with a Ph.D. and have had a long and happy career as an organizational psychologist.

Recently, when I published my book, Wouldacouldashoulda: Rapid Results. No Excuses, readers asked what led to writing it. The book is a pocket-sized, practical course on how to leaders can get rid of excuses instantly. I realized that the foundation was provided by the University of Virginia.

My U.Va. experiences taught me not to be deterred by excuses. My advisor, Dr. Jerry Short, was my role model and worked with me to create a degree program that matched my interests and strengths. He helped me overcome all excuses that stood in my way. He provided internships that gave me invaluable skills.

I encountered excuses before I ever arrived in Charlottesville. As a high school student at Granby High School in Norfolk, I aspired to go to U.Va. The University did not accept women. That worked out fine, and I obtained an excellent education at Hollins University. I made up for the time I lost listening to excuses by attending the University as a graduate student for six years. It was worth the wait.

After I was accepted into the M.Ed. program in educational psychology, I quickly discovered that I wanted to apply learning theory, not in schools, but in businesses. My goal was to become an industrial/organizational psychologist. There was just one problem. There was no I/O psychology program at the University.

With Dr. Short’s help, I put together a schedule of courses that would provide the background I needed and would lead to earning a Ph.D. Many of them were at the Darden School. The challenge was to be able to take them. Darden did not have any non-MBA candidates enrolled in their classes. By this time, I was learning how to eliminate excuses. I ended up taking 36 hours at the Darden School and may still be the only non-Darden student who was allowed to participate fully in first year classes. I threw myself so wholeheartedly into the coursework that they included me in their resume book.

Every moment of my program and internships was interesting and exciting. I was looking forward to being an applied psychologist in corporate settings. The next step was to find employment.

A friend arranged for me to have lunch with an organizational psychologist who was a partner in a consulting firm in North Carolina. We met at a men’s club in Norfolk that had a blue line on the floor of the lobby. No women were allowed past the line. At lunch, the psychologist told me that they would never, under any circumstances, hire a woman.

This was not the time to be deterred by his excuses. I accepted a position with a Fortune 50 company in New England. Because of the confidence I gained at the University, I didn’t realize that it was unusual for a 27-year-old, newly minted Ph.D. to be invited to meet the president of the company on her first day. He welcomed me and told me that the program I had been hired to design had been cancelled.

The excuse-proofing I got at the Curry School served me well. I didn’t accept any of my own excuses for not turning this news into an opportunity. I stayed and created many professional development initiatives. After holding leadership positions in another large company, I started my own firm. It was time to do something different. No excuses.

Writing a dissertation provided lots of case studies in excuse management. Even more opportunities to make excuses exist when you have your own business or write a book.

The analytical and communication skills that I acquired at the University taught me to tackle new challenges without making excuses. The faculty taught me to be resilient and excuse-proof. My latest endeavor is launching a firm that specializes in long-term, quick-fixes for work groups that want to excel fast. I’m ready for my next challenge because of the Curry School. No wouldacouldashouldas. No regrets. No excuses.

Thank you, Curry School, for providing incredible opportunities and a great background. Resilience, risk-taking, and excuse-management may not have been in the official course descriptions but they were a part of the school’s very special culture.

Margaret is the principal of The M.R. Bradley Group, Inc. She can be contacted at mbradley@bradleygroupva.com