Rader’s Rules – Great Career Advice


This one goes up to 12! Crank up your career by learning from the ones who went before you.

When I was a graduate student, the Institute had a series of guest lectures intended to enhance and broaden our thinking.  Attendance was mandatory.

I can’t recall all the topics, but they ranged from Creativity to Ethics to building a successful career.  It’s this last that I want to share with you.

Dr. Louis T. Rader held a doctorate in electrical engineering and was retired from General Electric.  Following his retirement from GE, he taught in the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

His dress was conservative and his manner of speech was direct, and he had what military veterans would call command presence.  His no-nonsense demeanor and delivery, however, belied the wit that made his words to us that day so memorable.

He spoke to us for some time about his own experiences as a young manager and then he shared some principles for career success he called “Rader’s Rules.”  Here, to the best of my memory, is what he offered us:

1.  Never run out of money — it’s a quick way to lose confidence.

2.  There can be no compromise between a poor player and a great organization.

3.  Good calculus won’t cover poor math.

4. If you play games with people, people will play games with you.

5. The sum of all expenses must be less than the sum of all revenues.

6.  The man who goes to bed early to save the cost of a candle will wake up the father of twins.

7.  It’s hard to lead a large organization from a subordinate position.

8. As long as you remain in neutral, you can only go where you’re pushed.

This is an incomplete listing, but I offer this as food for thought for you.  If you are in the early years of your career, or are seeking to begin it, there is great wisdom in these eight phrases.  So much wisdom, in fact, I continue to apply these axioms as I continue to navigate my career decades in.

Please note the theme of integrity that runs through these sayings.  Each of us owes it to himself and to his employer to view himself, the company where he works and his circumstances clearly.  As famed stage magician Teller says, “The biggest lie is the one you tell yourself.”

Note also the emphasis on getting the fundamentals down.  Your talent may get you into a meeting, but a weak handshake or a lack of eye contact may sink your chances.  Or to use another example, you may have gotten the order, but is it profitable?

My personal favorite is rule number 6.  Taking shortcuts or falling for the false economy invariably creates unintended consequences that cost more in the long run.

I hope these will stick with you the way they have with me.

So how about you?  What’s the best career advice you’ve received?  Add your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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8 thoughts on “Rader’s Rules – Great Career Advice

  1. Dr. Rader was on the BOD of my first employer his rules…
    Rader’s Rules

    1. Never run out of money or credit.
    2. The sum of all costs should be less than the amount of money received from the customer.
    3. You can’t sell the second if you can’t sell the first.
    4. When the quaterback says go around left end, you go around left end,
    5. It doesn’t matter how good your calculus is if your arithmetic is no good.
    6. Anybody off the street can run a business at a loss.
    7. Statistics are for losers.
    8. If you don’t get the facts, the facts will get you.
    (Dr. Louis T. Rader, UVA, January, 1977)

    • Walter:

      Small world! How fortunate you were to have worked with Dr. Rader instead of having him as a guest lecturer as I did. Clearly, he made quite an impression on me, and his rules — delivered in the form I quoted them around 1987 — have stuck with me.

      Thanks for adding to the canon — and for reading!


      • Funny, i was doing some googling looking for his old rules. I met him when i was a UVA EE Student. I was a ex-military guy going back to college so not the typical student and we hit it off. He even invited me and my wife to go to a private club in Ivy, in which, in his direct way, inquired my wife about her area (Payroll). he imparted some things he knew and now, 20+ years later, she still recounts those basic metrics and now she runs a global payroll of over 250k employees!! His impact will never be able to be measured.

        • Thanks for sharing those memories, Mark! I’d love to hear more of Dr. Rader’s axioms if there are some he neglected to impart to us Textile types.

          No doubt, he was an impressive man — and what a testimony it is that we are still talking about him and the things he taught us.


  2. Geo,
    No, i think that 8 that walker provided was it. I had a sheet of paper for years in my office that had those and i always though it odd he didn’t have 2 more to call it his top 10! I can say, not necessarily that beneficial for us old timers, for the young guy starting out in management, the book he did with Hammaker is very good. “Plain Talk to Young Executives”.

    • I’m in the stage of my life of building up the younger guys. That’s one reason I posted Rader’s Rules.

      Thanks for the link, Mark. I had no idea there was a book. I will keep an eye out for a copy a little lower than the current $2,400 or so on Amazon.


  3. There is an issue with the display..click on it, either hard cover or paperback..you will see you can pick up a copy for about $10..i got one last year, hardcopy. I saw you were down in “Rock Vegas” so was going to offer lending mine (i’m in CLT) but looks like you can get a copy. I think a great read/start for the young manager, although the theme of ethics will probably seem very old school to this generation 🙂