Dr. Robert Ballard
© Matt Walker

Dr. Robert Ballard remembers the first time he talked to his mother after finding the Titanic. The conversation didn’t quite go the way you would imagine a mother talking to her son who just discovered a historic artifact.

“I had been on the Today show, the tomorrow show, the day after tomorrow show, every damn show you can image. I had been all over television. The phone rings and it’s my mom and she says, ‘Too bad you found that rusty old ship.’”

Ballard’s mom lacked the expected enthusiasm, but the statement was actually praise for her son. Ballard had many achievements before finding the ship that sank on April 15, 1912, and Ballard’s mom was afraid that was all he’d be known for accomplishing.

“I know my obituary is going to say ‘the guy who found the Titanic died today,’” he says.

Learning from a leader.

Ballard will serve as the dealer and landscape contractor keynote speaker on Wednesday, Oct. 17. But what can a landscaper learn from someone who makes their living by making underwater discoveries? Aside from the interesting details of his approach to all of his discoveries, including the Titanic, he can relate to a green industry business owner because he had to be a leader to achieve success. He also had a few missteps along the way to his discoveries. He'll share his practical approach to goal-setting, team-building and execution.

“Failure is the greatest teacher you'll ever meet,” he says. “You can't avoid failure. You won't learn anything, so you just have to recover from it. You have to have the passion. It’s important to be smart. It’s more important to have a passion to get you up when you get knocked down.”

It’s that positive attitude that has been a key part of Ballard’s success as a leader.

“People want to be around optimists,” Ballard says. “When you're an optimist, people will bet on your horse. They'll say, ‘well, he seems pretty confident.’ I think it's attitude. It just becomes part of your DNA.”

Ballard has come to terms that he’ll forever be known as the guy who found the Titanic, and even has a good sense of humor about it. On his current expedition, there is a list of people to call when certain items are found during a dive. Ballard jokes there is one item where he is the only person to call.

“A UFO. Because if I find a UFO, I will never have to talk about the Titanic ever, ever again,” he says with a laugh.