Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Quality Is Our Recipe": Wendy's and Dave Thomas

Growing up with several fast-food/restaurant choices, my family and I often turned to the most frequented or popular, including McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Culver's, and (I'll defend this one) Hardee's. Until recent months (and with the possible exception of Culver's), I've never really taken into account the amount of "quality" put into a popular chain until I read a great deal about Wendy's.

Founded by Dave Thomas in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969, Thomas had a passion for food and for people. It was his dream to own "the greatest restaurant in the world," and to share that dream with everyone. That sounds cliche enough, and yet his goal was to "make hamburgers people love by doing things the right way" (my emphasis).

Wendy's founder Dave Thomas, pictured with his 1994 book,
"Well Done: The Common Guy's Guide to Everyday Success"
One of my favorite things about going to this restaurant (which I occasionally visit with coworkers) is looking around inside at the framed pictures that show their many fresh ingredients, all of which showcase their slogan, "Quality is our recipe." For instance, their square patties (remember the ads from the 1970's that asked, "Where's the beef?") consist of "100% North American beef, raised on ranches close to our restaurants so it's always fresh, never frozen." Their salads, meanwhile, are "crisp and fresh," and their fries are "natural-cut." Some of their suppliers include Coca-Cola, Talley's fries, and Woodland eggs (from New Zealand), and other food/menu items include chili and Frosty ice cream.

Thomas also revolutionized salad bars in restaurants, as well as "quick service" pick-up windows with separate grills. And from 1989 up until his death in 2002, Thomas appeared as the official spokesperson in more than 800 Wendy's commercials for what became one of the most successful ad campaigns in the food service industry.

I gave a speech a few months back about Thomas's mission statement regarding customers, service, and standards, and one of the notes I had made was how he was influenced by his grandmother as a child while she would cook in the kitchen. He would help and learn from her, including her philosophy on "never to cut corners on quality." Said Thomas, "When I started Wendy's in 1969, 'Quality is Our Recipe' was our motto. Our focus on quality hasn't changed, and it never will. Wendy's offers customers the highest quality food, and freshest ingredients, made-to-order sandwiches, and fast, courteous service." He continues, "When you like a restaurant's food and are treated well, you'll go back again. We have to earn our customers' loyalty every day, and exceed their expectations on every visit. That's our mission and our focus and, in my opinion, that's what generates loyal customers."

Wendy's today
And it's this emphasis on quality that makes Wendy's food, atmosphere, and customer service worthwhile, as well as a recipe that keeps this writer coming back as often as he can. After all, they don't call it a "value" menu for nothing.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Employees and Entrepreneuers

According to the Bealstone, Inc. Leadership Notebook (a resource I received at my job a few months ago), there are various definitions and pointers that define and differentiate an "employee" from an "entrepreneur". (The following are paraphrased versions of said definitions and pointers.)

- Employees do things only because someone tells them to. Entrepreneurs just get the job done on their own accord.

- Employees take a paycheck at week's end. Entrepreneurs create their own paycheck.

- Employees only look for as big of an opportunity or role as they can get, and are only satisfied with just enough (or, as much as they can do) to get by. Entrepreneurs exceed what they think they can do, and are committed to it.

- Employees tend to focus on the problems in certain or various circumstances. Entrepreneurs always find a way to solve the problem. On that same note, employees tend to let circumstances define them, as well as react to them and blame them. Entrepreneurs define their circumstances and take control of them.

- Employees only work hard to impress their employers. Entrepreneurs work hard to impress (and top) themselves.

- Employees don't generally like getting out of their comfort zone. Entrepreneurs thrive on being outside their comfort zone.

I asked myself a few weeks ago, Is what I'm doing the behavior of an entrepreneur or the behavior of an employee? And can there be someone in between, or just one or the other? After hearing one of my mentor's speech the other day on what it means to have a winning mentality, it comes down to the following:

1. Don't compete with anybody but yourself. Go above and beyond what you've done. (For example, I hit a "personal best" at my job a few weeks ago, and made it a goal to exceed that "stepping stone". It's still in the works, but progress nonetheless.)

2. Keep your mental blinders on. Call your shots, and hold yourself accountable. (The same applies for others holding you accountable.) Make a list or schedule what you need to do and what's important for you to do now (e.g., books you're reading, meetings you're setting up, training coming up, etc.) and what's not important but secondary (e.g., movie nights, binge-watching Netflix, surfing your phone, etc.).

3. Along with the second point above, don't be afraid to talk the big picture of where you see yourself in one year, two years, five years, and so forth. For some, that means paying off their student loans from college. For others, it means reaching Management in six to twelve months. And for others, it means buying a house or a new car.

4. Lead from the front. Set the example your colleagues and/or leaders need to see in order to be successful. Work ethic and student mentality are two of the most important qualities and skills you can gain and grow in.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Reel, Write, and ReadE: The Philosophy of B.e. Kerian


Reel (real) 
A reel refers to film placed on a projector or cylinder when viewing a movie. It can also refer to the photography involved. 

To be real is to be honest and accurate, and can refer to reality. 

Both involve expressions of storytelling and creativity, as well as discussion and discernment.

Write (right) 
To write is to express one's self through the written word, whether through pencil, pen, Microsoft Word, or journals. 

To be right is to be honest and accurate. 

Both involve, again, expressions of storytelling and accuracy, as well as creativity. 

ReadE (ready) 
To read is to educate one's self, and not just on one topic or category. It also helps one develop skills in history, education, accuracy and speech, to name a few. This can lead to potential in what one is capable of.

To be ready is to plan ahead, to be prepared. 

Both lead to progression, professionalism, maturity, and should involve honesty instead of going through the motions.


A few years ago, I came up with an interesting term that describes truth expressed through forms of fiction (e.g., art, literacy, music, poetry, film). The fiction refers to unreal places, characters, situations, and/or actions, and yet there's an expression or illustration of real-life truths that are universal, important, thought-provoking, challenging, and/or inspiring. In other words, even though the characters and situations and so forth are made up in various cases, the contextual elements and themes reveal deeply human truths and realities that transcend art. Whether it's through the written word, a celluloid, a photograph or an instrumental piece, TRUTH MATTERS. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Endurance of Peanuts Holidays

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since the television special, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," aired on television (almost one year after the equally-popular Christmas special). Along with the "Thanksgiving" special (released in 1973), these cartoons have become holiday staples in recent years, churning out the warmth and wit that cartoonist/creator Charles Schultz embedded into his beloved comic strips. Here are a few reasons why these specials still hold up, for kids and adults alike. 

1. Their simplicity. Schultz had a specific style and design of his characters that some would argue looked imperfect, yet still appealing. The quality of the character designs and even the world in which they occupied didn't call for magic kingdoms, fantasy worlds, or slapstick romps like Disney or Warner Brothers at the time. It was always about the characters and the(ir) stories.

2. The characters. Speaking of which, every character was (and still is) very distinct and relatable. To name a few, the titular Charlie Brown is the ambitious kid who always feels like a failure yet never gives up; Linus is philosopher and counselor to his best friend; Lucy is the bossy girl that every kid has seen in school; Peppermint Patty is the quintessential tomboy; and Snoopy is far from any "normal" dog, yet the kind of dog most (if not all) people wish they had.  

3. Their wit and writing, as well as their historical significance. Charlie Brown and company may be kids, but they speak and mingle as contemporary philosophers on day-to-day activities, hardships, and other universal circumstances, periods in history (who could forget Snoopy's WWI "Flying Ace"?) and, yes, holidays. Linus, for instance, mentions "three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin." And it's all done with an often dry, yet very clever, funny and sincere, sense of humor. 

4. Their reverence for their respective holidays. On that same note, each special both satirizes and pays homage to its respective holiday, reminding viewers of the old-fashioned--and less consumer--approach when celebrating. Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin stands as an alternative to those who don't prefer going trick-or-treating, yet shows other characters who do (including Charlie Brown, who always ends up with rocks). Snoopy makes an unconventional Thanksgiving dinner yet shows a deserved definition of being thankful, even without the turkey and pumpkin pie. And, lest we forget, the true meaning of Christmas is illustrated in the unforgettable moment where Linus recites the Christmas story from the book of Luke onstage. Though Schulz's production colleagues tried to talk him out of including that scene in the special, Schultz was famous for saying, "If we don't do it, who will?"

5. Vince Guaraldi's music. The late jazz musician/composer's scores are practically synonymous with the world of Peanuts, from "Linus and Lucy" to "Christmastime is Here" to his score for the feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969), Guaraldi will also be remembered for bringing jazz music to the public's eye, and in the most unexpected way. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Dear Journal": Doug, Pop Culture and the Movies

WRITER'S NOTE: This post should belong in my movie blog "Film FreeQ," due to its various pop culture and film references. But for the sake of the anthology I've written on this series on this particular blog ("Write Here, Write Now"), I'm including it here.

Pop Culture References and Parodies
Looking back, Doug did a brilliant job of illustrating the thrills and pains of growing up as kids. In terms of the former, it does an equally fun job of referencing (sometimes subtly) various celebrities, films, and trends of the early Nineties and prior. From superheroes to action heroes to video games to music artists, viewers and fans who grew up in the early Nineties will easily recognize these nods. Here's a look back at some of them.

Superheroes, Action Heroes, and Video Games 
Although Doug Funnie does create his own imaginative alter egos, such as the Zorro/Errol Flynn-type Jack Bandit and the private eye Chameleon, several others are clearly nods to other iconic characters. Quailman, comic-book hero Man O Steel Man, and even Skeeter Valentine's creation Silver Skeeter, are parodies and homages to Superman ("the Man of Steel") and the Silver Surfer, respectfully. Secret Agent Smash Adams is an obvious nod to James Bond, while adventurer-explorer Race Canyon is an obvious nod to Indiana Jones. 

Smash Adams, Quailman, and Race Canyon
Quailman and Silver Skeeter
Super Pretendo Game System
The "Space Munks" adventure game, along with the game system Super Pretendo (a nod to Super Nintendo), illustrates popular games and consoles at the time, while mini-mall arcades include games involving dino racing and "Bagging the Neemotoad”. 

Restaurants, Stores, Malls, Products
Some of these other mini-mall stores include shoes based off of Air Jordans, instead titled "Sky Davis Air Jets," which, while cool-looking, prove to big for Doug to walk around in (Season 1). Even fast food mascots take a goofy turn in the form of the Honker Burger chain's own "Hamburger Boy" (Season 3).

Sky Davis Air Jets
The Hamburger Boy

Music Rocks! 
Doug and Skeeter's favorite band, from the beginning, is clearly The Beets, who are obviously a nod the Beatles, as well as to mock-rock band Spinal Tap from the popular 1984 film. The two friends even create their own garage band (Season 3), with a daydream segment that features Doug and Skeeter dressed as rock stars from the Seventies and Eighties, possibly a combination of Blue Oyster Cult, Steve Miller Band, and Guns 'N Roses. Even Michael Jackson's famous "Black and White" music video from 1991, as well as the oversized suits worn by the band the Talking Heads, gets parodied in the same episode, when Doug daydreams the concept of “Thinking Big."

The Beets
Rock star daydreams
"Think Big"

T.V. shows and stars 
T.V. shows appear in the form of soap operas, such as in the "Kite" episode in Season 3 (along with different translations), and in Season 4 for the "90210"-style teen series "Teenheart Street," featuring a Luke Perry-type lead. There are also crime or courtroom dramas (“Bluffington’s Most Troublesome” from Season 3, "Top Prison Guards" from Season 4) in the style of "The People's Court," as well as infomercials a la QVC, to name a few. 

Bluffington's version of "90210"
Possible parody of "The People's Court"
Doug showcases an "astounding product"

References to real-life famous people, songs, places, etc. 
What's even more interesting than these subtle or obvious references are the rare few that are made to real life figures, songs, or places. For instance, Doug's sister, Judy, mentions and quotes Shakespeare almost religiously. And on two separate occasions, she sings "Beautiful Dreamer" when Doug daydreams that Judy will drive him and Patty to a bumper-car park (Season 3), and even sings part of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture during protests against "fascism" regarding Doug's "magic meat" cartoon (Season 3). Doug creates a sculpture titled, "Dog Crossing the Deleware" (Season 4). And when a famous Hollywood producer arrives in Bluffington (Season 2), one character clarifies "it's not Elvis". 

"Shakespeare would never do that."

Impersonating Elvis

Celebrities/movie stars 
Speaking of Hollywood, famous movie stars get their own parodies and nods. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for instance, shows up in the form of exercise instructor/action star Ronald Wisenheimer. Steven Seagal shows up in the form of action hero "Waffle Stomper". Sylvester Stallone's Rambo gets parodied during a "Great Beet War” between Doug's and Judy's schools (Season 3). Even the late film critics (Gene) Siskel & (Roger) Ebert get parodied, in the “Monster Movie” episode (Season 3), which also plays with the notion of hand-held super-8 B-rated films made by modern-day kids. 

Ronald Weisemheimer: "Prepare to suffer."
Steven Seagal type Waffle Stomper
Siskel & Ebert types

Films and characters 
With that in mind, several movies sneak their way into a few episodes. The aforementioned “Space Munks," for instance, could be an homage to Star Wars and Star Trek. Going back to Season One, Doug and neighbor Mr. Dink set out to find and catch the biggest fish in Lucky Duck Lake, displaying a famous shark fin from Jaws. The same Spielberg notion goes for the Season Three premiere episode where Doug and Skeeter take Roger's sick cat, Stinky, to the vet a la E.T. A famous shot from that same film shows up later in the season, when Doug tries to "fix" his dad's kite and his dog Porkchop (against the moonlight) holds the kite on the roof. Moments before, Doug fixes the kite in the style of Dr. Frankenstein, with Porkchop imitating the doctor's assistant, Igor. And Doug and his friends initially preconceive the "weird" Sleetch twins, Al and Moo, to have a mad-scientist father. 

Getting a "Big Catch" a la Jaws
Stinky Phone Home
Porkchop makes an iconic shot for it
Mad Scientists?

For concluding fun, here are some instances when Doug and friends actually went to the movies.

Season 2
In the “Dental Disaster” episode, Doug and Skeeter go see the latest Smash Adams movie. 

In the “Hollywood” episode, Doug daydreams that he and his movie-star posse walk into a movie theater, and pass Judy and her dancing cats on the street corner. 

Season 3: 
In the “Kite” episode, Doug and friends go see the latest space adventure (“Space Munks”), which Doug can't "concentrate on," since he can't stop thinking about his dad's kite-flying (and rhyming) obsession. 

In the “Monster Movie” episode, Doug daydreams of the "disastrous" premiere of his potential “Sharkdog” movie (notice the change from wide frame to full frame on the movie screen), as well as during the aforementioned Siskel & Ebert parody.

In the “Little Liar” episode, new student Loretta invites Skeeter and Doug to a movie starring her “aunt”.

In the “Nightmare on Jumbo Street” episode, Doug and friends go to the latest horror movie, which Doug has recurring nightmares about—at least until he actually sees the movie’s ending.

Season 4: 
In the “Sittin’ in a Tree” episode, Patti asks Doug to the movies, leaving Doug to constantly wonder if it’s a date or not. (The movie they go see is a sci-fi romance involving a high-society girl and a space lizard man.) 

In the “Fan Club” episode, Doug and Skeeter save two seats for Patti and Beebe at the movies, only to see them taken by Doug’s new friend Todd and his brother Wesley. 

In the “Babysitter” episode, Judy sneaks out of the house to go to a foreign film with her friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Relentless": Coolers, Closers, and Cleaners

I recently started reading Tim Grover's 2013 book "Relentless". Grover is highly-regarded for his work with Championship and Hall of Fame athletes, including but not limited to Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant. In his book, Grover talks about three different kinds of people who pursue excellence and commitment.

First, there's the kind that are called "Coolers." These are the people who consider themselves and the work that they do as good. They feel content with what they believe they can accomplish, yet they don't look beyond what they believe they're capable of doing. For example, think about people you may have worked with who did their jobs decently. This can include people who may have started a new job and were very ambitious, but only just. Most of the time, they rely on other people to help them out, to tell them what to do, and to give them the direction they need rather than giving themselves direction.

A typical employee-employer relationship
Then there are the kind of people that are called "Closers." These are the people who get the job done, who work hard to reach a certain point (or goal) they thought they couldn't reach. As a result, their work is considered great. Yet, when they get to that point, they feel they've reached the summit of Mount Everest and don't see the need to climb higher. There are those who work on commission, for instance, who say they're going to make $1,000 in one week, for example. So they work hard to carry out the actions they need to to reach that goal, they take into account what they've learned from experience and from others so far, and they persevere through and reach that goal, even exceed it. There is no doubt a sense of pride and gratefulness that goes along with such accomplishment. But here's where they trip up, as I mentioned a moment ago. Once they've reached the "summit," as they believe this "goal" has been, they slide back down the hill, and can even get back into the same routine they started out in before they became so ambitious.

A peak, but not the peak, according to Cleaners
This is where the third kind of people, called "Cleaners," come in. Instead of looking at the aforementioned "peak" of Everest as the mere high point, these are the people that instead look at this point as a stepping stone and don't tell themselves, "Okay, done," but instead ask themselves, "What's next?" These are the people who don't make these stepping stones a one time thing (one-hit wonders do that), but consistently carry out the actions needed to get the job done. Thereby, they are considered to have an unstoppable drive.

If you look at any truly successful businesses or any truly successful person in any field, whether basketball superstar Jordan or the late boxer Muhammad Ali or the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs or the Pixar Animation Studios, these are people and companies that are (or were) consistently at the top of their game.

The late Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, despite his complex and unorthodox personality as many have reportedly stated of him, was known for always pushing the envelop of what technology could do, from computers like the iMac to music players like the iPod to home tablets like the iPad and so many other revolutionary products and franchises. He even went so far as using what he termed a "reality distortion field," challenging his employees to accomplish what seemed like impossible tasks to make them possible. This same motivation would even translate, to a degree, to what would become Pixar Animation Studios, which holds an unprecedented financial as well as critical streak for each of their feature films released since 1995. Co-founder and current CEO Ed Catmull chronicles the studio's story, as well as its identity, in his 2014 book, "Creativity, Inc."

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is considered by many, including Tim Grover, to be the greatest basketball player in sports history. And deservedly so. Obviously, the man had an incredible skill set and a highly engaging and appealing personality. (Just look at the diverse ads and companies he was a spokesperson, for one, from Hanes to Gatorade to Nikes.) But more importantly, Jordan was an example of somebody who consistently put more than 100 percent of himself into everything he did on the court (and in preparation for it) and didn't let anybody or anything get to him while he was doing so. Grover shares a story in "Relentless" about how Jordan handled himself in such situations. Say Grover,

"Of course, Cleaners are still human, and like everyone else they feel the same excitement and anxiety and nerves before a big event. But the difference between Cleaners and everyone else is their ability to control those feelings, instead of allowing those feelings to control them. Even [Jordan] used to say he had butterflies before a big game. 'Get 'em all going in the same direction,' I'd tell him. They're not going away, but now you're controlling how you feel about them, instead of allowing them to make you feel nervous. Energy instead of emotion. Big difference."

In other words, energy-driven instead of emotion-driven. A big difference indeed.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Acknowledging Teachers and Students, and "Getting Things Done"

This past week, two milestones happened in the U.S. regarding schools across America. First, at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri, various teachers pulled selected students aside to record and personally share their thoughts about said students and how each teacher felt motivated by them to come to work everyday. This challenge came from the head of a program for at-risk sophomore and juniors at the high school, as a response to a similar challenge last spring, in which she had students write letters of gratitude to their teachers.

(Read the following article with the accompanied video here.)

Reading this news the other day, I was reminded of how valuable and meaningful it is in having various mentors and teachers growing up in school. To hear how these teachers acknowledged each of their respective students is a great way of showing that there are a lot of people in the education system who really care about the students they teach. It further shows that such is necessary when not only building relationships with others, but those that will endure.

With that in mind, AmeriCorps celebrated its 22nd anniversary at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, on Friday by acknowledging the various programs, non-profits and organizations that have provided state and national service since 1994. The pledge reads,

I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.

I've had the privilege of serving as a literacy tutor for one of these programs, Minnesota Reading Corps, for three years. And I can tell you, firsthand, that its mission statement of bridging the gap between students' education and their future endeavors (in the case of the Reading Corps, the reading gap) really makes a difference. Not to mention all the wonderful relationships you get to build and see progress as the years go along.

To any and every teacher and educator, give your students the respect they deserve, and be the example they not only can look up and have make a difference in their lives, but the one that can make a difference in your own as well.