As some of you are aware, I recently left my director position at Chick-fil-A after a super jam-packed three years. During those years, I was given the opportunity to travel to the Chick-fil-a corporate office, facilitate training for team members that were at grand opening stores, and work in several different capacities at the store across the street from UCI. Much of it was an amazing experience and just as much of it wasn’t.
This past couple of months has been overflowing with transition, discomfort, and self-discovery. As I’ve tried multiple times to gain closure on this past season by writing, I always found myself scrapping my work. The tone always seemed to come off in a different way than I intended and thematically, many pieces just didn’t fit into the whole narrative.
Now, three months after returning from Mexico and one month after leaving Chick-fil-A, this is what I learned.
I remember the first time I ever had Chick-fil-A.
It was after I got a haircut at my barber’s shop in Mira Mesa. I went across the street in my family’s red Toyota Sienna, and I drove through the drive-through. I remember asking the order taker if there was a dollar menu or a value menu to which she responded that they did not, in fact, have one. I remember being conflicted between the original and the spicy so I ordered one of each and left the window in disbelief that had I just spent five bucks just for two sandwiches (this was in the late 2010s).
As I was driving, I was taken aback by the foil bags which I had never before seen. I didn’t pay much mind to it, simply noting that it was different than what I was used to, and I unfolded the red bag as I took a huge bite of the spicy sandwich.
I definitely cursed as the roof of my mouth and my tastebuds got severely burned from the steaming chicken that I had just taken a bite of.
I remember thinking to myself that it was crazy that this fast food place could have such hot food.
Fast forward four years and I’m sitting in an office above a post office as the future operator of the UCI Chick-fil-a franchise was interviewing me. Ironically, I had just gotten a haircut and because of that, I was in cargo shorts and a tank top. I shared of my experience at El Pollo Loco, and that was the beginning of Craig and my relationship.
Fast forward two more years, and I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair being grilled by my new supervisor at Honda Finance (on a Saturday). He complimented my work ethic and my ability to pump out work at a rapid rate, but he was trying to understand why I was late to overtime all the time.
The conversation ended with him telling me that if I wanted to move out of the temp position, that I would need to be able to commit to overtime on top of the daily 9-5 schedule to show that I was committed to the job and company as a whole.
I remember driving home and coming to the conclusion that I couldn’t see myself working at a place in which all of their six or seven upper management positions had turned over in the short nine months I had been there.
I texted Craig and asked him if he needed someone to work temporarily. I explained to him that I was going to try and follow in my dad’s footsteps by studying for the LSAT and going to law school.
He graciously offered me a position as a team member.
In seven months, Craig would offer me a director position after I had decided while taking the LSAT, that law would be too frustrating for my personality to have a career in. I would start as a director of operations, transition to a director of facilities, and eventually become the director of food safety.
The director role was the first legitimate management role I had ever had, and it taught me so much about people and ultimately myself.
If I can be candid, it took me so long to be able to say confidently to people that I was introducing myself to that I worked at a Chick-fil-A franchise.
I swore I could feel the judgment as I wrestled with what it was exactly that I accomplished in obtaining a four-year degree from UCI.
That combined with the fact that I felt like an impostor in a role that I was not prepared or trained for made for an incredibly rough time.
I remember the first time I felt like I might belong, and that was when I visited Chick-fil-a’s corporate office in Atlanta.
Chick-fil-a’s corporate vision statement is:
“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”
I remember, being pleasantly surprised that such a successful company could have religious roots and yet not use religion as a reason to be mediocre.
I owe it to the entire Corporate Certified Training team for making me feel as I believe Truett Cathy would have: having intrinsic value and skills that would make me a valuable asset to the company and the world.
So much of how I chose to grow and develop my management skillset and style is heavily attributed to the affirmations I received at the corporate office.
One of my favorite things about Chick-fil-a was the diversity of background and personality of the people I met.
Rachel, thanks for training my family at CT. Your compassion and mentality towards us trainees helped me to frame how I then passed on information to those who I would train and there are so many generations of trainees that have benefited because of the manner in which you taught me.
Keisse and Jordan, thank you for encouraging me. I will never forget that post grand-opening debrief that we had in the Monterey Park store. Your unshakeable confidence in my ability to get into LDP and your affirming of my work ethic and personality helped me immensely to get through a very confusing time in my life. I wish you both the best and I hope to visit y’alls stores when I have the opportunity. Thank you for everything. You taught me more about honor, dignity, and respect than you will probably ever know.
Twabu, I hope that you are still kicking ass wherever it is that you are. I hope that your gifts are being appreciated and that you continue to extend the same grace to others that you extended to me when you were training me on how to operate machinery that I was supposed to be training on. #doitfortheminorities
Kelsey, I admire your bravery and your resolve so much. I will never forget unpacking that difficult conversation of workplace tension with you. You helped to completely change my outlook on difficult workplace relationships. Even though it didn’t solve everything, it began a process in me that I believe has made me a better co-worker and collaborator than I was two years ago. Thank you.
Truett Cathy once said that he wasn’t in the chicken business and that he was instead in the people business. Numerous stories exist of how he and his family suffered while trying to break out of humble beginnings and poverty. Even more stories are told of how his generosity was unmatched. From paying the tuition of students who worked for him, buying clothes for those who were interviewing at other jobs after graduating, or his classic and signature table touch-in conversations, it was evident that he saw the value in people.
Because contrary to common belief, a business is really only as successful as the people behind the business. You can have the best product in the entire world, but if you don’t invest in the people that work with you to get your product to the masses, then your business will fail.
In three years, I met more people than I probably had during my time at college. And yet, some of the best parts of those three years were the redeeming of past friendships/relationships that had been abandoned after I left Chick-fil-A the first time.
See, I learned something super valuable from my second tour in Chick-fil-A: every person you come into contact with has something to teach you. Beyond that, people are beautiful when they are their true selves.
When people are empowered to live in their strengths so that they can be the truest versions of themselves they change the environments and people around them.
In one of the relatively more famous stories in the Bible, Jesus feeds five thousand people:
Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.”So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.
As a child, I loved this story because to a young reader, the hero is this boy who was willing to share his lunch with all these people.
As I got older, I related more with the skeptical questions of Philip and Andrew.
Now, I see something else entirely.
Religious or not, if you are reading this, you have been given natural gifts, talents, and knacks for things that others do not possess.
It might be your personality, a specific skill set, the way you see the world, how you connect with people, or personal struggles that allows you to empathize with others who struggle similarly.
Any way you slice it, you have specific strengths!
And you. Yes you, have so much to offer our world.
Watch the news for two seconds, and anyone can gather that our world needs help.
We need innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, and more to address all the problems that continue to arise.
YET, society spends so much time and effort telling us that we have a generic place that we belong to.
We are constantly being placed into boxes.
Typecast based upon what people believe we are good at or even worse, placed in roles because that is how we can aid their organizations most.
We wonder why we wrestle with a life devoid of purpose and identity when we deviate from a life that is built upon developing our natural and innate strengths.
Do you believe life is permanent enough to risk wasting more time being someone or something that you are not?
An oft-heard phrase regarding contentment goes as follows:
The grass is always greener on the other side.
I have also heard:
The grass is greener where you water it.
Both, can be interpreted different ways depending on how one reads them.
It is my opinion that we have a personal duty to ourselves and the world to utilize the short lives that we have to be the truest version of ourselves as we possibly can be.
I belive the grass is indeed greener where you water it, but that if you live in Southern California, maybe you should look into growing succulents, since those will do better in the drier client.
Trying to keep grass alive in Northridge is often a fool’s errand, but that doesn’t mean that someone living there has nothing to offer when it comes to cultivating a garden.
When I was a kid, my dad taught me how to change a doorknob on one of the doors of our house. The first time it took us hours. It was embarrassing and boring.
The second time it didn’t take nearly as long.
To date, I’ve probably changed about ten or so and it takes me maybe ten minutes now.
When I was in Mexico City, there was a broken doorknob that I saw on the very first day I arrived. But since I knew exactly what I needed to fix it, I bought a doorknob the second day and replaced it before class started that next day.
Because of my experience in the past and the foresight of my father, I had learned and developed a skill that though small and seemingly insignificant, managed to be used to respond to a need.
Oftentimes we believe the lie that we have nothing to offer.
We look on our social media feeds and feel that we don’t possess the power or talent to make a difference.
Truth be told, sometimes it feels like we just have a lunchbox with a couple pieces of bread and some fish…
Or maybe a chicken sandwich and some fries…
Or maybe a screwdriver and a doorknob..
You have so much to offer the world and life is too short to waste it not playing to your strengths.
Show the people you encounter honor, dignity, and respect.
Learn from everyone who comes your way.
What’s in your lunchbox?