Updated: Mar 8
...to inspire grit and determination.
I am a strong believer that challenging times are opportunities for growth.
They test you and you are forced to dig that little bit deeper to learn new ways to manage the situation and find solutions to the problems you face.
I think it has been my subconscious brain that has triggered me to ‘rewatch’ these 3 films to help me gain more strength and courage to keep on moving forward. For any CEO or team lead feeling like they are in an uphill battle, I would suggest carving out some time to watch them as soon as possible.
When We Were Kings
If I had to choose one film, and one film only, to recommend this would be it.
'When We Were Kings' is a documentary about the World Boxing Championship fight, between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, held in Zaire in October 1974.
The film goes way beyond the significance of the fight itself, it touches upon the political implications of the event and how much of an influence Ali had on a global stage. Exemplified by the accompaniment of musical greats such as James Brown and BB. King. The film highlights the value of sacrifice and sticking to your beliefs. Ali gave up everything on principle - and he fought back, against all odds, to reclaim what was rightfully his. Add that to the sheer drama of the fight itself, which was the greatest comeback and biggest upset in heavyweight history. Ali had to face his fears straight in the eye and ‘rope-a-dope’ to the point where he had the opportunity to come back stronger. I often use the term rope-a-dope in life…sometimes you simply need to soak up the punches that come your way, they will make you more resilient and when the opportunities arise you will be able to bounce back faster and stronger.
A ‘man mountain’, and to this day, Ali has been the most influential personality in my life and hopefully this film will have a profound impact on my son and daughter's outlook on life. Ali's attitude and character is so eloquently summed up by his response to the question “tell us a poem” from a Harvard student during a Harvard Commencement address…where he simply responds:
Yet, this film would not have been produced and the event would never had occurred had it not been for the ‘vision and entrepreneurial zeal’ of boxing promoter Don King. One can question the man's morals and scruples but he took the main risk of managing and promoting this event, which took them to fly
"by zee air to Zaire"
(quote from a musical promoter in the film).
This leads nicely on to film 2:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent won’t; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won’t; unrewarded genius is practically a cliché. Education won’t; the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all-powerful.” Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States
This is Ray Kroc’s Mantra as turns a single hamburger operation in California, created by the McDonald brothers in 1940, into the global fast-food empire. It does portray Ray Kroc as a greedy and unethical narcissist, yet however, similar to Don King, he had the vision and balls to make it happen!
Ray Kroc had been hustling for over 30 years in the food industry before he seized the opportunity of franchising McDonalds. There is no doubt Ray had ‘rope-a-dope for quite some time, working hard and becoming somewhat successful in his sales job. However, it is made pretty clear there is somewhat of a mismatch between in his impact/effort ratio…when he learned that a client just ordered 6 milkshake mixers, he did not simply fulfill the order and move on. Instead, his inquisitiveness led him to drive over 2,800 kilometers to find out exactly why a local burger drive-in wanted 6 milkshake mixers. When he ‘saw the potential of McDonalds’ he seized it with gusto and gave it everything…the rest is history.
MY other key takeaways from the film.
Measure what matters.
The importance of understanding your 80%. What the McDonald brothers recognised was the fact that over 80% of their sales were for a burger, chips, and soda. They became specialists in this niche and the key metric they focused on was time from ‘order to hand over’ (under 30secs) by developing the ’Speedy System’. In order to meet this goal they removed all other food items and systemised the process to not only standardise the product but also to identify any incremental areas for improvement. They even went through the process of rehearsing this process before production to make sure they got it right. Creating kitchens is more expensive than building software so rather than Build, Measure, Learn (Agile) the McDonald brothers opted to Measure, Learn, Build by drawing out their kitchen on a tennis court and having all their workers pretending to operate as they would in a ‘dress rehearsal’. The brothers orchestrated it like a grand virtuous performance.
Practice your Pitch
Without a doubt, Ray Kroc was a very skilled and disciplined salesman. He recited his pitch with infectious enthusiasm and passion that convinced his early adopters to join him on this journey. He understood the importance of not selling ‘the what’ but focusing on ‘the why’. Feeding his target customer’s (that he clearly identified as middle-class couples) imagination, he clearly understood right from the beginning, he was not simply selling a burger franchise he was evangelising a lifestyle.
There is a key moment when Ray is ‘Open to Engage’ with a Finance guy Harry Sonneborn, following a conversation that he overheard between Kroc and his banker. Sonneborn immediately identified that McDonald’s is not in the fast-food business but in the real estate business. This led to the bitter separation between Kroc and the actual Founders- Mac and Dick McDonald. A quote from Kroc that leaves quite a bitter taste in my mouth is:
‘Contracts are like hearts, they are made to be broken'.
Trust takes Time
Trust in your new innovation takes time before your customers see the immediate value. The McDonald brothers were tempted to revert back to old ways after, ironically a very slow start following the launch of the speedy system…however people began to understand the vision and value of the offering once they had experienced it and begun remarking about it via word of mouth. It truly was a remarkable innovation at the time and change brings opportunity.
The McDonald brothers were bowled over by Ray Kroc’s enthusiasm and drive to make a McDonalds a household name across America - however, communication lines were not consistent and expectations were not aligned that led to the acrimonious split.
Mr. Kroc’s reputation and legacy would have been shown in a much more positive light had he treated the McDonald brothers fairly and honored the 1% annual royalty he promised over the handshake deal. He also refused to give credits to the brothers as co-founders of McDonald’s and creators of the “Speedy System”.
I believe success is best shared. You should value and acknowledge the relationships that bought about this success. In your pursuit for entrepreneurial glory, it is crucial to free up time to focus on what really matters, whether it be sharing experiences with family and friends or simply staying physically and mentally well.
This brings me on to my last film recommendation:
My Octopus Teacher
My Octopus Teacher tells the moving story of how Craig Foster came to know an octopus – and the emotional bond that formed when he did.
It highlights a mantra that I say to myself every day.
"Trust is a habit". Austin Nicholas
In order to create trust :
it takes work,
it takes time,
and probably the most important factor is that you have to be consistent.
Create a rhythm!
And with all great habits in order to have a positive impact you have to be consistent in implementing that trust!
This is essentially what we are aiming to achieve with GetFocused - helping build trust in teams in remote workforces. This can be done despite not seeing each other in person day-to-day and we would love to show you how.
Please contact the GetFocused team to understand how you can start nurturing a magnetic culture in your organisation.