“There is a difference between just playing notes and playing music. People are not moved by notes...”
My mother introduced me to my first trumpet when I was just 10 years old. I remember opening the beautiful, brown Olds trumpet case and seeing my very own instrument for the first time. I even remember the soft, red velvet liner and the fragrance of the valve oil. I was smitten. I didn't know how to play it yet, but I knew right away that I was about to embark on a grand adventure..
As I started to learn the craft of putting notes together and creating melodies - not just sounds - the insatiable need to "create" was formed in me, and the love I had for music became a passion.
Practicing in my bedroom led to private lessons from accomplished musicians, including John Head, principal chair with the Atlanta Symphony (Thanks, Mom, for all those long trips to downtown Atlanta. You sat in the car all that time waiting on me to take a lesson, and you didn't even have a cell phone!).
After many long hours of learning to play the notes, I began to hear the music.
I started listening to trumpet greats like Al Hirt from New Orleans; Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass; Phil Driscoll; Doc Severenson and countless other heroes on long play records (for my younger readers, "records" are round, plastic discs with grooves in them that you can listen to).
At the age of 17, I began to have a deep burden to hear God's call and mission for my life, and I wanted nothing more than to simply be obedient to that call. I began noticing that some of the lifestyles of my heroes and mentors didn't quite match the lifestyle and the belief system that had been instilled in me. Drugs and alcohol and smoky late night honky-tonks seemed to be the norm for professional trumpet players, and I was suddenly faced with a difficult, spiritual decision.
In 1970, I let go of the idea of being a professional musician and decided to go to work with my Dad and Chick-fil-A.
That turned out to be the third greatest decision I have ever made as I resolved what my Mission in life was going to be. (#1 - my decision of who my Master was going to be; #2 - my decision to who my Mate was going to be), and I have never regretted it since.
But after all these years, I still haven't given up on being a musician. I am a musician, and I believe my role in music is to help lead others in worshipping God. To me, that's reason enough to practice every day. Why? Because I am still fascinated as a student of music, and I am still passionate about what music can do for me and for others. Music is universal and is the only written form of communication that every nation recognizes. We all play from the same songbook, and there's something very powerful about that to me.
And I'm still using my musical talent… I have been fortunate to play the national anthem in several major league baseball parks and at the Chick-fil-A Bowl seven different times. I've shared the stage with orchestras and it was a very special privilege to play on stage at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando with Blood, Sweat and Tears in July of 2010.
“There are few things more satisfying, gratifying and relaxing than digging in the dirt and breaking a good sweat while in the garden.”
My love for gardening stems from my grandmother. She was an avid gardener and taught me a lot when I was growing up. But I also think it has to do with being a creative individual and a voracious learner. One of the great things about gardening is the fact that there is always, always more to learn.
In fact, the more you learn about any subject, the more you find out just how much you don't know!
There really is no end to the places nature will take us. Nature is ever-growing and evolving and giving us new, beautiful resources. It offers "artists" an endless color palette to work with; not to mention tastes and smells and textures that help make life interesting. I love landscape design and creating new and different ways to grow things in my garden.
Most recently, I have been learning how to more effectively prune the trees in my orchard to help create healthier, longer-lasting and more prolific pear, plum, apple and peach trees.
I think that in order to really enjoy the things God gives us, we need to share them with others. Lately, I have been enthralled with propagation and reproducing plants and ground cover in controlled environments. In fact, if you visit some of our Chick-fil-A restaurants, you might just see Hosta, Astilbe and various groundcover that started right here in my own backyard!
Rhonda and I also host workshops and gardening clinics at our home several times a year when local gardeners and various organizations come to share their knowledge and also learn from us.
At the end of the day, gardening allows me to relax. It frees me up to think. It helps me to escape my daily routine and to think creatively about what's next. I think one of the biggest contributions to success is not simply "hard work," but "balance."
I love my job, and I wouldn't trade my day-to-day for anyone else's on the planet, but I learned a long time ago that there has to be balance. We all need private times. We need renewal and a reprieve from our daily routines.
We all need to create opportunities for introspection and quiet reflection on the things that matter most: faith, family, relationships and the other joys in life that make us complete. For me, it's gardening.;
“Real success is about becoming the total person God wants you to be and accomplishing the goals that He has set for your life...”
I really didn't know how to influence and lead others until my dad asked me to join him at Chick-fil-A. Sure, I had been captain of my high school wrestling team and served as president of the student body my senior year, but it wasn't until I joined Chick-fil-A in 1970 that I started learning to lead.
That's when I began following and studying great teachers like Zig Ziglar, Tom Peters, Tom Cousins, Jim Blanchard and countless other inspiring leaders. The lessons I have learned from these individuals are too many to count, but I will forever be grateful for their influence.
I have followed the careers of men like Roberto Goizueta from Coca-Cola, Sam Walton from Wal-mart, Norman Brinkler from Jack in the Box and Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus from The Home Depot. These men are examples of "the best of the best" when it comes to leading organizations, and they have taught me more than I could ever recount here.
I have also been fortunate to learn from Jimmy Collins, the former President and Chief Operating Officer at Chick-fil-A. Jimmy possessed the kind of innate leadership skills that can only be imitated, but I strive every day to continue the legacy he so graciously left behind.
And then there's my dad. He has always been a man of great character; a hard worker; a man of great vision and courage; and a humble servant to everyone he meets. He learned a long time ago that true leadership comes with great opportunity and great responsibility. He taught me that we all have unique opportunities every day to impact and lead others, but we must always be uniquely aware of our responsibility to lead them well. That said, there is no better example of "leading well" than Jesus.
No one to have ever lived has possessed the amount of winsome grace that Jesus exemplified during His time on earth. He didn't just tell others how to live, He showed them. He lived so that others might learn from Him and apply His teachings to their lives... so that THEY might prosper.
Another great leader, Charles Stanley, once said that "real success is about becoming the total person God wants you to be and accomplishing the goals that He has set for your life." As President and Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A, my "success" in life and my abilities and strengths as a leader have very little to do with overseeing more than 1,500 Chick-fil-A restaurants and 50,000+ employees.
My "success" has nothing to do with chicken.
I try to lead by example and learn from the examples that have been set before me. In doing so, I am constantly seeking guidance and advice; divine intervention and knowledge; and approaching each day as a new opportunity to try and become the total person God wants me to be.;