Book Notes: Grinding It Out

Hey, this is the second in a (long) series of book summaries I’m doing as part of the research for “The Internet is Magic.” That’s the working title for Social Media is Bullshit 2.

If you like what I’m doing, I have a specific thing I’d like to ask you to do: I encourage you to buy a Used copy of Social Media is Bullshit and do one of the following:

1. Read it and keep it.
2. Read it and donate to your local library.
3. Read it and share with a friend.

None of the above should cost you more than $10 if you get it used through Amazon.

Cool? Let’s get on with it.

And standard disclaimer: These are my notes. There are probably typos and spelling errors as these are not meant to be a finished product. I didn’t even bother to put this all in AP style. My goal right now is to read as many of these 200 books as I can, do the summaries, and keep rolling so I can get to the book proposal stage by early Summer.

About “The Founder” Movie

I picked up this book after seeing “The Founder” in theaters. The movie is decent enough (although I can see how people who knew Ray Kroc would be upset if even half of how he’s portrayed in the film is legit.) Michael Keaton does an enjoyable Chicago accent, so from that perspective alone it’s worth watching, but the movie reminded me a lot of “The Social Network”. And like I did after seeing “The Social Network” I wanted to read the book the film was based on, as well as the company response. So in Facebook’s case, that’s “The Accidental Billionaires”, which is what the movie pulls from, and “The Facebook Effect”, which was Facebook’s official response, written by David Kirkpatrick.

P.S. Facebook was just ordered by a jury to pay $500M for stealing some shit, so … In the event any of you were wondering which version of events  between those two books is probably the right one, it ain’t “The Facebook Effect”. (Although I did enjoy that book, for what it’s worth.)

Anyway, these are my notes from “Grinding It Out” which was written by Ray Kroc in 1977 by the same publisher that put out “Social Media is Bullshit.” Remember the year, because that is going to come up a lot …

Book Notes

P.5 “I have always believed that each man makes his own happiness and is responsible for his own problems.” (Later on Page 42, Kroc reveals this his father died from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1930. Stating that on his desk when they found him was a check and then a garnishment notice for the entire amount for that check. Have to assume his philosophy comes from this.)

P.19 “No self-respecting pitcher throws the same way to every batter, and no self-respecting salesman makes the same pitch to every client.” Thank Christ someone said this. There are way too many fucking sales people who just crank out the same shit regardless of the client they’re interacting with. It’s so dumb.

P.27 When possible, this is something we should all be getting back to: “I’d stop at the bank on my way home and cash my check, putting most of it in savings and keeping enough for the week’s groceries and incidental expenses.”

P.28: “I found that my customers appreciated a straightforward approach. They would buy if I made my pitch and asked for their order without a lot of beating around the bush. Too many salesman, I found, would make a good presentation and convince the client, but they can’t recognize that critical moment where they should have stopped talking.” I like to call this the “Shut the fuck up moment”. Mostly because in every sales meeting I’ve ever been in, this is the thought I have when the person making the pitch needs to shut the fuck up, and rarely does.

“If I ever noticed my prospect starting to fidget, glancing at his watch or looking out the window or shuffling his paper on his desk, I would stop talking right then and ask for the order.”

You goddamn tell’em Ray!

P.29: “My philosophy was one of helping my customer, and if I couldn’t sell him by helping him improve his own sales, I felt I wasn’t doing my job.” <— We’re only thirty pages in and I already feel like anyone who works in sales should be reading this book.

P.35: This is something I couldn’t confirm. Whether or not Kroc was the first to use KISS (Keep it simple, stupid), but he mentions he used this as the first motto (internally) for McDonalds.

P.50: “Look sharp and act sharp. The first thing you have to sell is yourself."

P. 59: “There’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it.” (Sounds pretty standard, right? Like that’s something all successful people say. But what I liked, and the reason I noted this, was the addendum that he adds: “You’re not going to get it free, and you have to take risks. I don’t mean to be a daredevil, that’s crazy. But you have to take risks, and in some cases you must go for broke. If you believe in something, you’e got to be in it to the ends of your toes. Taking reasonable risks is part of the challenge. It’s the fun.”

Here’s why I liked this:
1. We live in a risk-averse society.
2. MBAs, and shortsighted shareholders, have ruined everything in terms of internal corporate and organizational decision making, so risk taking is not usually a welcome thing these days.
3. Ries and Trout talked a lot about the big swing for the fences when it comes to marketing, and it’s something I think Kroc is echoing here (from beyond the grave. OOoooooh. Spooky!)

4. In Breaking Bad, Mike tells Walt, “No more half-measures”. We live in a half-measure world with people taking half-measures on everything. (Looking at you, people who didn’t vote but decided to protest anyway. Or people who think protesting is just changing your social media avatar and using a hashtag.)

P.61: “I learned then how to keep problems from crushing me. I refused to worry about more than one thing at a time., and I would not let useless fretting about a problem, no matter how important, keep me from sleeping.” He explains that he worked out his own brand of self-hypnosis, imaging his problems on a chalk board and erasing them, and then he would relax.” (If you haven’t checked out Headspace or Calm.com, you should.)

P.68 “A good executive does not like mistakes. He will allow his subordinates an honest mistake once in a while, but he will never forgive or condone dishonesty.” I have a deep, infinite well of hate in my heart for people who are dishonest.

P.72 If you saw the movie and you asked yourself, “Why didn’t he just copy / steal the McDonald’s concept”, Michael Keaton explains it away by talking about the name, but the actual answer is slightly longer and can be found from P.72-P.75. (tl;dr: They had equipment that couldn’t be readily copied, Kroc claims his focus was on selling more multimixers. He did really like the name, but also claims that as an honest guy, he just wasn’t looking to fuck the McDonalds brothers over. The movie disagrees with that interpretation.)

P.85 he talks about the strength of the handshake deal and how he likes to use it. This got flipped around in the movie where he handshakes the McDonalds brothers and then proceeds to fuck them over anyway. So again, I can see how people who knew Kroc could be pissed at the movie’s interpretation of this.

P.101 (I really liked this one, and it’s something you hear echoed quite a bit, even today.) “People have marveled at the fact that I didn’t start McDonald’s until I was fifty-two-years-old, and then I became a success overnight. But I was just like a lot of show business personalities who work away quietly at their craft for years, and then, suddenly, they get the right break and make it big. I was an overnight success all right, but thirty years is a long, long night.”

P.101: “So at the risk of seeming simplistic, I emphasize the importance of details. You must perfect every fundamental detail of your business if you expect it to perform well.”

I don’t want to gloss over this point. I think way too often people make things more complicated than they need to be. Either because they didn’t take the time to think it out, didn’t know any better, or they were being careless. But you should always be looking to reduce the number of steps you take to get something done. The goal being to get that thing done in as efficient way as possible while producing results you’re happy with. Easier said than done, but it’s not as hard as you might think.

P.104: Whitney Cummings was recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast and was talking about this area of interest for her involving successful people and their tendency to have good, healthy marriages. Kroc talks here about the husband and wife duos who ran McDonalds franchises successfully, and so I wonder if there’s something to that idea Whitney has. I do joke around a lot about finding Wife #2, but I’ve been thinking for a while now that whoever that person is will hopefully want to work with me on things for the reasons spelled out here. I think it’d be awesome for both of us to be successful and support each other in a professional capacity. I don’t know. Don’t read too much into this. My dating record post-divorce in 2012 has been awful.

P.113 I touched on this in the last book summary, but Kroc here explains that there’s two ways to look at marketing. The shitty MBA way of measuring everything in dollars and (sometimes) bullshit metrics, and his way / the Ries and Trout way of just swinging for the fucking fences. “I never hesitate to spend money in this area because I can see it coming back to me in interest.”

So, I know I bag on MBAs a lot, but check out what Kroc says. I’m not alone!

“Of course, it comes back in different forms, and that may be the reason a begrudger can’t appreciate it. He has a narrow vision which only allows him to see income only in terms of cash at the register. Income for me can appear in other ways; one of the nicest of them is a satisfied smile on the face of the customer. That’s worth a lot because it means that he’s coming back, and he’ll probably bring a friend. A child who loves our TV commercials and brings her grandparents to a McDonalds brings us two more customers. This is a direct benefit generated by advertising dollars.”

Fun fact, I totally went to McDonalds with my grandparents in the Bronx for exactly this reason.

P.115: “My way of fighting the competition is the positive approach. Stress your own strengths, emphasize your own quality, service, cleanliness, and value, and the competition will wear itself out trying to keep up.” (This is great advice for anyone who gets asked a question like, “Why should we hire you over X.”)

P. 116 “I rather be broke tomorrow”. Kroc goes off here about how if he can’t beat his competition on his own, by his own merits, then he’d rather go broke than get the government involved, which is what a franchise owner had wanted to do here.

P. 128, sort of like Amazon (and more than a few tech companies) that didn’t make money for years, yet received glowing media coverage by dumb journalists that wanted to hype the tech world for the sake of furthering a corrosive narrative, McDonalds was barely making money a year after the corporation was founded and they had franchises popping up all over the place. Kroc didn’t bother to correct the press. Perception is reality.

P.138 Further support of advertising: McDonalds struggled in California. A TV campaign turned things around. Yes, I believe that can still happen today as well. (We seriously need to stop discounting TV because some dumb members of the media want to further the “Internet is Magic” narrative.) And as Kroc talked about earlier, the idea of TV commercials met with a lot of resistance, but it won the day despite the short-sighted corporate types not liking it.

P. 155 Warren Buffet has trumpeted the belief that you invest when things are bad, not when they’re good. Great Recession? Buy stocks. The quote is: “When investing, pessimism if your friend, euphoria the enemy.”

Kroc echoes this mentality here talking about how they should be aggressively buying real estate while things were looking bad for the US economy, reasoning that it would cost them more when the economy recovers.

P.166 This is something I talked about in Social Media is Bullshit, and Kroc echoes it here as well: The story of McDonalds is very much within the context of its time. You can’t duplicate McDonalds in today’s world, it’s a product of its own era, much in the same way the social media boom was fueled largely by the Great Recession.

P. 171 Years before “Blue Ocean Strategy” came out, and people praised the Nintendo Wii for being innovative by going for “Everyone” instead of just hardcore gamers like Microsoft and SONY, McDonalds did the same thing. They targeted small town America where there wasn’t much going on and not a lot of choices for places to eat. Kroc also says here something that’s especially applicable in today’s world, given the most recent election: The heart of America is still there in the boonies.”

P.171 “I believe if that you think small, you’ll stay small.” A-fucking-men.

P.176 This to me is one of the most important points in the book. You have to remember, Kroc wrote this thing in 1977, and even back then he’s talking about the struggle we have today with people letting machines and data make all the decisions. “Hell, if I listened to the computers and did what they proposed with McDonalds, I’d have a store with a row of vending machines in it. You’d push some buttons and out would come your Big Mac, shake, and fries, all prepared automatically.” Sounds a lot like what Carl Jr’s is proposing to do in 2017, huh?

The automate or not to automate argument is something I’m fascinated with. I’m a big believer that all because we CAN automate something, doesn’t mean we should. Kroc would agree, adding after his description of the automated McDonalds: “We could do that […] but we never will. McDonalds is a people business, and the smile on the counter girls face when she takes your order is a vital is a vital part of our image.”

P. 180 Perception is reality can be a double-edged sword. Here Kroc talks about the portrayal of McDonalds by “snobbish” writers in New York City describing them as taking advantage of people who didn’t know any better and that it was just a money grubbing enterprise that ruined the character of the places McDonald’s appeared in.

That perception DID win the day. Especially with the rise of Starbucks and Chipotle and other competitors that (usually) get heaped with praise while McDonalds is looked down upon. I totally agree on the snobbish NYC writers thing. Obviously, not ALL writers, but man there are more than a few in the city I’ve met who just can’t pull their head out of their ass and realize that NYC is not this be all, end all thing. For a lot of people who live in New York City, the world ends at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Even the New York Times admitted this days after Clinton lost:

“If I have a mea culpa for journalists and journalism, it’s that we’ve got to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than the people we talk to — especially if you happen to be a New York-based news organization — and remind ourselves that New York is not the real world.”

Their words. Not mine kids! (Although I totally called that in Social Media is Bullshit, but whatever. The Times didn’t want to cover the book because it had a swear word in the title.

P. 189 I don’t know how many of you know who famed Chicago newspaper man, Mike Royko, is. But he too railed against people from NYC and talked a great deal about Chicago’s own problems. Including at one point suggesting that the city change its motto to “Where’s Mine?” I don’t know if Kroc met Royko, or read his stuff (I would be shocked if he didn’t given they’re both Chicago guys and Chicago is a very small place in terms of who people know. Plus Kroc cites the Chicago Tribune in the book where Royko spent the remainder of his career with.) But Kroc directly acknowledges the “Where’s Mine” mentality on this page. Stating that people that think that way can’t process how people who don’t think that way function. (Another failure on the part of sales people who are just thinking about the transaction and not the customer.)

P.199 He goes off about Higher Education. I COMPLETELY agree with him, in that most people should not go to college right out of high school and should learn a trade first, and then if they still want to go to school, they can after that. Kroc also rails on overeducated people with nothing to do and no jobs to find. Sound familiar? I’m one of them. If you’re part of my generation, you might be to. Not that I regret going to college, but knowing what I know now and how my career turned out, it was completely unnecessary. Kroc adds again that the key element to his own success and that of McDonald’s is not education, but determination. (P.201)

See also:

P. 204 There’s a bunch of great points he makes at the end of this book:

-You have to know your customer inside and out to serve them better. It’s true. You never go into a sales call or some kind of pitch without knowing absolutely everything there is to know about the people you’re talking to.

-Remember again, 1977, he talks about society’s trend to remove risks from life (see: MBAs, safe spaces and trigger warnings when weaponized, shouting down people we disagree with instead of letting them speak, punching neo-nazis in the face … As satisfying as that is, etc. Actually, fuck that guy. He should be punched in the face forever.) Kroc points out it’s impossible to give someone happiness, and that the Declaration of Independence only promises the pursuit of happiness. Meaning you have to learn to love what you do and how you do it.

P.205: “Achievement must be made against the possibility of failure, against the risk of defeat. It is no risk to walk a tightrope laid flat on the floor. Where there is no risk there can be no pride in achievement, and, consequently, no happiness. The only way we can advance is by going forward, individually and collectively, in the spirit of the pioneer. We must take the risks involved in our free enterprise system. This is the only way in the world to economic freedom. There is no other way.”