Finger Lickin’ Greatness

Friday September 9th, 2011 – Chicago, IL

On this date in 1890, one of my all time heroes was born – Colonel Harland Sanders. He wasn’t a colonel then, just a dented can who never gave up and eventually became one of the extremely few who can rightfully claim the title of world wide icon. He was a legend.

I’ve always been a fan of his for many reasons other than chicken. I’ve made time to see several tourist sites over the years from the gas station in Corbin, KY where he first began selling his fried chicken to the KFC home office in Louisville to his first franchise in Salt Lake City, UT and learned more about him at each stop. He was a remarkable character.

By no means did he have success written all over him – he wrote it himself. That’s why I admire him so much. I don’t know if I could have endured all he did, but he didn’t have to either. He chose to, and that’s why he’s still remembered over a century after his birth.

Had he given up, not a single person would have blamed him. But nobody would have remembered him either. There are countless millions of losers who die in obscurity that’s made worse by the fact they never had the giblets to hang in there like the Colonel did.

His father died when he was six, he dropped out of school in the seventh grade, and ran away from home because his step father beat him. That’s not the secret recipe for success, but he kept slugging until he found it. Then after he did, he was able to sell it with style.

Colonel Sanders was a master showman, and I always love to study those. His look was  his calculated trademark, and he never appeared in public without his white suit and black string tie for the last twenty years of his life. Can you picture The Colonel in baggy shorts and a tank top? Of course not. He knew what his image was, and he presented only that.

I also admire that he did it all late in life, but still had an amazing run. He was 60 before he started dressing in the white suits, but he was able to hang on for another twenty years and establish himself as one of the most identifiable personas of the entire 20th Century.

He also established himself as being interchangeable with the state of Kentucky when in fact he was born in Indiana. Most people don’t know that, and don’t care. Maybe ‘Indiana Fried Chicken’ would have been a flop, but we’ll never know. He found the right combo.

A lot of people also don’t know that Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but didn’t receive his recognition there. Illinois was his place of prominence, and it’s even touted on their license plates. He was another example of someone who persisted beyond where the ‘normal‘ people would, and ended up becoming an icon to the generations after his death.

I’ve been slugging it out myself for way more years than I think anyone should have to, but I haven’t come close to going through what Colonel Sanders or Abraham Lincoln had to endure. People like them give me inspiration to keep doing what I’m doing in hopes of having it pay off at some point, hopefully while I’m still alive to be able to enjoy the ride.


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