By now, I am sure you are aware of the whole “Popeyes Chicken Sandwich” craze. But if you recently woke up from a coma, or just got back from a strict social media fast, then let me give you a quick recap. After 47 years in business, Popeyes fast-food restaurants released their first chicken sandwich. I’ve never eaten at a Popeyes, but it seems they are like a KFC with a New Orleans cajun flare. Upon the launch of their new sandwich, the Miami-based company got involved with a now infamous Twitter scuffle with their chicken sandwich-slinging competitor, Chick-fil-A. This online greasy beef (pardon the pun) got the attention of the internet in a big way. Before long, the internet started to do what the internet does best: creating hilarious “meme” commentary and self-published reaction videos on YouTube and Facebook Live.
Popeyes had (quite unintentionally) “broke the internet”.
Overall, people seemed to agree that Popeyes’ chicken sandwich was indeed better than Chick-fil-A. But here’s what I find most interesting… Within only a few weeks, Popeyes buckled under the weight of it’s new found success. The endless waves of curious consumers were too much for Popeyes to handle. Employees were quickly overwhelmed and overworked, while widespread sandwich shortages caused much anger among people waiting to see what all the hype was about. One video went viral showing an erratic man start a fist fight with a Popeyes worker through the drive thru window, throwing himself head first into the restaurant, swinging and punching worker and manager alike.
In fact, the surge of activity was so great that it caused Popeyes to remove the chicken sandwich from their menu nationwide with no promised date of return.
Chick-fil-A on the other hand continued with business as usual.
This turn of events reminded me of a valuable lesson I once heard:
Your gifts can take you where your character can’t keep you.
History has shown many who soared high in fame, or wealth, or both, only to see themselves implode under the pressure. In the business world, this pattern is called hubris. There is an extraordinary book about it entitled “Built To Last: How The Great Fall” that tackles this subject with case study after case study of businesses experiencing the age old axiom “pride comes before the fall”.
“AJ, I’m confused. How does character have anything to do with chicken sandwiches?”
Here’s the point: the infrastructure of a fast-food franchise is like the infrastructure of our lives. We call this “personal infrastructure” character. What is character? Character is the fabric of our life, how our life is built; the habits or systems of our daily life. Character is how our life is put together. What it’s really made of. A wise person once said, “Character is who you are when nobody is looking”. And we need character to correctly handle promotion and success in our lives, or we could implode under the pressure of it.
One final thought about promotion, success, and character. Power (or fame or money) may not always cause a person to collapse, but it can do something far worse. It can corrupt a person. Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. To me, becoming corrupt is a far more serious situation than imploding under the pressure of success. Why? Because rising and falling can be a blessing in disguise. Failure can make you bitter or it can make you better. It’s your choice. Don’t you agree? Humiliation can have a beautiful way of producing humility in our lives.
Yes, I would much rather collapse than become corrupt. With collapsing, at least there is hope God can do something in me. There’s a chance that when I hit rock bottom, I’ll come to my senses and look up to Heaven. But how can God work in a corrupt heart? Oh, how difficult it is for God to get through to a corrupt man or woman in their hubris.
Here’s a good question to close the blog post with…
How are you building your life?
Have you ever given a thought to your character? Do you want a life that will continually be able to rise to the next level, challenge, and opportunity afforded to you?
Prayer: O Lord, You see all things. You put one person up, and take another one down. All power belongs to You. I pray for You to keep me in the palm of Your hand. I pray that You would continually do a deep work in me, so that I could do the maximum good with the gifts and talents afforded to me. I open my heart and mind to You. Expose the places where I am lacking character and allow me to become more like You. Praise God! I will look to You, and I will be transformed by the light of Your wonders and person. Thank You. Amen.