In Annalise Miller’s #forkinawesome blog post “Living With Purpose,” she says, “The happiest and best lives are those who stay true to themselves and live their purpose!” In December 2014, I reached out to my General Manager (John Nelson), my Area Director (Perry Schoulten), and my PeopleWorks partner (Annalise Miller) to find out what more I could be doing for Chili’s. I had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in 2010, a Master’s Degree in 2012, and since 2012 had been working on a PhD in Professional Communication at Utah State University. I’ve always wanted to impact the lives of others, and for nearly a decade I wanted to be an English professor. However, when I approached my leaders, I had come to the humbling, yet liberating realization that in order to create my best life, I needed to be honest with myself and trust my intuition, which was telling me to take my family down an unfamiliar path leading away from academics and toward a company whose Passion is “Making People Feel Special.”
Last October, my oldest daughter Livee turned nine years old. My wife Kenzie and I asked Livee what she wanted to do for her birthday. I thought she might want to spend the day at Bear Lake, situated on the Utah-Idaho border and only about two hours north of our home in Layton, Utah. I thought she might want to order fresh Raspberry-Oreo milkshakes from the “Quick N Tasty” restaurant before spending the day swimming and tanning on Bear Lake’s North Shore. Kenzie thought she’d want to go back to Logan, Utah, where we’d previously lived since 2010, and spend the day with her old friends. My wife and I were both partially right. Livee wanted to go back to a place that she associated with good feelings and fond memories. She wanted to go to a place that had taught her terms like “86,” “Corner!” and “CBV.” She wanted to go to a place where the people had always made her feel special. She wanted to go to Chili’s. But not just any Chili’s. Out of all the places she could have gone to celebrate her ninth birthday, my daughter wanted to go to the Chili’s in Logan, Utah, to reconnect with the Managers and Team Members whom she had grown to #ChilisLove.
My #ChiliHead journey is not my own. I’ve been able to share it on a personal level with not only my wife, but also each one of my children: Livee, Emmeline, Sophia, and Captain. As I learn more about our culture of individual accountability, they do too. When I “See it, Own it, Solve it, and Do it,” they celebrate. When I go “Below the Line”, they know it, and they’re the first ones to “Lift Me Up”. My wife had served at the Logan Chili’s since October of 2012, and I since June of 2013. I’ll never forget the night that John, the General Manager, pulled me into dry storage and gave me the most priceless feedback. He said, “Ryan, you’re a leader. I’ve watched you come back to the kitchen empty handed from the dining room three times, and you’re better than that. I can’t have you setting that kind of example for the rest of the team. Will you own full-hands from now on?” I remember hating him for about twenty-four hours for being so brutally honest with me in real-time. I remember whining silently in my head for the rest of the shift and then venting to my family when I got home. They listened to me. They sympathized with me. But after a few minutes my wife said, “Honey, John’s right. You just need to own it.” My kids agreed, “Yeah, Dad. Own it.”
When ChilisJobs invited me to tell the story of my journey with Chili’s, I was truly honored. From our leaders in Dallas to all the Team Members around the world, we Chiliheads certainly know how to make people feel special! Since I became a Chilihead, I’ve often found myself entertaining a single thought: What if each and every Chilihead truly shared this brand’s passion for making people feel special? Think of how many guests we see every day, every week, every year. Think of the potential impact we could make on society—#ChilisLove by 2020—if every Chilihead truly shared our passion. Think of the real impact we’ve already made.
I am proud to work for Chili’s—a brand comprised of inspiring leaders who continually impact me, my wife, and my kids. I am blessed to be a part of this amazing brand that inspires me, encourages me to live with purpose, and motivates me to be a better husband, father, and leader.