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The Founder: I’m lovin it

After watching “The Founder” for the second time, a 2016 film starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the investor who took the McDonald’s restaurant from San Bernardino, California, to the world, I felt inspired. Some thoughts awakened within me, which I detail below. Buy a Big Mac and enjoy the read. French fries if you want too (in moderation).

I never knew the history of McDonald's, the origin of all its success. On trips to São Paulo’s countryside, I would look out of the car and see the famous yellow logo from afar, that glow that filled my mouth with saliva. It was pure happiness, not to mention the moment I entered one of the franchises’ restaurants, right within the city of São Paulo, to enjoy a beautiful McChicken or a milkshake. McDonald's for me was synonymous with family, with pure innocence, but delicious innocence, free from worries. It was a part of my childhood and adolescence.

Well, that's to say, director John Lee Hancock's film awakened all these memories in me. Before he met Dick and Mac McDonald, the restaurant's original founders, played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, respectively, Kroc was a frustrated salesman in his profession. Knocking on doors trying to sell his milkshake-making machine, he simply couldn't find opportunities for professional collaboration. Until one day, a restaurant in San Bernardino, California, calls his office asking for a larger-than-normal delivery, larger than anything he'd ever seen. Kroc couldn't understand how a restaurant could serve as many milkshakes as he had been told. Curious, Kroc dropped his things and went to California to see the place. It was, in fact, the first McDonald's, and the salesman was enchanted and fell in love.

One of the things that inspired me the most about the film was not the fact that Kroc turned McDonald's into the biggest fast food franchise of the world, nor his passion for the business. It was his perseverance and determination to get to this point, his focus and resilience. As they say, the goal in life is not the finish line or the destination, but the simple fact that you became a different, more evolved version of yourself while reaching for that goal. In the film, Keaton also repeats a phrase originally quoted by Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States, that stuck with me:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.”

Those who believe, those who want and go after, those who don't give up on their dreams, end up “winning” in life, like Ray Kroc did. As time went by, I also realized that motivation is a very important factor for success, but motivation alone is not enough – it comes from the desire to be better, wanting to be the best version of yourself. To make the right choice, even though there is a part of me that wants to stay put. Realizing this when watching the film was a true “piel de gallina” moment, as they say in Spanish.

Hancock's film also shows the power struggle between Ray Kroc and the founders of McDonald's, Dick and Mac. The rapid expansion spearheaded by Ray Kroc, which made Dick and Mac sell their business to the entrepreneur, awakened in me a somewhat uncomfortable feeling, which reverberates the tireless echoes of capitalism. Noam Chomsky reflected this same concern in his book “The Common Good”, published in 1998, which talks about the reality of large corporations and our society:

“It is ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by large corporations. What kind of freedom exists within a corporation? They are totalitarian institutions–you take orders from above and perhaps give them to people below you. It has the same level of freedom as Stalinism.”

I keep thinking about how much the area I work in, Branding, can worsen the consequences of this system. I read a recent article in the newspaper Folha about the difficulty of ascending through different social classes in Brazil. On average, the poor people in Brazil need to live through nine generations to reach the middle class. Nine! Can Branding contribute to this reality? Could the purpose of this area, to differentiate and dress products in attractive uniforms, end up leading to an exaggerated consumption, which further aggravates this inability to achieve socio economic advancement? Perhaps. Personally, I don't see myself as largely to blame for these numbers just because I hold the position I have today. That would be very naive of me. And it would also be naive to place all the blame on capitalism. I think what the film showed is that this system can have its harms, but it also proves to be a great savior for many people.

Almost all of us know that McDonald's isn't the healthiest food out there. But aside from that, the film left me with a great impression that one of the franchise's greatest missions is and always has been to put food on many people's tables. People who do not enjoy the same resources as those who live in the Faria Lima bubble, for example. In these cases, what matters most is having food, regardless of healthiness. The FAO pyramid profoundly resonates with this concept. The restaurant represents family, shared memories, like the ones I had when I was a child, fascinated by the “golden arches” of the establishments. Above all, it represents the determination and persistence of Ray Kroc, and the geniosity of the McDonald brothers. For all of this, and for all the burgers we have eaten and will eat from the franchise, we have to be grateful.


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