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Power of Habits

Power of Habits

Meet Orlando Vasquez. Orlando is a lead line cook in Austin and has been with TopGolf since we opened the site in May 2013.  He was recently selected to be part of our Culinary Training Team and will be assisting with the Houston North location opening. The team was tasked to read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and then write a 250-word essay on what they learned from the assignment and how they will use it to coach new Associates. Orlando's essay blew us away, and we asked his permission to share it with you here...

What we do in our lives depends on how we choose to live, and the way we live becomes habits that we control. After reading the book The Power of Habit, I learned that there are many different forms of habits, but all have the same thing in common: a cue, a routine and a reward. For example, a coach who leads a football team to achieving greatness by simply "believing," a retail store like Target following the lives of customers on what they buy and sending them coupons for future purchases, and how a high school dropout expanded thousands of Starbucks locations worldwide. Every chapter in the book was a different story, a different habit and a different reward. Each story had an interesting point in its own way.

The story that caught my attention the most was the one about the coach and his way of teaching a football team to work together as a "team" to achieve a goal they all had in common -- to win. In ways, I can somewhat relate to that story because we share similar theories. His method was living by believing. I live my ways by faith. After the death of the coach's son, the coach wasn't the same person anymore. He seemed to look a little depressed, and his players noticed the difference in his personality. After seeing the coach this way, his players knew they had to do something about it to bring him back to his normal self. The players wanted to win him games, so they worked together as one and became stronger as they were before. They played on behalf of the coach's son. They believed. By simply believing, they made their way to the playoffs and won the trophy for their coach. The coach was happy, he knew it was all for his son.

In my case, ever since I was a little kid, I've always wanted to become a chef. I loved seeing my mom cook, and I grew up watching the cooking channel. I knew I wanted to become a chef, but my parents were against it. My parents wanted a better future for me. I was never one to disappoint my parents.

As I grew older and a year away from graduating high school, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. My parents still hated the idea of my getting into the culinary profession. I was clueless. Until one day, July 5, 2007, my little sister unexpectedly was rushed to the hospital and straight into the intensive care unit. She had been hurting, and doctors had no idea what the issue was. They tried all sorts of procedures, but nothing was to be found. We were losing her, and she wasn't going to make it. Our entire family was in the room circled around her bed shedding tears and spending our last moments with her. The saddest part was my little sister knew it. She knew her time was up. The lines on her heart monitor were running low. We all gathered around and held hands. A family friend began a prayer. We prayed, hoping she wouldn't leave us. Then suddenly the lines on the heart monitor began to rise up again. It was a miracle. Nothing was given to her by the doctors. It was the love of the family and having faith in her that brought her back to us. We couldn't believe what had just happened; it was a true blessing.

The next day, we found out she has an illness known as Lupus. She is still with us today and hanging in strong. I knew having faith was real. After graduating high school, I enrolled myself into culinary school against my parents' backs. It was something I wanted to do not just for myself but for my little sister. My little sister made faith possible. Everything I do is for her, and she is the reason why I am where I am today. I even have a tattoo with the word "faith" in huge letters across my chest. Now my parents are finally proud of me. Nothing can be better than finally doing something I've always wanted to do with my life and having the love of my parents supporting me along the way.

My training technique for training new cooks will be pretty much the same as mine, but to have their own story they can relate to. It isn't about trying too hard or impressing others. All it is, is doing it for yourself. My job for new cooks for future locations is for them to become better than me. I want them to be the best they can be. And if they prove to me that their techniques work just as much as they did for me, then I know I did a great job teaching them. This again goes back to the story of the coach and his team. Times are always hard no matter what.

I want them to build a strong habit with the company. In the restaurant, the cue will be showing up early and doing what needs to be prepped for the lunch/dinner rush. The routine will be getting your you-know-what kicked by the countless number of tickets that will be ringing through the ticket machine, while focusing on taste, quality, timing, portioning and plate presentation. The reward is knowing that you made it through the rush, you feel great about yourself, you become a better cook, and knowing that the guest enjoyed the satisfaction of an enjoyable meal and dining experience. So really there's many different rewards at the end of the day. The biggest reward of all is when you keep the guest coming back for more. Eventually, they will build a habit that will keep them wanting more. They will learn to communicate with different stations on the line, build stamina to become faster and to always be ahead of the game. Everyone needs to keep each other motivated. If one line cook falls, they all fall, then tickets built up and now they're in the weeds. I want them to bring each other up. If one starts to fall behind, keep him/her going. The kitchen works together as a team, a football team, all with one goal.

My job isn't just training them. They will be training me as well. I want them to teach me to become a good trainer. We will be learning from each other, so that when I leave their location and train another I'll have the experience that they have given me. I want to make them a strong team of cooks, I want them to take my skills that I've given to them and take it to the next level. Knowing that I am capable of doing that, then I know that I have become a great trainer.

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