Sunday, November 7, 2010

An Amazing Story

Dining In Iraq 
"The Pegasus chow hall, just outside the Baghdad airport, has developed a different reputation. At Pegasus, the prime rib is perfectly prepared. The fruit platter is a beautiful assortment of watermelon, kiwi fruit, and grapes. There are legends of soldiers driving to Pegasus from the Green Zone (the well-protected Americanized area of Baghdad) along one of the most treacherous roads in Iraq, just to eat a meal.
Floyd Lee, the man in charge of Pegasus, was retired from his twenty-five-year career as a Marine Corps and Army cook when the war began. He came out of retirement to take the job. "The good Lord gave me a second chance to feed soldiers," he said. "I've waited for this job all my life, and here I am in Baghdad."
Lee is well aware that being a soldier is relentlessly difficult. The soldiers often work eighteen-hour days, seven days a week. The threat of danger in Iraq is constant. Lee wants Pegasus to provide a respite from the turmoil. He's clear about his leadership mission: "As I see it, I am not just in charge of food service; I am in charge of morale."...
This vision manifests itself in hundreds of small actions taken by Lee's staff on a daily basis. 

At Pegasus ... there are gold treatments on the windows, and green tablecloths with tassels. The harsh fluorescent lights have been replaced by ceiling fans with soft bulbs. The servers wear tall white chef's hats.
The remarkable thing about Pegasus's reputation for great food is that Pegasus works with exactly the same raw materials that everyone else does. Pegasus serves the same twenty-one-day Army menu as other dining halls. Its food comes the same suppliers. It's the attitude that makes the difference. A chef sorts through the daily fruit shipment, culling the bad grapes, selecting the best parts of the watermelon and kiwi, to prepare the perfect fruit tray. ... The Sunday prime rib is marinated for two full days. A cook from New Orleans orders spices that are mailed to Iraq to enhance the entrees. ...
Lee realizes that serving food is a job, but improving morale is a mission. Improving morale involves creativity and experimentation and mastery. Serving food involves a ladle." 
~ from Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die; by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (pages 186 - 187)

I loved this story! I am almost done with the book it's from and I have been fascinated by it.

It breaks down imparting ideas to people into six steps that make the information stick. As a teacher I have been thinking a lot about how much effort and how many hours I put into teaching. I know at one level it is all worth it, but what about the retention levels?

As a mother I think about it even more. Is it all worth it? The hours and hours and days and days of saying the same things over and over. Will they remember? Is there anything I can do to make sure they won't just remember the twelve systems of the human body in ten or fifteen years, but also how much I love them? That truth is important? That they shouldn't go down dark alleys, or into stranger's cars, alone?

As a person who loves to encourage people and expose and create beauty I think about it, too. Is there anything I can do to make sure what I do, and say, and impart, lasts?

The book tells Floyd Lee's story, above, as an example of someone who has done his job absolutely in a way that no one will forget. I am going to summarize the authors' six points of making ideas sticky this week and I am going to be writing more about how I am starting to use them personally. This book has helped me define what is important to me and I am using it to think about how to make that "sticky."

"As I see it, I am not just in charge of food service; I am in charge of morale." ~ Floyd Lee

This is part one of four parts I will be writing this week about a new teaching style I am discovering, how it is teaching me about kindness and a great book.


Michelle said...

I just got a copy of Made to Stick at the library today. I can't wait to read it. I look forward to reading about your insights into the book.

Misha Leigh. said...

Michelle - That is so cool! Can't wait to hear yours! : )

emily wierenga said...

oh girl... this: Is there anything I can do to make sure they won't just remember the twelve systems of the human body in ten or fifteen years, but also how much I love them?

yes, a thousand times, yes. how? to teach love?

i learn from you, and i love this space, this beautiful place of yours. xo

Misha Leigh. said...

Oh Emily - thank you!

Sparks said...

Misha, you're adorable.

I'm starting to feel better and working on turning my thoughts toward your banner. I'll invoice when I'm ready. Maybe another day or two. Again, sorry for the delay.