There is so much wisdom to be learned from other people. Those who write about them are gateways for us to receive those. Mitzi Perdue—businesswoman, author, and public speaker—is a great example of someone who holds stories that are encouraging, uplifting, and motivational. Sitting down with Dhomonique Murphy, she shares some of those stories about the great people in her life as well as herself by letting us in on her books, Tough Man, Tender Chicken and How to be UP in Down Times. Perfect in a time where there is nothing but stress and uncertainty, Mitzi gives us the recipes for living well through the lessons about overcoming adversities from the life of Frank Perdue and her recent collaboration with Mark Victor Hansen. Tune into this episode to learn more about how to live your best life even in this time and, more importantly, help others in the process.
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Recipes For Living Well: Lessons About Overcoming Adversities With Mitzi Perdue
We have a special treat for you. Mitzi Perdue, welcome.
It’s good to be here.
It is good to have you. For people who are joining us, can you give us a little brief synopsis or overview of who is Mitzi Perdue?
I have the incredibly good fortune to come from two amazing families. My family by birth began as a family business in 1840, which is a long time. We’ve had family reunions since 1890 and we’re about to celebrate our 130th. My father was the cofounder, along with my uncle, of the Sheraton Hotel chain. We are a long-lasting business family. We did sell the Sheraton Hotels when my father died, so we’re no longer a hotel family, but we invest in other stuff. That’s one side. The other side is my late husband. His chicken company, Perdue Farms, began in 1920. We’re now 100 years old. My husband, Frank Perdue, was my absolute hero from the first moment I met him until these days until now.Money alone does not make you happy. Click To Tweet
It sounds like he is such an incredible man. Your whole family, you are grateful, lucky, fortunate and blessed, whatever word you want to put there. You have been surrounded by many encouraging and uplifting people in your journey. I know a lot of those family members have inspired you, Frank, in particular. I know you have talked about how much of an inspiration he was to view. I see so much so that it has been put into the form of a book. Tell us about Tough Man, Tender Chicken and some of your other products and books.
I wrote Tough Man, Tender Chicken and there’s no ghostwriting there. Every word of it is mine. I was able to write it because I interviewed 143 people who watched his career. I got to interview his third-grade teacher, which was cool and all these stories that they had about him. He started out as a shy country boy and how he could become a marketing icon. I’ve been in Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing with people who knew back in the 1990s who Frank Perdue was because he was in his ads. He pioneered a CEO appearing in the ads. It amazes me that a country boy who didn’t finish college could figure out marketing enough so that he did become a marketing icon and his company. When he started in the chicken industry on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, there were 5,000 chicken growers of which he was one.
By the end of it, he’s in the top few in the world. He used to say that there are many ingredients of success, but marketing was one. When he figured out that marketing was important, this was a difficult thing for him because he was a shy country boy and the whole New York culture is vastly different. He made it a point to live in New York for a full-time total immersion course in learning how advertising works. He spent ten weeks in New York. He interviewed people from every major newspaper, radio, and television station. He interviewed 66 different advertising companies and had read books. He had contacted whoever the author of the book was. He knew so much about advertising by the time that he dared get into it.
One of the biggest parts of this story that I’m eager to share with our readers was Frank was a shy person. He had never even been in a school play. How did he become the spokesperson for his company? He didn’t want to do it but the advertiser, the copywriter, the person who wrote the ads said it has to be you because your competitors could copy everything you say. You could say, “My chickens are fresh.” The competitor could say, “Mine is fresher.” “Whatever you could say they could copy, but the one thing that they can’t copy, Mr. Perdue, is you look like a chicken. You squawk like a chicken and you relate personally to your brand. Nobody can copy that.”
He spent months practicing how to develop an on-air presence. For somebody extraordinarily shy and this just wasn’t his thing, he became almost miraculously good at it. He did that almost through willpower. His daughter, Beverly Perdue Jennings told me that he had spent a couple of hours practicing his lines in front of the family every day for a couple of months. When it finally came time to film the first ad, Ed McCabe, who was the copywriter said, “Mr. Perdue, you’re going to have to dial it back a little bit because you’re giving to the camera too much.” Eventually, he got it right and his ads were popular. I’m told that people would ignore whatever else was going on, but when a Perdue ad would come on, the whole family would go watch. Imagine somebody who’s shy that he never was in a school play becoming a consummate advertising icon.
That’s what we’ll talk about. That’s what we’ll find in this book, Tough Man, Tender Chicken. Frank’s story of overcoming obstacles and adversity to being a huge powerhouse.
The formula of the book is there are ten different things that Frank had to learn or he wouldn’t have been a huge success. Each one was something where he had a deficit, but he figured out where he wanted to go. He figured out what he had to learn and practice to be able to do it. It would be things like delegating and working in politics because if you’re a big enough company, you have to know how to get along with politicians. I’ll give you an example. This is something from the past. I don’t think it happens anymore. It used to happen that if there would be some bill in Congress that would impact the chicken company, maybe it had to do with importing or who knows what, a few senators or congress critters would call him and say, “Mr. Perdue, the such and such bill is coming up. Would you like to attend our fundraising breakfast?” That’s sort of like blackmail almost. I think you can’t do that anymore, but the politics of being in business is amazing.
Mitzi, you have numerous books. I’m blown away by you. Tell me about your latest book, How to be UP in Down Times.What keeps people happy is a generous, giving spirit. Click To Tweet
One of the greatest privileges of my life is the co-author of this book is Mark Victor Hansen and also his stepson, Preston Weekes. The privilege of writing a book that I think could help millions of people. Mark says that he likes it enough that he thinks it should sell a million copies. The premise of it is I made the suggestion of it. Mark’s a friend of mine. I said, “Between the three of us, we know a lot of things that can help people in stressful and difficult times. Let’s write a book.” Four weeks later, it’s printed.
How do you write a book in four weeks?
I’m a writer, so it wasn’t that hard. It was in total full-time. I was probably rude and unfriendly to everybody I know because when I work, I get up in the morning and I write.
I find that hard to believe that. You are so sweet.
I was blown away by Mark and Preston because I think my writing is somewhat labored. I can get it out there, but I have to polish and work on it. I had seen their first draft and I know it had to be the first draft because of the timing. Let’s say in an evening call, Mark would say, “I’m going to write on so and so.” The next morning, there it is, two or three pages. He didn’t have time to polish and rewrite a whole lot, yet, it flowed. He’s good at it. It was inspirational to watch a master at work.
That’s what they say in terms of the speed of publishing, writing the book, getting it to print and into publication. When you live it, it’s not hard. You’re sharing your stories and advice on how people can be better, do better, and stay uplifted and encouraged. Especially with COVID-19 and all the things we’re seeing around the world, we are seeing more people down than up. For someone reading this episode, maybe they are in that boat. They’re feeling down. They have lost hope. They are looking for some encouragement and advice. What would you say to that person?
I have a piece of advice that can help a lot of people right off and it’s so science-based. I was a science writer for a good bit of my career. I worked for Scripps Howard, for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, and I wrote the blog for the Academy of Women’s Health. In my life, I’ve interviewed a great many scientists and they know an awful lot about a lot of the things that we’re up against now. One of my favorite tips and I’ve shared this with people. A lot of people are up against the following. It’s what we call the pandemic brain. You’re not as sharp as you normally were under all this stress. It’s hard to remember names or maybe you are good at math and you have trouble balancing your checkbook or something. You think, “I’ve got Alzheimer’s.” I’ve got good news if that’s one of your worries.
There’s an infinity of science behind this. You aren’t losing your mind, but what’s happening is under stress, the higher memory functions tend to shut down. The cortisol and adrenaline that’s coursing through you are telling you to be ready to have fight or flight. If you’re being chased back historically by a saber-toothed tiger or something, you aren’t supposed to be thinking of remembering names or doing math problems in your head. All your energy is going into flight or somebody is coming to attack you or steal your goats and you need to fight. At that point, your higher memory, the blood isn’t going to the brain as much or at least the higher memory functions. On the other hand, when the stress eases down, you’ll be able to get your memory back probably the way it was before. If you’re worried about being foggy and not being able to get things done as well as you used to, the good news is it’s almost certainly a stress response. When the stress goes away, you got it back.The greatest gift that one person can give another is an inspiration. Click To Tweet
That’s good and encouraging.
I ended up in a lot of phone calls and I’m thinking of one woman who is an accountant. She had to figure out how many face masks would be needed for 20,000 people if they were going to each have 100 face masks. She said, “I can’t do it. Normally, I could do it with my hands tied behind my back underwater, but I can’t do it. What’s wrong with me? I’m getting Alzheimer’s.” It wasn’t that. She’s got a pandemic brain. I made up that term.
We should use it as a hashtag.
We should because in my experience, there are a lot of people who feel that their minds have gone muzzy that they can’t get done what they used to.
This book will give them the information and the tools to get away from the pandemic brain and to overcome that.
I have a lot of advice on that. One of the things that are going to cause stress a whole lot is your living with people. It reminds me of, “I married him for better and worse, but not for lunch.” How do you get along with people when you’re forced to be closer together than you’re used to? That can be stressful, especially in families. I have a piece of advice. This is a science space is anything in the world. That is don’t argue politics because your chance of changing somebody’s belief system, and politics is a belief system is effectively zero. There’s a man who was a Nobel Prize winner. His name was Daniel Kahneman. He said, “People do not change their belief systems through arguments. Instead, you argue with them and there’s something called blowback.” They’re going to believe what they were believing, to begin with even more strongly because it’s your identity. You don’t want to give up your identity. The point of all of this is it’s a waste of breath to argue politics. Instead, and I’ve seen this work in family after family, focus on what unites us, not what divides us.
For our readers who may not be aware, how many books do you have, Mitzi?
I have written in my life twenty.If you develop a whole lot of talents, when you put them together, you're likely to be way farther along the road to success. Click To Tweet
No signs of slowing down anytime soon.
I figured that I exist to serve. That’s my purpose in life. I write the books because I hope from the people I’ve interviewed or known that there is a little of what my mother used to call, recipes for living. The things that once you know them, you’re better off.
It’s so well put, recipes for living. Mitzi, thank you so much for your time and for coming to this show. I appreciate it. Mitzi has written twenty books and they are all wonderful and full of information that can help you change your life for the better. Check her out, go buy the books and live your best life. Have a good day.
About Mitzi Perdue
Mitzi Perdue is the daughter of one family business titan (her father founded the Sheraton Hotel Chain) and the widow of another, (her late husband was the family business poultry magnate, Frank Perdue), and she is also a businesswoman in her own right. She started the family wine grape business, now one of the larger suppliers of wine grapes in California. Mitzi likes nothing better than to share insider tips for successful family businesses. Her family of origin (the one that started the Sheraton Hotels) began with the family business, Henderson Estate Company, in 1840, and her Perdue family started in 1920 in the poultry business. These two families have a combined tradition of 276 years of staying together as a family. Mitzi is happy to share actionable advice on how they created and maintained their family businesses.
Mitzi speaks on how to make your family business last across the generations, and she also talks about success tips from mega-successful people.