My Story: Another Phoenix Cycle

Just a quick update for now:

Once again, I find my universe burning down to the ground. The pandemic has torn apart everything that made hotels so much fun. It has burned down any certainty I had about life after Houston.

4 years ago, my life in Vermont began to collapse making way for my life in Houston. 8 years ago, my life in Wisconsin began to collapse making way for my life in Vermont. 11 years ago my life in Kenosha began to collapse making way for my life in Milwaukee. 16 years ago my life in New Berlin began to collapse making way for my life in Kenosha.

Now, the same thing is happening again.

A phoenix lives for thousands of years because it dies in a burst of flames and is reborn again from the ashes. I have already gone through this cycle personally many times, and I can feel it happening again. I have related to the phoenix for a long time, and I even carried around a symbol of one with me for many years. (Reference on that here!)

Life will always through challenges you. From them, you either die or get better; that’s the basic function of life. Today is a new day and I’m still see a bright future coming ahead of me.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Story: 2021 Reflections

Today marks 10 years…

10 years since I failed out of college.

10 years since my world collapsed in a way I never dreamed possible.

10 years since I lost almost everything I knew about myself.

10 years since I first felt truly, irreparably broken.

In the time since, I have completely transformed:

I got my first “real” job and learned what life was like outside the world of academia. Several other jobs followed this.

I have lived in 3 different states with 3 entirely different sets of cultures. 

I found my life’s calling and made sense of the aimless wandering I did professionally for many years.

I discovered 2 television shows that taught me how much more there is to life than what I had known for the previous 2 decades. 

I met a lot of amazing people who really helped shaped me into the man I am today. 

I found many different mentors who taught me more about life and the world than I ever learned in a textbook. One of these mentors has inspired my current moniker.

I finished my Associate’s Degree, making me something more than just a high school graduate.

When I felt the world collapsing around me again, I eventually snapped out of it and pressed onward.

In returning to finish my Bachelors, I had a semester (Fall 2020) where I accomplished straight A’s and had the best GPA of my life academically. (The clearest sign to me that I have been in the right track all along!)

I’ve learned to stand on my own feet, take responsibility for my choices, and broken down my fear of being alone.

The past 10 years have been far beyond what I could have ever imagined when my heart & soul were smashed apart by my own inability-of-the-time. I had no idea those broken pieces would form a whole greater than what they were broken from.

Looking forward, there’s still a lot of road left to go. In theory, and with a bit of luck, hard work, grit, and perseverance, this time next year I’ll be walking across a college graduation stage. Hopefully with a serious career launch right after that. 

Even more hopefully, I dream of life filled with love, family, and friends, because that’s why life is worth living. Texas has become this cocoon where I’ve focused so much on my profession that I’ve lost touch with so much of what makes me human and why life is worth living. I still haven’t fixed my character flaw of not reaching out to more people when times are dark. I continue to be grateful for those who have stuck with me during this time and hope I can see you in person again someday.

I could be wrong, but nevertheless foreword I shall push on.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Story: 2020 Update

Hello everyone,

Taken during an overnight shift at my current place employment back in July.

I’m sure there’s a number of you who felt I dropped off the face of the earth. And in some ways, yes I have.

I began a “test disappearance” from Facebook in late August 2018. Like many others out there, I felt like Social Media was too in control of my life; that I was only living for what I could post to it. I don’t have an apt enough vocabulary to describe how liberating it felt to not feel obligated to Facebook, and soon that spread to my Instagram account. I had already made a disappearance from Twitter – the majority of what I used to Tweet was automated and not 100% genuine.

Where has all this lead to? I definitely don’t feel addicted to social media. I don’t seek out the validation that comes with likes, comments, and re-tweets. But, I also feel like I’ve lost my connections with too great of a number of people. And for that, I’m sorry. My friends have always been the light in my life that kept me going and that has not changed. Interesting how “full circle” this moment is compared to 10-11 years ago when I wanted to be the King of Social Media in my circle.

So….a lot has happened since 2018. I made some small attempts to try and make life updates here but that didn’t work out consistently. I’ve changed jobs a couple times – the good thing is that I’ve gone a step up the ladder. But working in hotels also means that my schedule is at odds with so many other people’s schedules. I came to Houston to discover the spot in the hotel industry that I’m meant to be a part of, and I think I’ve made good progress at finding it. I love the idea of being a quality auditor, albeit it’s a stretch for me to actually be hired as one. The pandemic was very hard on the industry and so many people have been laid off. Again, I’m one of the very lucky ones to now be working at a hotel that’s not struggling to get people in the door. I still feel behind financially, and I desperately want to finish school so I can settle into “career mode” and start actually planning for the future. Right now I’m spinning my wheels into mud and sinking slowly.

Working in Houston has been a vastly different experience than working in Vermont. Day-to-day I’m not having as much fun as I did back in Vermont, but that makes the end goal that much more important. (There was a point where I went back to the chain restaurant I have worked for multiple times because my income dropped so much after moving here.) It’s also putting more pressure on school, since I’m using that as my primary discover/explore tool right now. Thankfully, school has been the bright spot in my life.

While Fall 2019 was challenging (I had to do general education courses to boost my GPA enough to qualify for entrance into Hilton College), Spring 2020 (finally in the Hilton College major program) was the most at-home I’ve felt inside a particular college since my time as a Stage Management Major in my first semester at UW-Parkside in 2006. The Hilton College truly does feel like it was where I was meant to go all along, I just “took the long way round.” Spring 2020 was the second highest GPA I’ve ever accomplished in my life and I’m aiming to make this fall my highest ever GPA. It was the most amazing feeling to start making connections in my spring classes before we were all swept online. I wish more than anything that I had more time face-to-face with the people I met, but these are the cards life has dealt.

This fall I’m in a Revenue Management course and it really looks like a viable career path. While not 100% confirmed yet, it looks more and more like I will finally get my bachelor’s degree in May of 2022. There’s a handful of other career interests that I’ll be exploring over the next year and a half as well, such as hotel development. Online courses were a major factor in my failing out of UW-Parkside back in 2010/2011, and going online only for the bulk of 2020 has been a massive personal challenge. It’s taken a bit of my pride for my school away from me, since it now feels like I could be a student at any college, and not one that means something special to me.

I don’t much care for living in Houston, but I knew coming down here that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Compared to my first 30 years of life, it’s a never ending summer here. There’s a lot of people who prefer that life, but Fall and Winter are my two favorite seasons and neither one are truly here. So until I finish school and get out of Texas, there’s perpetually a piece of life that’s missing from my world. I am definitely not meant to live in the southern United States for too long. For those who get depressed during the long winter months – that same feeling is what the weather in Texas is doing to me. I do little things to trick my brain into the fall/winter mode – scented candles, scented dish soaps, a healthy subscription to Monin Syrups for flavored coffees, using electronic device wallpapers, but in the end there’s nothing that can replace the feeling of a brisk walk outside during these months like I used to do. (Nor is there a replacement for the exercise that I used to get doing that – my physical fitness has definitely suffered while living in Texas!) I live in an area that’s not exactly great/safe for the walks I used to take, so I’ve had to forego them for the time being. I could drive out to places where I could go walking, but part of what appealed to me about it was seeing the changing trees and that doesn’t happen here. Plus, the point was to be able to walk without having to drive anywhere. There’s no art to the scenery of Houston compared to Wisconsin and Vermont.

I have no dating life to speak of at this point. I’ve been single for 7 years as of this past April, and it’s very unlikely that that’s going to change before I finish school. Marriage and family have never felt farther away from me, but I continue to hold out hope that there’s a later chapter of my life that involves both. I’ve done a lot of evolution on my life outlook, so it’s probably for the best that I’ve walked this path alone for so long. Right now it’s hard to picture myself dating anyways, considering my schedule and current financial situation.

It amuses me that the isolation that came with the pandemic actually didn’t change much in my life emotionally or mentally. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m fairly introverted and isolation tends to recharge me, not drain me. That being said, it was during the last few months that I realized how much I’ve lost contact with most people I know. I’ve been thinking about writing this sort of update for some time now. At my current job I’ve also been having to rotate doing overnight shifts with day shifts during the week, so my sleep schedule has also been badly out of whack.

Drag Race and Doctor Who continue to be my entertainment sources of choice. I still see Drag Race as a metaphor for my own life of working my way through school to get my degree and go out into the world. I was thrilled to see Ms. Jaida Essence Hall win season 12 this year; so proud to finally have a Wisconsin queen in the winner’s circle. The more I see Jodie portray the 13th Doctor, the more I continue to find myself relating to the Doctor. (Half my GIF library is all of Jodie’s Doctor & her best quotes.) I see myself trying out new shows and entertainment once I’m done with school and can focus on amping up my personal time more.

For my Wisconsin friends, I still come back every Christmas, but the past few years I’ve been really getting to know my “new” family on my step dad’s side and spending time with them. My step dad and I have also been coming up with increasingly creative birthday surprises for my mom; we took her to central Wisconsin for a special dinner (of Sand Dabs at the only restaurant in the state that seems to serve them), which mom hasn’t been able to enjoy/experience since I was a toddler. Last Christmas we took her to Chicago for dinner and a show. Both of these were amazing trips, but also used a lot of the time that I was actually in Wisconsin.

I’ve also reconnected with one of my half brothers from my biological dad’s first marriage and that has also meant the world to me. I was afraid for over a decade that I’d never hear from either of my half brothers again in my life and now I’ve been given the gift of time with at least one of them. I don’t have the vocabulary to express how interesting it is to have a blood brother who I can relate to when I haven’t been able to have that for nearly 30 years. (He was already an adult as I was growing up and at a different stage in his life, now we can talk about nearly anything and relate/connect with each other.)

If we haven’t talked in a while, I’m sorry. My intention was never to abandon the people I care for. I just wanted a more genuine connection with the people in my life, but by tying to break my social media use I also lost that as an outlet for connection. I don’t plan on re-igniting my social media use anytime soon, so the best way to reach me is by texting me. I want to get better about keeping up with the people I’m connected with, but I also need to improve at not feeling overwhelmed at trying to keep up. I’ve always been horrible at spontaneous contact with people and have never developed the skill to jut reach out and connect with people. Here’s a meme that also sums this up:

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Story: 31st Birthday Highlights

For my 31st I wanted a low-key day. I’m leaving 2 jobs and starting up a new one, so relaxing is my best friend at the moment. Here’s what I did:

My birthday Starbucks drink was a (rare for me) Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino.

I went to see the 2019 remake of The Lion King, as that was my childhood Disney movie.

I finished the night with plenty of wine at home.

Birthday cake was the chocolate lasagna at Olive Garden.

Respectfully submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Story: Transfer Orientation At The University Of Houston

I walked into this day knowing that I cannot be a Hilton College student for my first semester (which begins in August). My class failures a lifetime ago at UW-Parkside (I flunked out in 2011) all transferred here with my CCV record from Vermont and I have to take some Gen Ends to get an acceptable GPA to qualify for the Hilton College. The good news is that there are Gen Ends I can take that count towards my final degree with Hilton.

One thing I’ve noticed already: the WiFi here is fantastic – I have zero cell service in the Welcome room, but even the public/unsecured is strong enough that I can update this post in real time and still get notifications.

Not sure what my end date is yet. But if I play my cards right I might just hate it by the end of today.

Put first things first. Spend time on activities that are consistent with your personal mission. My goal is the piece of paper, but my mission to to grow again. To be better. I’m here for class but also for experience that I was never going to get back in my past lives.

Small Wisconsin echo here: my small group is titled “Butler Plaza.” The last place I lived in Wisconsin before moving to Vermont was Butler, WI.

On my way to small group meeting.

And so it begins…

Not much happened in small groups. The leader barely got into her email, and we had a brief chat about online services. Butler Plaza turned out to be the Free Speech Zone here on campus.

And back in the main room for a few more mandatory information piece sessions. 1 PM is the scheduled time to start registering for classes.

Every year I say I’m going to take care of my body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I feel like there’s s little more momentum for that now that I’m here.

I was very sad to not be able to walk to register for Hilton College today. Sins of the past come to bear fruit. But that’s just another can of fuel to do great and be great right out of the gate.

Facepalm: the box lunch I grabbed was improperly labeled, so it looks like I’m not eating until this is over. (We moved from the student center to a different building for class registration.) Le sigh!

It turns out that the official advisor for Liberal Studies isn’t even here – they are out sick and some other advisor is doing general advising sessions to get us into classes. I didn’t find him to be particularly helpful, in fact he was relatively rude in my opinion.

While I had some time before & after orientation, I took a look inside the Wellness Center and the lobby of the Hilton College. It was that little spark of “this is what I’m fighting for” that I needed to feel that day.

At the end of the day, I’m registered for 4 courses I need to get the GPA that gets me into the Hilton College, and would still be required to graduate anyways. I still have a checklist of things to do before I can enter my first classroom, but that’s the next task to tackle.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Travels: The Mobley Hotel; Cisco, TX

My time in Texas has brought me to the place where Hilton Hotels first began: the old Mobley Hotel in rural Cisco, TX.

I’ll start with the Mobley Website, which can be found here.

In 1919, Conrad Hilton made his way to Cisco to purchase a bank. That transaction failed because the seller changed the price last minute and Conrad failed to get his foot in the banking industry. He went across the street to the Mobley to “lick his wounds” and plan what his next move was going to be. When he arrived, he found that the Mobley was insanely crowded – lodging options were sparse to non-existent in that moment in time. Conrad was turned away at the front desk – they told him that all rooms were rented and that he would have to come back in 8 hours.

The Mobley was in such demand that it filled every room for guests to sleep in every 8 hours, and people would rotate out in shifts to sleep. Conrad sensed an opportunity and spoke with the hotel manager, Henry Lanford Mobley. By the next day, Conrad had purchased the hotel instead of the bank he originally came to Cisco to buy. Business was absolutely booming. Shortly after his success with the Mobley, Conrad went on to purchase a string of other hotels, across Texas, then across the United States, and eventually across the world.

The Mobley changed hands a few times after Conrad was forced to sell it. Eventually it fell under the jurisdiction of the University of Houston (which is where Conrad Hilton established a school for Hotel Management). The University of Houston, along with the Conrad Hilton Foundation put a staff in place to run the Mobley as a museum dedicated to both the history of Mr. Conrad Hilton and the city of Cisco. The building was completely renovated internally in 1985, with some upkeep over the years; most famously when Hilton sent in a volunteer team to re-paint and fix a few things up in 2017 to prepare for Hilton’s 100 year anniversary.

Here’s a sampling of the photos I took during my visit:

Photos of photos don’t really do the place justice. It is absolutely worthwhile to visit the Mobley, in fact the current curator confirmed my suspicion that several current (and possible former) Hilton team members have been making pilgrimages to the Mobley, just as I did.

Here’s to the next adventure!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts: Why Hilton?

Hilton is an absolutely fantastic company to work for. I should know, I’m in the middle of my third year with the company. There is so much to this company, from it’s deep history, it’s strong culture, to it’s bright future that leads me to think this is the right place for me to work.

Hilton ranks #1 in best companies to work for in 2019, according to Forbes.

Hilton is a company of FIRSTS

Hilton was established in 1919, which makes it the longest running chain of hotels currently standing. Marriott comes in a close second with a start date of 1927. Even then, Marriott wasn’t a hotel chain until later on.

Hospitality Net does a great job at cataloguing what Hilton has pioneered through the last century. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Hilton’s CEO is Highly Visible & Active

Hilton is the only company I’ve worked for that I can honestly say that I would recognize it’s CEO if he crossed my path.

Chris Nassetta is the CEO of Hilton, and he’s one of the most known and respected CEO’s in the world. His executive biography can be found here. Chris Nassetta turned the Hilton brand around from a complacent, almost struggling hotel chain into a world class place to stay. The story behind that can be found here. More recently Chris Nassetta was featured on Glassdoor rankings, see Hilton’s press release here. Chris Nassetta has given interviews on what he does to insure success, as seen here.

It’s such a motivator to know who my CEO is and that he’s active in making this company run to the best of it’s abilities. It’s a dream of mine to have my photo taken shaking his hand one day.

Hilton’s Recognition Website & Programs

Hilton goes above and beyond when it comes to recognizing it’s employees. It all started with Conrad Hilton’s original vision. It means so much to know that the place I work wants to shine a light every time I do the right thing.

Hilton has a specific program where it encourages every guest and every employee to recognize the people that work for Hilton while they are doing the best job that they can. Hilton calls this: Catch Me At My Best.

The way it works: if someone made your day special, you fill out a comment card about them so they can know in writing that you made them feel special. This happens hundreds of thousands of times every single year.

Hilton is consistently being ranked as one of the best places to work in various formats. Like being known for it’s LGBT diversity and being a great place to work for women.

Hilton Takes Care Of It’s Employees

Hilton has partnered with Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global to make a concentrated effort to ensure that every one of it’s employees has a good work-life balance. Hilton employees thrive in body (eating well, exercising, getting proper sleep), mind, and spirit. Hospitality extends even to employees. Side note: Ariana discussed this very program on a Podcast I follow.

Hilton has made a point to not only lift up military veterans, but also people who never completed high school. They have a program to help employees finish their high school diploma.

Hilton’s Community Efforts

One of the things that Chris Nassetta has advocated for is to employ youth and veterans at Hilton. He wants Hilton to give youth something to get them out of unemployment and trouble and a vision for the future. Chris Nassetta wants to give veterans a sense of home and opportunity after their military experience. Hilton also provides support for returning military who have to travel for job interview efforts.

Every property under brand in the umbrella of Hilton has an onsite committee that’s partially dedicated to making a difference in the community around them. I was very active in the Brighthearted Committee for my Hilton Garden Inn in Burlington, VT.

Hilton’s History & College

Conrad Hilton, the company founder also founded a Hospitality college program, the Hilton College of Hospitality Management. This has since gone on to be ranked one of the best hospitality degree programs in the world. They teach everything hotels, and even beyond into other aspects of hospitality. It also houses the hospitality industry archives. 93% of graduates have jobs lined up at their time of graduation. I am working on getting accepted into this school. 

Excellent Travel Program

It’s thanks to Hilton’s travel program that has allowed me to travel as much as I did in 2017, and hopefully even more beyond that!

Hilton promises to lock in employee rates for life to anyone who has given them 20 years of service. I see paring lifetime team member rates with Lifetime Diamond Status as the best possible win for Travel for the rest of my life.

Closing thoughts

When I come into work, I try really hard not to fall into the typical “it’s just a paycheck” mentality. I take homage to one of my favorite TV shows (Rupaul’s Drag Race) and turn my time on the job into “Conrad Hilton’s Hotel Race: The search for America’s Next Hotel Superstar!” This company stands behind me as a person, and it’s only right to channel my energy and my talent into making every person feel special when they stay at my property.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Reviews: Be My Guest by Conrad Hilton

Be My Guest

I picked up this book because Hilton Hotels have been wonderful to me. From employment to my travel adventures, it’s been a life changing experience. So the next logical step (to me) was to hear the story of the “RuPaul” of hotels. After all, even TIME Magazine called him the Innkeeper to the World:


Conrad Hilton (or “Connie” as he was more commonly known by during his lifetime) is quite a man. Given the time period in which he was growing up and active, I was surprised to see how much of him I can relate to.

Connie was born on Christmas Day, 1887 in rural New Mexico. He was the son of a Norwegian immigrant father, and a devoutly catholic mother. Before starting his Hilton Hotels chain, he had his hand in many different industries and jobs. He operated a general store, ran for and served as a political representative, and was seriously interested in owning a bank when he stumbled into hotels quite by accident.

“There was a vastness here, more air, more sun, more space, and I thought that here a man drew some of that vastness into his soul He could dream big dreams, think big thoughts because there was nothing to hem him in.”

The above quote is from when he was beginning to expand his business contacts, still running the store with his father. He is talking about the vastness of Texas and New Mexico at the end of the 1800’s.

This is almost literally what I felt Vermont was when I first moved there, and what I expect Texas will be like in 2018. A new frontier gives a person room to breathe, room to dream. This is one of Connie’s recurring themes – the power to dream. He was always dreaming, thinking of the next big thing for himself. Before hotels, his greatest dream was a bank. Once he realized that hotels were his “thing” the Waldorf Astoria in New York was his “mountaintop” dream. He repeatedly referred to the Waldorf as his “queen.”

“Now bargaining was – and is – a very personal thing with a great deal of tradition behind it. You have to know the rules. But if you do, and have a zest for it a good bargaining bout between well matched opponets can be as exciting as a major leauge ball game. The trick is to know the value of an article to learn to regard a price tag so that it is flexible – not of course, staples like salt or coffee, but on such items as feathed hats or coffins. The buyer is entitled to a bargain. The seller entitled to a profit. So there is a fine margin in between where the “price is right.” I have found this to be true to this day whether dealing in paper hats, winter underwear, or hotels.”

Hilton was an expert businessman, no doubt about it. It’s these little nuggets of wisdom that really show how he thought. It’s knowledge like this that you only really get by going out into the world and digging your hands into it.

Bargaining in particular is a skill that I never acquired as a child, nor even really understood until very recently. A former roommate of mine relied on it heavily, so I first started seeing it in action in 2014. Hilton’s insight on the topic is superb.

“After feeding and tying the mules I’d put on bacon and coffee, the two most comforting smells I know, and huddle over the campfire.”

Anyone who knows me knows how important coffee and bacon is to me. Glad to see Hilton felt the same way. Connie goes on to mention the traditional importance of drinking a cup of coffee with someone in Turkey, and what a different world we would live in if that tradition was shared in America and worldwide.

Hilton had moved to Texas towards the beginning of his quest for expansion and growth. He was in Cisco, TX looking to purchase a bank in 1919 when the deal fell through. As the deal was failing, he found a 40-room hotel called the Mobley (which still stands today) and he purchased it when he couldn’t get a room for the evening. The Mobley Hotel was doing so much business that it was turning over every room three times per day, the dining area had been converted into extra rooms, and Hilton was sleeping in his office.

“It was a paradox. I was home, yet it wasn’t home. I was the same man, but changed. I had gained a vision of a wide, wide world beyond my native river, my native state. My former dreams bound up in past limitations.”

After spending time in Vermont and being so far away from everything I knew, this is also the frame of mind I felt about my then-new state. Hilton’s quote here is the heart of why I think it’s good for everyone to leave the place they were born at some point while they are young and go out and see the world. It really changes your perspective and deepens you.

(Conrad’s Mother) “You’ll have to find your own frontier, Connie” When I hesitated she added, “A friend of your father’s; a great pioneer, once said, ‘If you want to launch big ships, you have to go where the water is deep.'”

Connie’s mother, Mary Laufersweiler Hilton was a driving influence in his life. Throughout the entire book he references how her Catholic beliefs shaped his own faith, and she really helped drive him forward.

“Go to Texas, Connie, and you’ll make your fortune!” – Mr. Vaughey

No wonder Hilton College is in Texas! Seriously though – it wasn’t until after he transitioned to Texas that he began to to accomplish his major life goals.

On esprit de corps: “Pride plus incentive. Wages won’t do the whole job. We had to sell the idea that our men belonged to the best durn outfit in the A.E.F. and they were the ones who made it that way.”…”Self interest plus pride added up to increased efficiency and we simply blossomed with esprit de corps.”

This right here is the Heart Of Hilton. Hilton prides itself as being a great place to work, and there’s sound reasoning behind that. It was a vision of Hilton himself to give every single one of his employees a reason to believe in the company they were working for. This started with the very first Hilton Hotel, the Mobley in 1919. I personally make it a point to be proud of my job, no matter where I am, and I feel like Hilton is the first company to back that idea from their side. This is a beautiful sentiment that I think more companies should adopt. Furthermore, Forbes has consistently put Hilton on the list of 100 Best Places To Work.

Hilton is the first company that I’ve ever had the idea to want to one day say “I gave 30+ years of my life to that company.” These days, people jump ship for various reasons, always thinking the grass is greener somewhere else. Hilton showed his employees that it won’t be true because they will make the company they believe in the best of all.

“I thought I was about the luckiest fellow there was. Funny, I think so still. I do believe in luck. But the kinds I believe in has to do with people, and being in the right place at the right time, and receptive to new ideas.

All of this right here. I believe in these words; luck has little to do with universal “magic” per se, but rather understanding how people function, what people need, and what drives them. Hilton went to great lengths to understand other people, be it during business dealings or romantic pursuits. Understanding people and their needs is a cornerstone of any service, and Hilton shows that throughout his book.

“I think maybe the fact went to my head a little. I think maybe I was verging on complacent self-satisfaction and I do not know of any single thing that will halt a business career so rapidly. A further facet of my “luck” has always been that, when I was riding a little too high, something or someone dragged me back to earth again.”

“I realize now that there has never been a war without casualties, never a true victory, for something treasured has been lost on both sides.”

Even Kai once said that “we should never rest on our laurels.” This is one more pillar that Hilton understood, and learned from. It’s too easy to get comfortable and get knocked down. I have gone through many a breakthrough myself. Loss and defeat helps to make us stronger as people and as professionals, and the great depression provided that life lesson to Hilton. He lost nearly all of the hotels he had acquired at that point, and had to fight his way to holding onto the rest.

“As I believe in my own faith, as I believe in America, so I honestly believe that brotherhood is the platform on which a lasting peace must be built – in business, in a nation, in the world at large.”

Hilton believed in other people. These words may have been written back in 1957, but they ring true today. America is a wonderful country, and we only got to be so great by the brotherhoods (and sisterhoods) that we’ve formed amongst ourselves. Recently America has felt divided, and it’s very disheartening. I make it a personal point to place myself in everyone else’s shoes and my own faith involves listening to and empathizing with others.

Conrad Hilton lays out his blueprint for hotel success right in his book in pretty explicit detail. His seven point plan can be summarized as follows:

  1. Each hotel mush have it’s own personality. (This is routinely asked in the guest surveys from each hotel of guests to see if they can notice the personality.)
  2. Hotels should be able to forecast their volume.
  3. Mass purchasing. (Of materials and supplies)
  4. “Digging for gold.” (This means utilizing every inch of space to maximize it’s use in each hotel.)
  5. Training good employees.
  6. Sales efforts.
  7. The advantage of inter-hotel reservations. (This has evolved into the Hilton Honors program)

“I believe that idealism can be practical, as I explained. ‘I work for our stockholders,’ I said. ‘I am in business to make money for them. All right, here’s the way I see it as a hotel man. The world is shrinking. What used to be a month-long vacation trip is now almost a week-end possibility. Businessmen can cover far-off territories. The airplane is here to stay. Americans not only can but want to travel farther, see more, do more, in less time. This is progress and the hotel business must progress right with it…Today you can fly over a whole string in a few hours. If we were to set our hotels a day’s journey apart, we’d be around the world in no time. So perfectly sound business is in line with national idealism.”

Hilton’s vision outlined about to his board of directors back in the 1950’s sounds very much like today’s world. It’s within this vision that I can personally see 1/5th of the whole country in just a few months. Hilton saw his hotels as an integral part of the American dream, and even references that they stand as an argument against communism, which was much more of a threat in the 1950’s when the book was written.

Thank you, Conrad Hilton, for this amazing journey through your life. I’ve been your guest, and now I’m inviting everyone I know to #BeMyGuest!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas A. Condie

My Reviews: The Chocolate War


The Chocolate War is one of my two all time favorite pieces of literature. (The other being Inherit The Wind) Now that I re-read it recently, I figured it’s time to write a post explaining how much this book means to me.

The Plot

The main storyline of the book revolves around high school freshmen Jerry Renault. It’s sometime in the 1980’s and he goes to a private Catholic school. Jerry has just experienced his mother passing away from cancer, and his father moved him out of their house and into an apartment because they couldn’t deal with the memories of her around every corner.

Jerry is a skinny kid but wants to be a football star someday, so he’s trying out for the team and pushing himself to succeed there.

Archie Costello is the antagonist, although there’s a handful of moments from his point of view. Archie acts as a ringleader in a gang in the school called the Vigils. The Vigils act as a “control” in the school – an underground organization that bullies kids into doing prank-like “assignments.” Archie is the one who creates the assignments and uses psychological warfare to make his victims carry out their tasks.

The conflict (and title of the book) arises when Archie assigns Jerry the task of refusing to sell Chocolates for 10 days in the annual school chocolate sale. Not wanting to be bullied, Jerry accepts the assignment but then continues to deny the Chocolate sale after his assignment is up. This causes other students to rebel against the sale, while unbeknownst to them the acting headmaster is counting on the sale to save the school and his own reputation.


Jerry Renault represents very accurately who I was when I was his age – 15. Jerry lived through his mother’s passing from cancer, I lived through my father’s passing from cancer at that age as well. Jerry was just starting to come into his sexuality, and I was just starting to understand mine at that point. Although Jerry went after girls, whereas I did not. Jerry starts with a poster in his locker that reads, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Back when I was 15, I was so trapped in my own universe and had no concept of the real one outside my window. After I turned 18, I slowly began to disturb the universe, and move around in it, much like Jerry ends up doing over the course of the book.

I found myself relating to Jerry at my original reading of the book, but didn’t see just how similar he and I were at the time.

“The exhilaration of the moment vanished and he sought it in vain, like seeing ecstasy’s memory after jacking off and only encountering shame and guilt.”

All of the references to masturbation went completely over my head when I read this in 8th grade, but they are glaringly obvious to me now. This book follows teenage boys just developing into their sexuality, and I came into my own about 2 years after I first read this book.

Archie is more complicated. Whereas Jerry is a freshman, Archie is a senior, and closer to 18. Archie has a much more adult mentality.

“Archie believed in always doing the smart thing. Not the thing you ached to to, not the impulsive act, but the thing that would pay off later. That’s why he was the assigner. That’s why the Vigils depended on him.”

Archie strikingly reminded me of Draco Malfoy the first time I read the book, and he still does to this day. Archie is a true Slytherin type – resourceful with a disregard for the rules. Archie is also a puppet master, able to adapt any chaos thrown at him and control everyone and everything around him. The 15-year-old Lukas saw him as a villain, but the present Lukas sees where that kind of personality is truly a life skill to have. While Archie is obviously not a Harry Potter character, he’s a Slytherin I relate to in present day. Many times throughout the book he feels the controlling thought of “I am Archie, I cannot fail.” Another one of Archie’s lessons, from the sequel, Beyond The Chocolate War:

“The point is nobody’s perfect. There’s always a flaw. A secret. Something rotten. Everybody has something to cover up. The nice man next door is probably a child molester. The choir singer a rapist. Look at all the unsolved murders. Which means the man standing in line next to you could be a murderer. Nobody’s innocent.”

Much of Milo Yiannopulous reminds me of Archie, which is probably a subconscious reason why I’m so drawn to Milo as a person/speaker. Archie also strongly reminds me of Kai Hiwatari, an anime character I idolized during my high school and early college years. Archie has a lot of lone wolf characteristics in him; to quote from the sequel Beyond The Chocolate War:

“No response, no echo. Which is what he wanted; to be alone, separate from the others, untouchable except by the knowing hands and mouths of the girls at Miss Jerome’s.”


“Archie realized anew why he kept himself distant from people. Let them approach a bit and they come too close, take too many liberties.”


Themes & Motifs

More of Archie’s thoughts:

“It was good to have people hate you – it kept you sharp.”

And Archie’s thoughts from the sequel, Beyond the Chocolate War:

“Everybody likes the smell of his own shit.”

Archie pulls some thoughts out of the mentality from another book I enjoy, Lord Of The Flies. He speaks the following to the leader of the Vigils, Carter:

“You see Carter, people are two things: greedy and cruel. So we have a perfect setup here. The greed part – a kid pays a buck for a chance to win a hundred. Plus fifty boxes of chocolates. The cruel part – watching two guys hitting each other, maybe hurting each other, while they’re safe in the bleachers. That’s why it works Carter, because we’re all bastards.”

This mentality plagued the characters of Lord Of The Files as well. I was still very much an innocent little kid when I first read this in 8th grade, but I’ve definitely seen too much of the world to deny this thought on my own now. I’ve seen the overwhelming greed and cruelty from far too many people at this point, it really makes you lose faith in your fellow human. I’d even add to this: distracted. While people watching at the airport during the holiday season in 2016, I saw the vast majority of people only looking at their phones, or so wrapped up in their moments that they were leaving bags unattended, or dropping things and just walking away. Every day I see people fail to read documents agreeing to financial transactions that they don’t bother to even look at. People give their credit cards over the internet to criminals and scams that they don’t even realize are fake. I’ve seen people kill & hurt over their greed and desire for drugs. Forensic FilesNumb3rs, and other crime shows reveal so much about the negative side of the human psyche.

The 2016 election (and it’s consequences) has been a great example of so many people devoting their lives to their political beliefs, wearing them on their shoulders, having a self-righteous attitude about them, but then refusing to act when it comes time to vote, or work gracefully with others when their team has lost. (I used to be that person once upon a time.) In particular, the UC Berkeley riots over Milo were gut-wrenching to read about.

I have seen so much that people complain about problems in the world, but are doing absolutely nothing to change them. Too many have come to believe that sharing a picture on Facebook will feed a starving person, fill up a blood donation bank, get someone trapped in an abusive relationship to safety, get someone off their drug addiction, and so much more. If you want to see good things happen in the world, you have to go out and do good. You really do have to be the change you wish to see in the world.

Humanity has good moments, but as life continues these moments get increasingly rare. I have a harder time each passing year believing that people will do the right thing.

Carter’s reaction to Archie’s explanation:

“Carter disguised his disgust. Archie repelled him in many ways but most of all by the way he made everybody feel dirty, contaminated, polluted. As if there were no goodness at all in this world. And yet, Carter had to admit that he was looking forward to the fight, that he himself had bought not one, but two tickets.”

Even Jerry realized what Archie’s mentality does when it infects people:

“A new sickness invaded Jerry, the sickness of what he has become, another animal, another beast, another violent person in a violent world, inflicting damage, not disturbing the world but damaging it. He had allowed Archie to do this to him.”

Jerry has started his journey in the book with a poster in his locker that had the phrase, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Jerry ponders this before deciding to take his refuse the chocolates assignment further than he was supposed to, thus going against the Vigils gang and disturbing the universe that is Trinity School.

Other characters’ views of the world are ripped apart by Archie and Brother Leon, the teacher who is the grown-up version of Archie. From the mind of another student, who was just blackmailed by the acting headmaster:

“And he did see-that life was rotten, that there were no heroes, really, and that you couldn’t trust anybody, not even yourself.”

I do like to hope though, that I don’t make people feel dirty, contaminated, & polluted. Archie falls into the evil side of the spectrum because he uses this outlook on life to inflict harm onto others. For me, I take this worldview and use it as a way to find compassion for others. We all have our sins to bear, our battles to fight, or opponents to defeat. I have a dim view of humanity these days, and it makes those who are kind, loving, and warm all the more special.

Another bully at the school, Emile Janza has a moment where he describes his view of people & life:

“He found that the universe was full of willing victims, especially kids his own age…….Nobody wanted trouble, nobody wanted to make trouble, nobody wanted a showdown. The knowledge was a revelation. It opened doors. You could take a kid’s lunch, or even his lunch money and nothing usually happened because most kids wanted peace at any price.”

Emile is one of the more true villains in the story. He inflicts brutal beatings on other kids, and is the physical torment to compliment Archie’s psychological torment to others in the school. Emile is the kid I was always scared to run into when I was young, and still fear to an extent even now.

Another thought Jerry has about the universe and the people within it (about his father in this particular example):

“Listening to his father’s snores, he thought of how his father was actually sleeping his life away, sleeping even when he was awake, not really alive…..What was it the guy on the common had said the other day?….You’re missing a lot of things in the world.”

This strongly sums up how I feel much of this world is, even more so today than I did when I first read it. Jerry sees that his father is worse than just grieving over the loss of his wife/Jerry’s mother, but going so far as to have become an empty shell in life. Part of what makes me a UU is to listen to the life stories of others and hear them talk about their dreams, their hopes, their passions. I’ve met people who, like Jerry’s father is portrayed in Jerry’s mind, have no passion. They are walking through lives as an empty shell. They have no desire, no energy.

Harry Potter teaches us to pity those who are incapable of love (i.e. Voldemort’s of the world), The Chocolate War shows that it’s also the people with no souls & passions for life that need to be loved and cared for as well.


The Chocolate War resonates with me just as strongly now as it did back in 2001. Many of the life views it shows are ones I’ve been carrying with me for some time now, and will continue to do so.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie