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:

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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

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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.

Characters

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.”

Also:

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

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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.

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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

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My Reviews: The Social Network

Just got home from seeing The Social Network in theaters for the first time. I can understand why Mark Zuckerburg wouldn’t want to see it, there’s a few things that have been exaggerated about him and his life, plus Jesse Eisenberg adds a few details to Mark’s character that I can hardly imagine that the real Mark has or is.

First of all, what surprised me is that the story is told in memories, meaning that what takes place “now” is the characters in the board rooms meeting with lawyers and discussing the several lawsuits that are going on. I thought that the movie would be about how facebook was created, not told as a memory. It’s an interesting artistic choice, one that keeps the plot moving very fast.

That’s another point – this movie moves very fast, and if you don’t know the real story behind the creation of facebook in reality, there’s a good handful of things that might confuse the average viewer.

Second, the primary buzz (at least when the movie came out) that this movie was about Mark creating facebook as a way to get a girlfriend is a bit bent. Yes, in the movie it does show Mark’s character in a relationship with a girl named Erica, and Mark’s character attempts revenge on her, but he does it while drunk and gets into a bit of trouble for it. Beyond that, the focus isn’t so much on relationships as it is about hooking up. (I do wish there was a little bit more boy on boy action represented, since facebook’s Co-Founder, Chris Hughes is actually gay).

There’s a good number of legal terms that come up in the movie, and anyone who doesn’t have a basic grasp of law and legal proceedings is going to be lost in the terms.

A couple of artistic choices definitely struck me. First, it was a walk down memory lane seeing the old versions of the facebook site on screen. Second, I enjoyed how much sex was emphaised over relationships – I feel that it’s a good expression of how society is evolving in it’s definition of relationships. Ironically enough, this whole issue is a plot point in the movie – relationships and why the relationship status was added to facebook itself.

Third, (and a smaller point) I loved the choice of music. There are no theme songs, per se, but I recognized many of the famous classical pieces that were included.

Fourth, I also enjoyed the pace of the movie. As I said, it goes quite fast, and just like how watching Beyblade motivates me to play the game, watching The Social Network makes me want to blog, to facebook, to tweet, and so much more. Note, I came home and immediately hopped on WordPress to write a blog which will sync to facebook, and to twitter, and to Tumblr, and then a second time to my facebook as a note, and so on and so on. On top of that, I’m building in more features onto my WordPress (As soon as I understand Google Friend connect!) and posting for the second time in a short period. Again, so much pace described above, and all inspired from the speed of the movie.

Fifth, I noticed the emphasis on how college students are performing incredible business tasks from the setting of their dorm rooms. It makes me smile to reflect on how much of an impact that people from the ages of 16 to 28 are having on the world right now, and how much more of an impact they are going to have for the next 60 years! So many things in the world and in life are about the change, and much of that will be coming from the fast paced people depicted in this movie.

Finally, I enjoy the level of knowledge that’s shown throughout the movie. Everyone seems to be an expert on everything, which is easy these days. With mobile and cloud computing, anyone can do a Google search from just about anywhere and get a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips in seconds about whatever they need at any moment. And if you’re at a high speed computer in an office, then you have an infinitely bigger capability of gathering loads of useful information and basically creating a data army to use at your will.

A very nice piece of art, I’d say.

All in all, I’m pretty sure this makes my list of top 20 favorite moves of mine of all time.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie