McDonald’s, Gillette, and Study Skills

Twenty-five years before Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald’s store, he was a struggling “paper cup” salesman in Chicago. It was 1930; the country was in the midst of the prohibition era and soda fountains were rapidly expanding as an alternative to bars. Walgreen’s was leading the way, opening new stores and soda fountains at a feverish pace.

Kroc lived just a few miles from Walgreen’s headquarters and saw an opportunity for his paper cups. So, he arranged a meeting with the VP of Food Service where he proposed that Walgreen’s offer “take-out drinks” from their soda counters.

“Are you crazy?” the VP blasted back! “Why should I pay you 1ยฝ cents for a cup? That will cut my profits. No way!”

Kroc explained, “You’ll sell more! Right now, you can’t sell any more sodas unless you add more stools for people to sit and stay for a drink, but you don’t have the room to expand seating. Besides, people would carry their sodas around town, making people thirsty for your drinks. It would draw a lot more traffic in to your stores and be a huge boost for business!”

The VP was not still convinced. In fact, he was enraged at the suggestion. Finally, Kroc went to the Walgreen’s fountain down the street and gave them 200 free cups. “These are on me,” he offered. “Test them out. Try these for a month and see what you think.”

By the end of the first day, the take-out drinks were a smashing success! The VP was finally convinced…and that was the beginning of “take-out sodas.”


The world would not end if we did not have take-out sodas or coffees but they are so ordinary now that it is impossible to imagine being so opposed to the idea. Using disposable cups for our favorite beverages is common sense… but it wasn’t always.

Examples of these stories are endless…in the late 1800’s, King Gillette (that’s his first name, not a title) had a very difficult time convincing people of the concept and practicality of a disposable razor. He spent eight years trying to find an engineer willing to tackle the project and backers to finance it. Can you imagine? Disposable razors are the absolute norm now. But, not then.


In many ways, I feel like Kroc and Gillette when I talk about “study skills.” I am so passionate about the importance of study skills and absolutely convinced that they are necessary for us to compete in the global economy of the 21st century. Study skills changed my life and statistics support that my experience was far from a “fluke!”

Most people I meet seem to understand their value. In fact, when I am asked what I do for a living and tell people that “I teach study skills,” I ALWAYS get one of two responses:

“Oh! My kid needs that. Will you work with my son?”


“Oh, where were you when I was in school!? I could have used your help!”

People clearly understand the value of study skills on an individual basis, but only on a semi-conscious level. Otherwise, “study skills” are not an inherent part of conversations about education…as “common sense” as take-out drinks or disposable razors.

This oversight is beginning to be challenged. Just yesterday, while doing an interview for a nationally syndicated radio show, I was asked the obvious question; “Study skills just seem like common sense! Why aren’t they taught in school?”


Our educational system has burdened schools, administrators, and teachers with countless “standards and benchmarks” that are so deep in content, they have no time or training to develop the skills needed to access that content reading books for 4th graders and do something constructive with it. Content is easy to test, but while we are cultivating good test-takers, we are siphoning the spirit and individuality of our thinkers.

Meanwhile, other countries are leading the way in “study skills” and “soft skills” training because it is well known that these are the skills employers need! They need employees that can keep up with an ever-changing world and navigate through the current Information Age. Where are they going to go if they can’t get that type of workforce here?


…I believe that people will look at “study skills” in the same way we NOW view take-out drinks and disposable razors. It will be impossible to imagine NOT teaching them in school. They do, after all, enable students to learn how to learn, how to organize their lives, how to prioritize time and coordinate communication effectively. In other words, they are the skills that allow students to grow into independent and self-sufficient adults. And, most people would agree that this is the ultimate goal of education!


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