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An Interview with Gene Landrum
Founder of Chuck E. Cheese
Many traditions hint of inspired individuals moving among us, helping humanity evolve and expanding the horizons of our untapped potential. If such individuals actually exist Gene Landrum, one of the heroes of the Information Age, certainly qualifies. Gene Landrum almost singlehandedly created the circumstances that led to our current computer-world paradigm.
 
Thor: Welcome to Quests Gene, it is my great honor to be interviewing you again!
 
Dr. Gene: My pleasure!

Thor: All heroic journeys begin somewhere, where did yours begin?

Dr. Gene: I got lost in comic books - Batman, Superman, Captain Marvel Tom Swift and Tarzan as a child, and the books of great inventors, thus escaping from the mundane into life's possibilities and opportunities to do things beyond the norm. As you know I've written The Superman Syndrome.  I'm convinced that our Kryptonite lies within our minds. Thus, to be trite, Losing our Minds can be a good thing. As you probably know Carly Jung, the creator of the words Introvert and Extrovert and the Syzygy admittedly was in a psychotic state when he came up with the concepts - NOT CONSTRAINED BY HIS INHIBITING MIND.

Thor: Before your journey coalesced into your own unique life-path, what other directions did you contemplate taking?

Dr. Gene: I wanted to play sports.  I've always been athletic, I was Mr. Ft. Lauderdale at 19 and at 45 ranked #3 in the US in Racquetball. My new book is on Sports Empowerment

Thor: What drew you to Silicon Valley?

Dr. Gene: I was sent there to be a junior executive in the office products industry and was blown away by the unique people who were not constrained by the system, convention, old ways.

The Valley will go down in history as a parallel to the Enlightenment in Southern Europe and the Greece of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. It gave us the first: IC's, Microprocessor at Intel, Video Games - Atari, programmable PC's at Apple, Web connections at Netscape and Cisco, et al, and on and on... including my creation of Chuck E. Cheese for family entertainment.

Why? When those around you are not lost in policy and procedure manuals all things become possible. Again - Lose your mind to make some sense.

Thor: How did you get involved with the Atari 2600? This device made consumer electronics 'friendly' almost overnight and gave us a glimpse  of virtual frontiers we're still exploring decades later.

Dr. Gene: I had a team of engineers while running the Consumer Division for National Semiconductor that I took with me to Atari.

Thor: When pocket calculators suddenly became affordable, that too was you moving behind the scenes. What inspired you to take this course of action and how did you manage it?

Dr. Gene: I was knowledgeable in the field and was hired to open the National Consumer Division where I was building 30,000 a day in the mid-70's and 10K digital watches. It was a blast with schools all over the country banning them from classrooms for keeping the kids from learning to count, the same classes today that you cannot take without a calculator. Strange how the world moves forward with more knowledge and less paranoia.

Thor: Then you brought us Chuck E. Cheese, a family friendly food and fun franchise with a rat as a mascot. Your wisdom obviously prevailed, but it couldn't have been easy convincing potential investors that people could overcome their aversion rodents while eating.

Dr. Gene: I did the planning for Chuck E. Cheese and felt it was viable and told the Chairman of Atari - Nolan Bushnell - who said, "I love it. I'll give you $1M to open one." I told him, "You're nuts. I wouldn't give me the money. I can't boil water and know nothing of restaurants." He told me that he trusted my wisdom and the rest is history. And candidly it would not be what it was if I had known what I couldn't do. The Chairman of Holiday Inn, when trying to cut a JV deal, told me I couldn't have a rat costumed character in a restaurant as they were antithetic to the food industry. I told him that Chuck was doing well and was staying with him.

Thor: What inspired you to make a life-study of human greatness?

Dr. Gene: All of my time in Silicon Valley people kept telling me I was screwing up kids with handheld calculators, that video games would destroy them and Chuck E. Cheese just didn't make any sense.

And when I reflected back to grad school when the professors insisted, "Just run your business by the numbers," I discovered they were absolutely and unequivocally wrong and still are doing it today. Are budgets good tools and a necessary part of the process? Of course, but most people are so afraid of making mistakes they elevate budgets to the status of bibles. Ever hear people say, "Can't do that. It's not in the budget." I want to throw up. What if you could violate the budget and double sales or triple profits? When I landed in Silicon Valley those movers and shakers never permitted such stupid remarks.

Thor: You've written numerous books Gene, each one of them exploring a different facet of applied human potential in amazing depth and detail. Can you give us an overview of what you've discovered?

Dr. Gene: I have been trying to tell the world "It's okay to be different, since if you aren't you will not make a difference." And I've been using the world's movers and shakers to prove that statement in many venues such as sports, business, science, etc. My last book  Empowerment in Sports, Business & Life shows that Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are 'different' along with other characteristics and that is precisely why they became rich and famous. About 88% of the world, when looking at the statistics, play it safe, don't rock the boat, follow the budget. That is okay if you want to grow old in what I call Mediocrity-Ville and not ever get fired and retire with the gold watch. It is not the way to make a difference. That is what I'm writing about along with what helps this happen - having the ability to flip-flop between the right brain hemisphere and the left.

In other words, See things Globally (the forest) and act on them Locally (the trees) - and in that way you won't get stuck in that mire that "clerks" get stuck in that is pure CYA.

Thor: Your books are all thought provoking, well researched and meaty. How do you manage to be so prolific without resorting to fluff or filler?

Dr. Gene: I am too old and too much the curmudgeon to waste time on being politically correct. An example. I just received an e-mail from India from a guy who said he was blown away by my book Eight Keys to Greatness, but added, "how could you be so socially belligerent?" He was raised in the Indian caste system where they are trained early on to believe that everyone their place - poor or rich and that is where they are supposed to be and this guy was shocked that I would say we can all strive to be greater than what we are or what our parents want us to be. Life is way to short to spend it chasing someone else's dreams.

Thor: I am a strong believer in the power of Mythic Mentors. Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of my role models, used Mythic Mentoring with great success throughout his meteoric career. Can you tell us a bit more about the premise for The Superman Syndrome: You Become What You Think?

Dr. Gene: At times in our life, especially when roaming in unknown arenas we need to adopt the larger ethereal sense to alter our inner inhibiting side. Alexander the Great took the Iliad with him to every major battle and emulated his hero Achilles. Carl Jung said it best, "It is not Goethe who creates Faust, but Faust who creates Goethe."

Wow! Studies now show that if we think of something for 16 seconds we own it. That is why we had better be thinking positively or be destined to walk around with a cloud over our heads. I speak to this extensively in my book The Superman Syndrome. We can't afford to hang with losers so tell such people, "I've used up all my time this week for negatives, call back next week."

Thor: I love the title of your upcoming release Paranoia & Power.

Dr. Gene: I just finished this new book and looking for a publisher who gets it. I believe we are only as ill, weak or sick as our deepest fears and they are born of our past experiences and environment.

Elvis is an example of taking his fear and weakness and using it for success. Elvis was so pathologically shy that his first time in front of an audience at 19 was shaking so bad his left leg was almost in a sexual motion while on stage. He came off stage at the break and asked the producer why the young girls were screaming. "You're leg is shaking provocatively, don't stop." He didn't and started the other leg as well.

Thor: How can people learn more about you consulting services?

Dr. Gene: My website: genelandrum.com has numerous quotes on my work, theories and concepts and on my consulting or speaking to groups. I am happy to speak to major groups on my books or other areas of behavior as a factor in success. Marketing is my area of expertise so I do many Business Plans and new product launches for people here in Florida.

Thor: In a life full of amazing accomplishments, which are you the prodest of?

Dr.Gene: Just being the best I can be without hurting others on the journey.

Thor: And what horizons are calling to you? Where do you see your current road taking you?

Dr. Gene: I have made a New Years resolution this year to ski down a Black Diamond run when I'm 90. That is a long way off but it forces me to stay on the slopes and in shape or I'll never have a chance. We are nothing more or less than what we do, eat and think so if we can stay grounded in those arenas we will cope.

Thor: Thank you Gene! Your life and work have inspired me greatly, more so than many of the famous people you've met, studied and written about.  I look forward to our next conversation.

For more information visit Gene Landrum

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