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Truett Cathy: In his own words

Editor's note: Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, in a November 2005 interview with Joe Kovac Jr., shared words of wit, wisdom and Southern common sense. Cathy died Monday at the age of 93.

It's amazing how much wisdom you gather between the ages of 50 and 80.

I tell our people it's not so important to set goals for the future, because no one knows what the future's going to be.

My friend said, "Truett, there's nothing so great about taking the bone out of a chicken breast and poking it between two pieces of bread and selling it as a sandwich." I said, "I know there's nothing great about it, that's why I was able to do it."

Laughter is good for the soul.

You've got three ingredients that make lemonade so good. It takes lemons, it takes sugar and it takes water. It's a matter of the right proportions - and other things we put in there maybe. The main thing is using freshly squeezed lemons.

It hit me coming home after talking to a patent attorney: Just call it like it sounds, "Chick-fil-A" ... with the "A" that stands for quality food.

We close all our places on Sunday, and now as I reflect back it's possibly the best business decision I ever made. ... My original restaurant was open 24 hours. When you've worked 24 hours a day for six days you're ready for a break.

You can't always count on Southern hospitality anyplace you go.

Jimmy Collins (former Chick-fil-A president) used to always say, "Truett Cathy built his business on customers that others ran off."

I've experienced times of need and times of plenty. I'd much rather have times of plenty, but there are lessons to be learned in times of depression where you have to struggle.

There's always something to be done.

I teach 13-year-old boys in Sunday School at First Baptist Church, and I always give them a question to answer at the beginning of each year: "What would you change at home if you could change it?" And the No. 1 response has always been "stop the arguing."

Use common sense regardless what the rules are.

I do not tolerate alcoholism. It's an evil.

Think things through. I feel like the reason people don't think is that it's hard work. People don't like hard work. They try to avoid hard work. And if you just sit down and try to think for 30 minutes, it'll just about wear you out.

I collect cars. That's a disease I must have. It seems like the more you have, the more you want.

Back when I was in elementary school, they required us to bring a Bible verse to school on Monday morning. The teacher would select one Bible verse to be the Bible verse of the week. With the help of my mom we selected Proverbs 22:1, which simply says this, that "A good name is better to be chosen than great riches." I got my name up on the blackboard along with the Scripture ... and that always stayed with me.

I lost two brothers in an airplane crash, both of them leaving a wife and kids. When I get to heaven that's probably the first question I'd like to ask: "Why was it necessary?"

Regardless of how high you are, you're gonna have problems to cope with.

My daddy made use of a leather strap.

You never thought you'd be selling bottled water for the same amount as you'd pay for a Coke.

Being on time, I think it's important, but I never practiced it.

Whether you eat at a Chick-fil-A here or in California or Arizona or New Jersey, when a customer says, "Thank you," we are taught to say, "My pleasure." The words "thank you" and "you're welcome" have no meaning whatsoever. But when you respond, "My pleasure" and look at them in the eye and give them a smile ... it's very, very meaningful.

Kindergartners come through and I ask them what they're gonna be when they grow up. I hear things like doctor, school teacher, various things. One day one little boy said he wanted to be a zookeeper. And after that, all the kids wanted to be a zookeeper, zookeeper, zookeeper. So all of them wanted to be a zookeeper except one boy who had his hand up. I said, "What do you want to be?" He said, "When I grow up I want to be like you." That struck me emotionally. I picked that little fellow up in my arms and I said, "That's the highest compliment that I have ever received."

Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it could be done.

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