Life Lessons from Chuck E. Cheese founder Dr. Gene Landrum: Why Hearing “No” Shouldn’t Stop You from Achieving Your Business Goals

By Joseph Cappa

The second installment of the CTU Distinguished Lecturer Series featured Chuck E. Cheese founder Gene Landrum, Ph.D., earlier this month. This short blog series recaps inspiring stories that the well-known author and educator shared during his guest lecture. In this post, uncover why Dr. Landrum believes you shouldn’t give up when others are opposed to your business ideas. 

Dr. Gene Landrum and CTU Faculty Dr. Joe CappaLast week, renowned entrepreneur and Chuck E. Cheese founder, Dr. Gene Landrum, joined CTU for a free, open-to-the-public guest lecture. During the hour-long event, which was part of the CTU Distinguished Lecturer Series, Dr. Landrum shared dozens of stories from his past and answered a variety of questions from the pool of attendees.

When listening to Dr. Landrum, I realized some key trends throughout the topics and stories discussed. These trends were deeper than the general topics of business and entrepreneurial. Instead, they centered on ways that lifelong learners and dreamers can better achieve their business and entrepreneurial goals.  For instance, one compelling theme related to the concept of disregarding those who tell you “no”, including your own mother! Here are a few notable quotes from Dr. Landrum around the subject: 

  • Don’t listen to the experts.
    Experts, in my opinion, have such a psychological investment in what “is”. They never see what might be. They drive me crazy. When I was starting Chuck E. Cheese, I can’t tell you how many people told me I was nuts, that I didn’t get it. So don’t listen.
  • Mother actually isn’t always right.
    I opened the first prototype Chuck E. Cheese in San Jose, California. I bring my mother out. My mother was from Kentucky. My mother believed that you go to school, you get a pedigree, you sit at a desk somewhere, and someday somebody gives you a gold watch. That was her idea of what you do in life. So I bring her out… I turn to my mom after a while, and I said, “Mom, what do you think of my creation?” My mother thought for a minute, and she turned to me, and she actually said, “Honey, when are you gonna get a real job?” (And I said,) “Mom, I’m changing the family entertainment world!” She didn’t get me. She didn’t get it.
  • Don’t let the negativity bury you.
    Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller was an incredibly insightful guy, very innovative. Every dome stadium in the world, he invented. Bucky was in his 20s in Chicago running a company on building concepts. He was always long-term. A lot of people get lost in the short-run; they just want it now. The Board of Directors wanted instantaneous profits now – to heck with the future. (Bucky) wasn’t into that, and they fired him.

    He called his mom, and she said, “I hear you’re a loser.” He walked down to Lake Michigan; he was gonna kill himself. He sat there on the steps at Lake Michigan and started thinking. He thought, “It ain’t me, it’s them.” He started thinking philosophical and said, “I’m not going to do myself in.” For the next two years, he never spoke to anyone. He said, “I’m going within because without is not good.” So he hit bottom, and guess what – he came out of that. He did a dymaxion car. He did a dymaxion home. He built the first dome stadium in the universe. And have any of you gone to Epcot? That was Bucky. The bottom line here is when you hit bottom, it’s OK. Don’t let it bury you…. When you break down, you can break through.
  • Seek positive reinforcement.
    You need somebody to give you at least the positive vibes and the positive feedback. But a lot of people won’t, just so you know. It’s a very minority number of people that will, especially if you’re pushing the window. If you’re pushing the edge and doing something highly, highly creative, the majority of people will find all kinds of reasons (to criticize). You need to get hopefully someone who has bought into your dream.

Have you ever had someone tell you that you couldn’t achieve something you were working towards? How did you prove them wrong? Share your own stories in the comment box below.