3 Insights From Mike the Headless Chicken

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Mike the Headless Chicken

Running a business isn’t easy; it requires plenty of patience, hard work and dedication. But sometimes things just don’t go the way you expect. Do you ever feel like you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off? Well, Mike the Headless Chicken sure did. He actually did run around with his head cut off . . . for eighteen months.

The Story of Mike

Mike the chicken lived in the beautiful little town of Fruita, Colorado. He was just pecking away, hanging out with the hens and living a great chicken life until the fateful day of September 10, 1945.  Mike was to surrender his head in order to provide dinner to his owners Lloyd and Clara Olsen, who would soon be hosting Clara’s mother. Mr. Olsen headed out to the chicken coop with his ax, ruminating on the fact that his mother-in-law was particularly fond of the neck. Lloyd was a smart man – he knew it was well worth his effort to make his mother-in-law happy. So he planned to cut poor Mike’s head off as high up as possible to preserve the neck. Whack! Mike’s beheading was complete.

I’ve never killed my own chicken for dinner, but it’s common knowledge that the bird runs around a bit after you remove its head (this is why I buy my chicken pre-cut and packaged at the market). But Mike just never stopped running around. Lloyd left him in the coop, figuring he’d calm down overnight.

But in the morning, Mike was fast asleep, his neck tucked under his wing. What a will to live! Lloyd decided that any chicken with that much chutzpah deserved a stay from a second execution. He figured out that if he fed and watered Mike with an eye dropper, the chicken got the nutrients to live.

Mike the Headless Chicken

And live he did. A week later, Lloyd drove Mike to the University of Utah where scientists confirmed that Mike was indeed alive and well, even without his head. Turned out that Lloyd had missed severing Mike’s jugular vein and most of his brain stem was still attached. Chickens don’t have much of a brain to speak of (which isn’t much of a surprise, really), and most of their chicken reflexes are controlled by the brain stem. So even with the amputation of his head, Mike could still live a vibrant, productive life as a chicken.

Over the following 18 months, Mike thrived. He grew from 2 1/2 pounds to 8 pounds. And now he was famous. Mike made appearances at various shows in New York, Atlantic City, Los Angeles and San Diego, where admission of 25 cents was charged just to get a look at him. He was insured for $10,000, the amount the insurance figured he was worth. Mike was featured in Life and Time magazines. And he made it into both the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

Sadly, on the way home from one of his appearances, Mike became a bit congested and began choking. His owners couldn’t find the eyedropper they used to clear his throat, so he passed away. His legend lives on.

Mike the Headless Chicken’s Legacy

Mike the Headless Chicken

The town of Fruita just couldn’t forget Mike and his feisty will to live. They’ve dedicated the third weekend of May for the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival. The festival includes a 5k run, bike race, frisbee golf tournament, wing eating contest, chicken dance contest and a vintage car show.

Mike has a fan club on Facebook with over 12,350 likes.

The “Good Egg Award” is given to two citizens of Fruita (one child and one adult) who “maintains a positive attitude in all aspects of their life.”

Recently, the Discovery Channel filmed a documentary about Mike’s life. And the movie, “Chick Flick: The Miracle Mike Story” debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.

3 Insights From Mike the Headless Chicken

The thing about Mike is, he’s the chicken that just keeps giving. Though he’s been gone for more than 60 years, we can still glean some insights from the life of Mike.

1. No matter how bad things get, you can still carry on.
Running a business or organization can be tumultuous at times. In fact, you could feel like just lying down and giving up. Did Mike just lie down and die when his head was chopped off? No. He got up and kept acting like the chicken he was (albeit with a few concessions to his new disability).

Whether it is a new competitor on the block, changes in governmental regulations that make it harder to do business, or this blasted economy, just remember Mike. Keep a positive attitude and make adjustments. Learning to adapt to your situation is a huge factor in the future success of your endeavors.

2. Do something different
It’s not every day that you see a chicken living without its head. Mike gained tons of notoriety and his owners earned a lot of money (up to $4,500 per month, the equivalent of $48,000 today). I’m not suggesting you try to decapitate yourself, or even one of your employees. But I’m sure you can come up with something cool that no one else is doing. Even if you are in an mature industry, try something different. Utilize tools like social media and email marketing or maybe update your branding to something more current. Whatever it is, try something that makes you stand out from the crowd.

3. Do something that others can’t easily replicate.
Once Lloyd and Clara Olsen started raking in some serious cash with their headless chicken, many people across the country tried to replicate their results. Sadly, many chickens were needlessly sacrificed – none lived for more than 2 days. Mike was truly one of a kind. Which, of course, made him much more valuable.

This is easier said than done, especially if you exist in an industry that is well established. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. New technologies are being created everyday that could help differentiate your products, processes or marketing. Stay educated. You would be amazed at the number of ideas that come when you are constantly immersing yourself in learning new things. It doesn’t even have to be related to your work or industry.

For information about the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, and other tidbits of Mike info, go to: MikeTheHeadlessChicken.org

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