Making The Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts produced a television commercial so successful that the company decided to make over 100 slightly different versions. People would get up in the morning and humorously repeat its popular tagline to their roommate or spouse. Eventually, this catchphrase even became the title of the company founder’s autobiography. 

The star of the Dunkin’ Donuts commercials was a character named “Fred the Baker,” played by actor Michael Vale. Vale and his character Fred the Baker were so beloved that when Vale decided to retire, market research studies indicated the public didn’t want Fred the Baker to go.

In over 100 advertisements, the fatigued baker says the famous line, “Time to make the donuts.” Sleepy Fred the Baker slowly rises and wills his body out of bed for another day of donut making. A popular spot features Fred shuffling out of his house, mumbling, “Time to make the donuts.” Each time he exits his front door early in the morning, he moans, “Time to make the donuts,” and each time he returns at night, he says, “I made the donuts.” Every time the door opens, the weather or time is different: sunny, stormy, snowy, autumn, windy, dusk, dawn, midnight, but nothing stops Fred from making the donuts. 

After Fred leaves and returns home numerous times, the ending sequence shows Fred leaving his house, then bumping into Fred returning, the words also colliding: “Time to Make the Donuts…I Made the Donuts.” His world is literally upside down! He doesn’t know if he is coming or going. Is he about to go make the donuts, or has he already made them? 

Viewers could easily relate to Fred. In some form or fashion, viewers saw Fred the Baker in their own lives. 

So many of us seem to be living this “Fred the Baker” life day after day, after day, year after year. We’re letting life happen to us. Instead, we should be protecting certain items as “non-negotiable.” T-shirts with slogans like seize the dayyou only live once seem trite, but they’re right. 

My Version of “Making Donuts”

I, like many others, wasn’t prioritizing my life. People such as Michelle Obama and Warren Buffett discovered this early on. If they didn’t prioritize their time, others would be more than happy to gobble it up by prioritizing it for them. 

My world was upside down just like Fred the Baker’s life. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going, and, as a result, my work, family, faith, health—everything, was suffering. 

Your version of “making the donuts” might look something like this:

  1. You get up late because you went to bed late—you just had to answer that last email.
  2. Since you got up late, there’s no time to go to the gym. 
  3. One of the kids makes a mess in the kitchen while the other can’t find his shoes. You discover after ten minutes the shoes were left on the back porch and are drenched from last night’s rain. You frantically dry them with your hairdryer while reaching to clean up the mess in the kitchen. You’re out the door fifteen minutes later than expected, putting you into the heart of rush-hour traffic, taking you twice as long to get to the office. 
  4. You arrive later to work than you wanted.
  5. You thought you’d have time to tackle what you needed to tackle before your first meeting, but by being late, your time has vanished.
  6. Two unexpected meetings get added to your plate.
  7. You’re in meetings from 9 am until 3:45 pm.
  8. At 3:46 pm, a co-worker drops by to chat, asking for your help.
  9. You shoo him out of your office, finally, at 4:26, and you furiously start attacking all the emails that piled up.
  10. You’re exhausted, arriving late for your kid’s soccer game.
  11. You’ll have to work after dinner before putting the kids to bed.
  12. As your head hits the pillow, it’s much later than you want it to be. you’re surprised that your pillow doesn’t catch on fire because your hair certainly has from your crazy, hectic, awful day.
  13. Wash, rinse, repeat. 

Like the donuts man or Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, you may be falling into an un-enjoyable pattern. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character finds himself in a parallel universe, living the exact day, day after day. Most of us find ourselves in this “Groundhog Day State” more than we would like. How do we break free from this spin cycle?

The answer is FOCUS. It’s that simple, but it’s not that easy. To focus in this unfocused world seems impossible. 



If this post helped you, share it with a friend and check out The Focus Project. 

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About the Author: Erik Qualman

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 49 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.
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