The name Walt Disney Company is a multinational mass media corporation, brand and youth icon that’s valued at just over $45 Billion. As the second largest broadcasting and cable company in the world, it’s the babysitter of America’s youth and the parent of all things innocent. It has shaped the childhoods and pop culture of millions, probably billions of people. Quite simply it is the most well known company in the history of the world.
And it all started with one man.
Looking back. There are a ton of things you can learn from Walt Disney but here’s the four that caught our attention.
1. Leadership is inspiration, innovation and focus.
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality”. -Walt Disney
The key to Walt Disney’s leadership is that he was an incredible storyteller. It’s one thing to tell your employees to do something, it’s another to inspire them to action. Walt would tell them a story. He would go into extreme detail and make it come alive for them. He would inspire his workers and make them a part of that story and as a result he would get more from them. When he was first pitching his animators on the story of Snow White, he went through the entire story, acting out the characters, even doing their different voices and movements. Walt had a unique ability to hire people more talented than he was and to focus and coordinate their attention towards a common goal. He admitted that he was a terrible animator. So he hired the best he could afford and focused on innovating the company. He also knew his workers. He knew what they were capable of and didn’t accept anything less than their best. He may not have been quick to compliment, but he was always clear about what he visualized and expected.
2. Change your attitude towards failure.
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney
As with most highly successful entrepreneurs, Walt Disney failed, and he failed a lot. His first studio, Laugh O’ Grams never made a profit. But the most notable is the fiasco of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. In that ordeal, Walt lost everything. He lost his studio, his equipment, his animators and his creations. But once the smoke settled and the ashes cleared, he was back in the zone and while on the train home from learning he had lost Oswald, Walt created Mickey Mouse.
3. Believe in yourself, even when everyone say’s you’re crazy.
“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way. Implicitly and unquestionable” – Walt Disney
Walt was told he couldn’t do a lot of things but he thought otherwise. He was told that he could never mix animation with real life actors. He was told his idea for a theme park would fail miserably. Someone even told him that Mickey Mouse was a bad idea because a mouse would frighten women. He proved that just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t make it impossible. Impossible is a word of a small minded person and Walt Disney dreamed big. He had an unshakable belief in himself and what he was doing; that was all that mattered.
On the opening day of Disneyworld, five years after Walt’s death, someone remarked to creative director Mike Vance that it was too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this day. Vance replied, “He did see it. And that’s why it’s here”.
4. Resiliency is an entrepreneur’s best friend.
“The difference in winning and losing is most often not quitting” – Walt Disney
It took Walt 16 years to get the rights to make Mary Poppins, now considered one of the best films of that time. The problems he faced with author P.L Travers are so infamous it has been made into its own movie. He was turned down 302 times when trying to find financing for Disneyland before striking a deal with the television studios. And in the most unbelievable story, he was fired from his first job ever at a newspaper for not being creative and innovative enough! He went on to own that same company. Resiliency is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult circumstances. Walt faced many difficulties that would have made the average person give up. Walt was able to keep pushing because he believed in himself and in his dreams, giving him the resiliency to work hard and make them come true. He believed in doing whatever it took to get the job done and, therefore, he got results that far exceeded what anyone else could have imagined.
When Walt was asked what the secret to his success was, he thought for a while and then he said this: “I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.” Today the rules of success are no different. If Walt Disney, a man with limited education from a poor family, could create an entertainment empire from almost nothing, what’s stopping you from dreaming just as big?