What Walt Disney can teach us…..

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, I witnessed many amazing sights and sounds. Words would not do any of them justice so I won’t even begin to try to. However, in between all the glitz and glamour is the legacy of one man. An artist. A creative genius. A dreamer. One of the most successful entrepreneurs in history. His name – Walt Disney.

Walt Disney was, of course, the famous voice and creator of Mickey Mouse and the founder of Disneyland (in California). He later dreamed up Disney World (in Florida) but sadly died in 1966 before it was created (his brother Roy came out of retirement to complete the grand endeavour).

He was a man from very humble beginnings who earned his success through hard work and perseverance. Disney dropped out of school at 16 and was pretty much self-educated. It’s worth noting here that the list of largely self-educated geniuses is very long, and the ones who stuck with the conventional routine of schooling often it make it clear that their genius was in spite of, not because of, their formal schooling. Maybe school was never the place that fostered imagination? If certainly stifled the young Walt Disney. Indeed Thomas Edison’s mother removed Thomas from school around age 9 for this very reason. Albert Einstein had plenty of negative things to say about his school years in Germany and pursued a considerable amount of education outside school. I believe one way to counteract this is to heavily promote skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving in all subjects all of the time – if only to stem this tide of so many great individuals having had such negative school experiences!

Everybody is capable of these three skills and needs to be taught them. Disney taught himself them in his early years. He practiced them daily.
These skills are required to be successful not only academically but in relationships, in the workplace, and with finances. Individuals with the ability to think critically and creatively and to solve problems will ultimately sustain our economies after all. Shouldn’t these skills be pervasive in the curriculum then? Shouldn’t they be pervasive in standardised testing thus guaranteeing that these skills are taught?

Walt Disney was a critical thinker. He was a reflective learner. He had perseverance by the bucket load. He could draw, design and problem solve. His achievements in the world of animation brought him multiple awards and international fame. Not many people realise that he won or received a total of twenty two Academy Awards, and holds the record for most Academy Awards in history. He won a total of twenty-two competitive Academy Awards from a total of fifty-nine nominations, and also holds the records for most wins and most nominations for an individual in history.

He is also famous for his work ethic and his inspirational quotes, some of which are listed below. I have made a Disney board of these on my Pinterest account at http://www.pinterest.com/PjSug/walt-disney/ in order to inspire my students to work hard and be resilient. Here are a few of my favourites:

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old. They patronise, they treat children as inferiors. Well I won’t do that.”
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

So what can Walt Disney’s legacy do for the children of tomorrow? Well, here are 5 life lessons that I’ll be sharing with my students…..

1. Do what you love:

The first thing that we can learn from Disney as an entrepreneur is his love for drawing. He loves to draw so much that he draws in his spare time and he even draws while working as an artist. He devoted most of his life to his art that he was even willing to work other jobs just to fund his passion.

2. Take What You Do Seriously:

Whenever Walt Disney made his cartoons he always did so with the focus of a lion stalking his prey. He always paid attention to every detail and dealt with things with the utmost care. He never took his art and talent for granted.

3. Do It For Others:

Whenever Walt Disney created animated shorts he never hid his creations from the world, but instead he would always find ways in which he could share his work with others. Walt Disney’s works teach us a lot of things, such as the value of love for friends and family.

4. Never Just Settle With Your First Success:

One thing that you would definitely notice about Walt Disney is that after one accomplishment he would immediately start on another project. After finishing his legendary film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, Disney immediately went to work on other feature films such as “Bambi”, “Fantasia” and many others. After creating Mickey Mouse, Disney didn’t stop at just him. Instead he went on and created Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and many other iconic characters even for today’s generation. He was never content with what he had done because he always wanted to achieve more and grow with his dreams. He also didn’t stop with just one Mickey Mouse design, he kept redesigning his creation so that it would be better every time.

5. Don’t Let Obstacles Stop You:

When Walt Disney first started to work on Snow White, his wife and own brother did all they could to convince him to stop. The Snow White project was even termed as “Disney’s Folly”, and halfway across production he ran out of money to continue the work. Most people in this situation would just quit and get whatever they can out of what’s left, but for Disney he persevered. He decided to travel around and show clips of the raw film to producers in hopes of them funding his project; in the end this attempt was what saved his studio and allowed him to finish the classic Snow White film.
When Snow White was finally featured it received nothing short of a standing ovation. The success of the film put Disney in the Golden Age of Animation, and allowed him to start on all of his other feature films. He could have cashed in and went his separate ways from the animation world, but his hopes and his dreams where too strong to fold. Walt’s decision to ‘full steam ahead’ is really what allowed him to define a generation with his iconic creations.

And remember,

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”



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