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13 timeless lessons from Walt Disney

Walt Disney quoteIn 1954, Walt Disney appeared on the front page of Time magazine.

The title read:

“Walt Disney – To enchanted worlds on electronic wings.”

Back in the 1950s, most people didn’t even have a TV, yet alone a computer or a smartphone.

The “electronic wings” were driven by characters on a piece of paper.

It was nothing fancy.

But the ingredients behind his success still apply today. Imagination, dreams and hard work are key to a meaningful life.

As life enthusiasts, we can learn a lot from the legendary Walt Disney.

He was, after all, one of the pioneers of animated film and a champion of the imagination. For example, consider Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-featured animated film ever to be released in 1937. The film won an Academy Honorary Award for Walt Disney and marked the birth of a new entertainment industry. Disney carried us on into the future by building on stories from the past.

We can study Disney’s successful life as an artist and a businessman to learn how to follow your dreams, embrace your inner child, and do more of what you love.

The Father of Mickey Mouse teaches us valuable lessons about creativity, perseverance and believing in yourself and fighting for your ideas.

Let’s look at some things that Disney had to say and see what we can learn from them.

On dreams and courage

If you can dream it, you can do it. 

Dreams don’t become a reality on their own. You need to nurture them and make sure you give them the attention they deserve. You need to have faith in what you want and the courage to take action on your dreams.

No one said that living your dreams was easy. If it was, then more people would do it.

All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

Don’t just dream without doing anything about it. That doesn’t help anyone, least of all you.

On curiosity

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. 

I don’t believe in shortcuts because they take too long.

But if there ever was a shortcut, it’s asking for advice from people who are further down the path to you. Find others who do what you want to do, and seek support from them. Let their past mistakes and failures guide you towards your dream.

If the thought of reaching out scares you, remember that they are a lot like you. At some stage, they’ve also asked for help on what to do next. Don’t be afraid. Be nice and show them respect. It works.

When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. 

So, feed your curiosity and welcome back the 5-year-old you.

On taking action

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

So many people talk about their dream without doing anything about it. They expect to get an Oscar nomination, appear on Ellen, and land a book on the NY bestselling list  all in the same week.

There’s only one tiny problem: they don’t do anything about it.

It’s just small talk.

Get your ass in the chair and do the work. That’s what Disney did and that’s what all successful people do because it’s the only way to turn a dream into reality.

Come back when you have something worth talking about.

On perseverance and faith

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.

It’s no fun, but everyone has to swallow a healthy dose of rejection.

Heck, I’d even go so far as to say that you want to embrace your setbacks.

Rejection strengthens you and forges your character into someone who believes in yourself.

You’ll often find that you’re the only one who has any faith in your dream. But that’s OK. Others can laugh at you as much as they want, as long as you deliver on your promise to show up and do the work.

If you do your part, we’ll see who laughs last. Who do you think it will be – the talker or the doer? That’s right. So please persevere and remember:

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.   

Then there will be no stopping you.

Having faith in a project or a cause is both contagious and admirable. It inspires others to take action and follow their dream as well.

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.

On competition

I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it. 

Even when you have faith in your dream and the courage to show up, you’ll still feel a twinge of fear for looking dumb and falling short of the competition.

It happens all the time. We put our dreams on the shelf because we don’t think we have what it takes. We compare ourselves to others and we think of ourselves as a failure.

This is a stupid life mistake and you’re not alone in making them.

For example, you think that you’re not good enough to move forward with your dream. In your mind, you orchestrate a powerful lie that tells you that you don’t deserve the success and fulfilment that your dream will bring.

Don’t let these common obstacles stop you from living the life you want. The only competition you need to worry about is yourself.

On doing the things you love

A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.

This is my favourite Disney quote. What we do in our day-to-day life may seem mundane, but remember this – ever day, we have the opportunity to make a difference. To inspire, motivate and teach the next generation of children.

That’s pretty amazing.

So, put your efforts where your passion is, and grow your strengths today.

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.

Just remember, it all started with a mouse

Mickey Mouse popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner. 

This is the most important lesson for me. The movies, the characters, Disneyland all came true because of one small mouse. Disney planted one small seed with his mouse and it truly came a long way. One seed can make a big difference.

The world of Walt Disney would have been lost if it wasn’t for a simple mouse sketch. This explains his utter love and devotion for his little creation.

I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known.

Walt Disney’s legacy

Disney’s work continues to inspire us and his world-famous cartoons live on. But some of Disney’s best lessons are about how he approached life with an endless dose of curiosity and determination to entertain and awaken the child within us.

Our journey to enchanted worlds are far from over.

Believe it or not, but it has only just begun. Our electronic wings are growing fast…

Who are your childhood heroes? Who inspires you to live your dreams, work harder and aim out of the ball park?

Please let us know in the comments.

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Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on 2 June, 2013. 

12 responses to “13 timeless lessons from Walt Disney”

  1. Katie Kabala Avatar

    Thanks for this Olle – I particularly like the line, “The only competition you need to worry about is yourself.” So true!

    1. Olle Lindholm Avatar

      Thanks for commenting, Katie! I didn’t think too much about that sentence when I wrote it, but now I see the value in it. Thanks for pointing it out! 🙂

  2. James Avatar

    I always love reading your posts that come into my email inbox. You write a lot of interesting topics with quite a bit of creative flair.


    1. Olle Lindholm Avatar

      Thanks James! It’s comments like yours that keep me going.

      Talk soon,

  3. Peter Mead Avatar

    Ollie, thanks again. Walt Disney is often misunderstood by many. He clearly has a lot we can learn from.

    1. Olle Lindholm Avatar

      You’re most welcome, Peter! Glad you liked the article. And yes, there is more to Walt Disney than just a happy mouse 😀

  4. Frisella Avatar

    I love your post, so inspiring. I my self particularly love the part “The only competition you need to worry about it is yourself…” . I couldn’t more agree. Many time during my though times, i was frightened my own thinking of failure, and yes everytime i let my self down, i will be down. But as soon as i have injected the spirit to my self to endure those hard times, everything becomes easier. You are right, Don’t let these common obstacles stop you from living the life you want. Thank you for such a great writing.

    1. Olle Lindholm Avatar

      Glad you liked the article, Frisella!

  5. Virginia Avatar

    Disney was more than a visionary, he was an action taker. So many people still benefit from his influence – and always will. My stumbling block is so well summed up with this quote: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” I’m working on it.

    1. Olle Lindholm Avatar

      Hi Virginia,

      Thanks for your comment! You’re raising a good point – taking action is key to success. Disney reminds us of that.

      Excellent quote! I’m working on it, too 🙂

      1. Virginia Reeves Avatar
        Virginia Reeves

        I have to smile at the comment I left on 10/15/14. It took me another 16 months to take strong action but I now have 33 ebooks published on Kindle. I had articles sitting around for 30 years waiting to be used and now they are becoming chapters. I followed the series title at long last: Permission Granted Today.

        1. Olle Lindholm Avatar

          It is fun to look back at your previous comments and posts, isn’t it?

          It’s often a great reminder on how far we’ve come. Congratulations on getting all your 33 ebooks published on Kindle!

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