Olle Lindholm

13 timeless lessons from Walt Disney


In 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 embrace your inner child.

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?

#personal growth