Not-so-Goofy Lessons From Walt's Life

by DavalosMcCormack on January 4, 2010

Every time my family come to visit here in California they want to go to Disneyland. They love it. Even though it means a long drive from San Francisco to L.A. to get there it’s still a fun trip. Because deep down, I’m as big a kid as they are.

But now there’s another way for them to get their Disney fix when they come to visit. And they won’t even have to leave San Francisco to do it. Recently the Walt Disney Family Museumgoofy23 opened up in the Presidio here in town. It’s an unlikely setting, an old military base, for the museum but it’s fascinating. I never knew Walt was such an interesting geezer. All I knew about him was the usual stuff, Mickey Mouse, Snow White and the theme parks. But when you visit the museum you come away with a very different appreciation of who he was and what he had to do to get to there.

He was born into dire poverty, went to France to drive ambulances after World War One when he was just 16, came back and founded his first company when he was barely out of his teens. When that business failed he moved to Hollywood and started the Disney company with his brother Roy. Their first successful creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was stolen from him by his production company so he had to start from scratch, yet again.

In the end you appreciate just how many failures and setbacks he endured before he finally succeeded in building his business. You also learn just how many times he risked everything to complete the work he loved; mortgaging his house to pay for cartoons; risking the company to produce the first ever full-length cartoon feature, Snow White, which many predicted would be a colossal failure.

It’s a real lesson in the need for courage and perseverance in life. We may not all set out to create a cartoon empire or build amusement parks, but we all have to overcome some problems in getting where we’d like to be.

Coming out of the Walt Disney museum I felt not just an increased respect for what he achieved but an increased sense of appreciation for the need to be willing to take risks, to accept failure, and to be willing to keep fighting for the things that truly matter to you.

That might be something as simple as wanting to lose weight or lead a healthier lifestyle, to something as ambitious as building up a business. You know that you are going to suffer setbacks along the way, you know you’ll have doubts and that others will help feed those doubts, you know it’s going to take a long time to get the results you want and that even then it will take continued effort to ensure you don’t lose them. But in the end if it helps you realize your dream, it’s all worth it.

If Disney could change his life thanks to a mouse, the rest of us can certainly find other sources of inspiration to change ours.

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