4 Lessons from Walt Disney on Entrepreneurship

While enjoying my recent vacation to Disney World with my family, I was struck by the ultimate vision and innovation of the amusement park’s founder. With over 600 million people visiting Disneyland since it’s opening on July 17th 1955, it’s clear that Walt Disney was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in history. On my trip, I found myself eager to learn more about Disney’s thoughts on innovation and entrepreneurship. Here are 4 inspiring tidbits that you can learn from his success story.

Speaking at Disney - 2013

Speaking at Disney, January 2013

1. Never Settle, Always Aim Higher

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney

From the beginning, Walt Disney’s ultimate goal was telling stories by animating objects. Cartoons, movies and theme park characters and rides are all inanimate objects brought to life by the power of imagination. Each Disney innovation pushed the envelope and standard of what was possible. Disney was known for his passion to do more. After successfully completing one project, Disney would immediately start on a new one. After finishing his film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” he immediately went to work on other feature films such as “Bambi,” and “Fantasia.” Following the creation of Mickey Mouse, Disney went on to create Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and many other iconic characters. He always wanted to achieve more and further develop his dreams.

2. Content is King

Magic-Carpets-of-Aladdin-Magic-Kingdom-Walt-Disney-World_50984394Some of the main attractions at Disney World are created around the concept of beloved Disney movies or stories. For example, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin allow kids to fly on a carpet. Developing attractions based on beloved stories, characters, and movies is the ongoing key to the success for Walt Disney World. Content, storytelling and overall customer satisfaction go hand in hand. Pirates of the Caribbean is a multi-billion dollar Walt Disney Company franchise encompassing a series of films, numerous theme park attractions, and spin-off novels as well as numerous video games and other media publications. The franchise originated with the Pirates of the Caribbean theme ride attraction, which opened at Disneyland in 1967, the last Disney theme park attraction overseen by Walt Disney. Disney based the ride on pirate legends and folklore. (Note: The original post referred incorrectly to the fact that the Pirates of the Caribbean movie inspired the lazy boat ride at the amusement park. It was the other way around.) 

Disney Executive Vice President, Global Marketing, Sales and Travel Operations Leslie Ferraro said defining an organization’s story informs and influences how it positions its brand.

“First, you must understand your consumer and build your marketing plan on those insights,” Ferraro said. “And, in our cluttered media age, story is more important than ever. What is your story? Find it. Tell it in a compelling fashion while being true to your brand, focusing on the elements of most interest to your consumers.”

3. Follow Your Passion

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”- Walt Disney

Disney always had a love for drawing. He would draw in his spare time and he devoted most of his life to his artwork. He was even willing to do other jobs to fund his passion.
Finding your passion and following it is very difficult and takes courage. Just imagine how incredible it would be to do what you love everyday. So many people struggle to find the career they’re excited to wake up to every morning. Like Disney, pinpoint what you love to do, and sprint towards it.

Mickey_Mouse

4. Overcome Adversity

“Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.” – Walt Disney

“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

When the film industry learned of Disney’s plans to produce an animated feature-length version of Snow White, they were certain that the endeavor would destroy the Disney Studio and called the project ‘Disney’s Folly.’ Many people tried to talk Disney out of the project, but he continued to work on the feature. To obtain the funding to complete Snow White, Disney presented a rough cut of the motion picture to loan officers.

The film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937 and at its conclusion the audience gave Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a standing ovation. Today, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a legendary classic. At the 11th Academy Awards, Walt Disney was awarded an honorary Oscar, and the film was nominated for Best Musical Score. The film is ranked in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films, which also named the film as the greatest American animated film of all time in 2008.

It takes courage to see your dreams through with doubts and insecurities surrounding you. Follow your heart, and work through the instability that comes along for the journey. Believe in your enthusiasm.

Walt Disney was an inspiration to many. His success story teaches us all valuable lessons that push us to aim higher. My recent trip has provided me with newfound confidence to imagine the unthinkable.

How have success stories from entrepreneurs like Walt Disney inspired you?

– Jason

Sources
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