“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney.
Whenever you think about great individuals who started from very humble beginnings and achieved extraordinary success, who comes to your mind? For me, Walt Disney springs to my mind first.
Walt Disney was a remarkable creative entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer. He was the recipient of 22 Academy Awards and was nominated 59 times for producing iconic cartoons and animated films that we all love and enjoy even today, including Mickey Mouse.
A pioneer of the American animation industry, Disney founded the multi-billion-dollar Walt Disney Company that consists of various associated film production and distribution companies, cable channels, and television stations and networks. He even founded amusement parks for families to enjoy.
Disney’s journey to the top wasn’t as smooth sailing as many people imagine, though. Like many of us, he experienced many challenges along the way and he had to overcome big obstacles to succeed. Here are some facts about Walt Disney that most people don’t know but should.
1. He wasn’t born rich at all.
You might be tempted to think that Walt Disney achieved all he did because he came from a well-off family. He didn’t. For most of his childhood, Disney’s parents had to move the family across different states looking for work and economic security.
At the age of 19, Disney started drawing cartoons of the creatures from his childhood for sale. But, he got so little money to pay the rent, often being forced to live with friends and go without food.
That Disney rose from this humble background to become a household name is quite inspiring. It demonstrates that you don’t have to be born rich to make your own success.
2. He was told that he “lacked creativity”.
Hard to believe, but Walt Disney – the creative genius behind the Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and many other classic cartoon characters – was written off as lacking in creativity and artistry. When Disney pitched newspaper companies to get his cartoons published, they shut him down saying he “lacked artistic integrity,” But, though rejected, he kept going. He did not stop pitching his ideas.
People will criticize and even write you off for pursuing your dreams, but keep going. No one knows you better than you know yourself. No one knows your innermost dreams better than you. Listen to your heart and pursue your dreams relentlessly like Disney. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.
3. He failed many times (apparently more than 300 times).
Most people won’t even put 100 attempts toward their dream let alone fail 300 times. But Walt Disney failed over 300, including the heartbreaking period when his first studio that focused on animation called Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt and shut down. Each time he failed, he learnt his lesson and tried again. When you believe in your dream as much as Disney did, even repeat failure cannot keep you from ultimate success.
Rather than focusing on the past, focus instead on the future achievements you want. “When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably,” Disney said.
4. He spent his Saturdays with his two daughters.
Although Walt Disney was an incredibly busy man, he always put family first. And he adored his two daughters, Diane and Sharon Disney. On Saturdays he would always take the girls out for the day, sit and eat peanuts, while watching his girls on the carousel. It was on one such trip that the idea occurred to him that there should be an amusement park for families to enjoy together.
In July 1955, Disney hosted the world premiere of his new amusement park in California, the legendary Disneyland. Disney said on Disneyland’s opening day that he hoped the park will be “a joy and inspiration to all the world.” It did.
5. He labored for seven years just to plan out Disneyland.
Disneyland didn’t just happen overnight. Walt Disney labored long and hard for seven years just to plan out the project. Whereas most people would simply give up after a year or so of trying, Disney was determined to create what he envisioned would be the “happiest place on earth.” Always keep the bigger picture in mind. And be inspired by the greater good for all. As Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
6. He dropped out of high school to pursue his dream—animation.
Although education was extremely important to Walt Disney, which explains why he helped create the California Institute of the Arts, he dropped out of high school to pursue his true passion, animation. Disney decided to only pursue work he loved.
Sometimes we have to weigh our options, circumstances carefully and make bold decisions that will better align us with our truest passion and goals. “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,” Disney said. And just because you don’t have a formal education, doesn’t mean you cannot reach your dreams. You can.
7. He worked other jobs to fund his passion.
Disney went through a series of odd jobs, including working a summer job selling snacks and newspapers to travelers at a Kansas City railroad that his uncle worked, becoming an ambulance driver in the army during World War I, and taking up a comic artist job in a local newspaper. Whatever money he made, he directed it back to his main love–animation.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing,” he said. Don’t be afraid of humble beginnings. You have to start from somewhere. Remember, great oaks grow from tiny seeds.
8. He was “scared to death” to introduce Disneyland on television.
Walt Disney admitted to being “scared to death” when he had to face the camera to introduce episodes of the “Disneyland” television series. But, he went through with it anyway. He never quit in the face of fear; he pushed forward despite of it.
Achievers give it a go even when it scares them. They muster courage to introduce their work to the world and do whatever else it takes to succeed–even if it means going against conformity. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you have to do to make your dreams come true. Just do your best work and keep improving on what your best is every day. You’ll be fine.
9. He almost didn’t finish the studio production of Snow White.
When Walt Disney first started to work on the legendary “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” film, his wife and brother tried to convince him to give it up because of the daunting task it involved. The idea of a technicolor, fully–animated, feature–length film had never been done before. The Snow White project was even dubbed “Disney’s Folly” by industry professionals. And halfway through production Disney 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. Disney persevered. He traveled around and showed clips of the raw film to producers in hopes of them funding his project. He even mortgaged his own house to raise additional funds to create the film. In the end this hustle was what enabled him to finish the classic Snow White film and save his studio.
Never let challenges and naysayers stop you. Be willing to work hard; to stretch yourself; to experiment with new things and produce the very best you can. The results will be worth it in the end.
10. He reaped the rewards of all his hard work, perseverance and dedication.
Apart from winning worldwide acclaim throughout his career, when the Snow White film finally hit the silver screen in December 21, 1937, it brought in a then unimaginable $8 million in spite of the Depression. That’s approximately $134 million today. The film was hailed as an “authentic masterpiece” by Time magazine. And By the time Walt Disney died in December 15, 1966, at the age of 65, he had epitomized the truth of his own words that, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”