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7 Lessons Every Young Entrepreneur Can Learn From Walt Disney

7 Lessons Every Young Entrepreneur Can Learn From Walt Disney

The Walt Disney Company is a multinational mass media corporation valued at $45.429 Billion. It is the second largest broadcasting and cable company in the world and it has shaped the childhoods and pop culture of millions, probably billions of people. Quite simply it is the most well known company in the history of the world.

And it all started with one man.  

Few people have changed this world to the magnitude that Walt Disney has. He proves that circumstance and education do not dictate what you can become. His life lessons serve as excellent reminders for young entrepreneurs.

1. You must be a salesman.

“I’d say it’s been my biggest problem all my life… it’s money. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true.” – Walt Disney

Sales gets a bad reputation, but make no mistake, selling is the most important skill you can master. And as Walt said, dreams take money and money comes from selling. Walt believed in himself and his dreams and could therefore convince others to believe in him too. Halfway through making Snow White, Disney ran out of money to finish the film that was termed “Disney’s Folly.” Even his own family begged him to give it up, but Disney was undeterred. He personally traveled to different producers and showed them the raw footage and convinced them to finish financing the film. Snow White became an instant success and ushered in the Golden Age of Animation. To finance attractions at Disneyland, he persuaded the television studios to finance building the park in exchange for original Disney programming. Guess what the programming was? It was basically an advertisement for Disneyland! This genius plan not only financed the park, but by the time it opened there were millions who couldn’t wait to go! It proved to be one of the most successful media campaigns ever done and it helped grow Disneyland into the international destination it remains today.

2. Leadership is inspiration, innovation and focus.

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality”. -Walt Disney

The key to Walt Disney’s leadership is that he was an incredible storyteller. It’s one thing to tell your employees to do something, it’s another to inspire them to action. Walt would tell them a story. He would go into extreme detail and make it come alive for them. He would inspire his workers and make them a part of that story and as a result he would get more from them. When he was first pitching his animators on the story of Snow White, he went through the entire story, acting out the characters, even doing their different voices and movements. Walt had a unique ability to hire people more talented than he was and to focus and coordinate their attention towards a common goal. He admitted that he was a terrible animator. So he hired the best he could afford and focused on innovating the company. He also knew his workers. He knew what they were capable of and didn’t accept anything less than their best. He may not have been quick to compliment, but he was always clear about what he visualized and expected.

3. Always be constantly improving.

“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved”. -Walt Disney

Walt believed in the future. He insisted that Steamboat Willie have the sound synced and recorded, unheard of for a cartoon at that time. Before Snow White, there was no such thing as a feature length animated film. After it became a huge success and literally changed the film industry, it led to the success of several more beloved Disney classics like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Fantasia. Walt Disney could have rested on his laurels, but that wasn’t his style. Instead, he completely switched gears and set out to build an amusement park where parents and children could have fun together. Once Disneyland opened, Walt would walk around the park, personally testing all the rides, noticing if anything was out of place and asking the guests their opinions. If he noticed something was wrong, he would personally see that it was fixed. As his animators could attest, good enough was never good enough for Walt Disney.

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    4. Develop a high tolerance for risk.

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

    Walt took a lot of risks in his career. Several times the future of the entire Disney company hung on whether a venture was a success or failure. A few times Walt even had to mortgage or sell his personal possessions. He never did this lightly. He would carefully weigh out both sides and make a decision for bold action and, once decided, never wavered. In 1955, Disneyland was the biggest gamble in the history of American business. Walt struggled to find financing and his own family, including business partner Roy Disney, begged him to give it up. At the time, nothing like Disneyland had ever been attempted, so there was a general consensus that it was impossible. Walt pushed forward anyway. If Disneyland had failed, it would have bankrupted the company. Today, the Disney theme parks bring in BILLIONS of revenue and millions of visitors each year.

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    5. Change your attitude towards failure.

    “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

    Walt Disney failed, a lot. His first studio, Laugh O’ Grams never made a profit. But the most notable is the fiasco of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He lost everything, his studio, his equipment, his animators and his creations. But from the ashes of that immense failure rose one of the most beloved characters ever created. On the train home from learning he had lost Oswald, Walt created Mickey Mouse.

    6. Believe in yourself, even when everyone say’s you’re crazy.

    “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way. Implicitly and unquestionable” – Walt Disney

    Walt Disney had a unique relationship with his brother, Roy Disney. Walt would pitch an idea to Roy. Roy would say no and try to talk him out of it. Walt would continue anyway, and Roy would eventually give in and get the project financed. Throughout his entire career Walt was told what couldn’t be done. He was told no one would sit through an animated feature film. He was told you couldn’t mix animation with real life actors. He was told his idea for a theme park would fail miserably. Someone even told him that Mickey Mouse was a bad idea because a mouse would frighten women. He proved that just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t make it impossible. Impossible is a word of a small minded person and Walt Disney dreamed big. He had an unshakable belief in himself and what he was doing; that was all that mattered.

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    On the opening day of Disneyworld, five years after Walt’s death, someone remarked to creative director Mike Vance that it was too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this day. Vance replied, “He did see it. And that’s why it’s here”.

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      7. Resiliency is an entrepreneur’s best friend.

      “The difference in winning and losing is most often not quitting” – Walt Disney

      It took Walt 16 years to get the rights to make Mary Poppins, now considered one of the best films of that time. The problems he faced with author P.L Travers are so infamous it has been made into its own movie. He was turned down 302 times when trying to find financing for Disneyland before striking a deal with the television studios. And in the most unbelievable story, he was fired from his first job ever at a newspaper for not being creative and innovative enough! He went on to own that same company. Resiliency is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult circumstances. Walt faced many difficulties that would have made the average person give up. Walt was able to keep pushing because he believed in himself and in his dreams, giving him the resiliency to work hard and make them come true. He believed in doing whatever it took to get the job done and, therefore, he got results that far exceeded what anyone else could have imagined.

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      When Walt was asked what the secret to his success was, he thought for a while and then he said this: “I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.” Today the rules of success are no different. If Walt Disney, a man with limited education from a poor family, could create an entertainment empire from almost nothing, what’s stopping you from dreaming just as big?

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      Last Updated on February 11, 2021

      10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

      10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

      Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

      You have to work hard to develop the right skills

      If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

      1. Make your presentation short and sweet

      With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

      JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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      2. Open up with a good ice breaker

      At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

      • Joking
      • Tugging on their heart strings
      • Dropping a bombastic statement
      • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
      • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

      You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

      3. Keep things simple and to the point

      Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

      4. Use a healthy dose of humor

      Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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      It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

      5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

      Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

      6. Practice your delivery

      Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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      7. Move around and use your hands

      Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

      8. Engage the audience by making them relate

      Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

      9. Use funny images in your slides

      Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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      10. End on a more serious note

      When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

      As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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