Hello, and welcome to the Leadership Done Right podcast, Episode 13: Walt Disney Was Nearly a Failure — Leadership Adversity Only Makes Us Stronger.
There are few who have had as enormous an impact on our culture and entertainment as Walt Disney. As co-creator of Mickey Mouse he helped to create the most popular and well-known cartoon character in the world. As the founder of Walt Disney Studios, he was an artist who changed animation and film-making forever and has been delighting and inspiring audiences for nearly 100 years. And, of course, when he brought us Disneyland he created a place unlike any other, one that still thrills the imaginations of children and adults today.
But the road to this kind of success and influence wasn’t easy, and it couldn’t have happened without Disney’s ceaseless hard work and unwavering belief in his dreams. Disney faced numerous obstacles—he was put to work at just nine years old, had only an eighth-grade education and almost no formal training in art, and suffered multiple business setbacks. However, he saw these not as failings but as leadership adversity that helped to make him the great visionary and businessman he became. http://www.learningliftoff.com/overcoming-obstacles-hard-work-and-persistence-paid-off-for-walt-disney/#.WaNDkq3MyRs
Walt Disney’s Failures
Walt Disney have several setbacks early in his career. Here are a few:
- Walt formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921. He made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. He was forced to dissolve his company and at one point could not pay his rent and was surviving by eating dog food.
- Walt created a mildly successful cartoon character in 1926 called Oswald the Rabbit. When he tried to negotiate with his distributor, Universal Studios, for better rates for each cartoon, he was informed that Universal had obtained ownership of the Oswald character and they had hired Disney’s artists out from under him.
- When Walt tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse in 1927 he was told that the idea would never work – a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.
- Walt Disney created Laugh-O-Gram Studio. Laugh-O-Gram Studio was a short-lived film studio located in the McConaughey Building in Kansas City, Missouri. http://www.hollywoodstories.com/pages/disney/d3.html
Let’s look at the initial returns on Disney’s earliest feature films:
- Snow White – Made $8.8 million
- Pinocchio – Lost half a million
- Fantasia – Lost more than Pinocchio
- Dumbo – Profitable, but only 64 minutes long and made for half the cost of Snow White and a third of Pinocchio.
- Bambi – Lost money
Walt Disney’s Success
As we all know, Walt Disney created one of the most successful companies in the world. The leadership adversity he faced early on helped him gain the experience he needed to be very successful later. In addition to the success he saw in the movies, he also created Disney World and Disneyland which are both ultra successful theme parks. Mickey Mouse, one of Walt’s original characters, is one of the most widely recognizable characters in the world. Disney was one of the first to use television as an entertainment medium. Walt had many other incredible successes and when he died in 1966, he had a net worth of $80 Million.
Walt Disney’s Thoughts on Adversity
On adversity, Walt Disney said:
Of the failure of Laugh-O-grams: “I failed… I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young… I learned a lot out of that.”
“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. http://www.learningliftoff.com/overcoming-obstacles-hard-work-and-persistence-paid-off-for-walt-disney/#.WaNDkq3MyRs
Overcoming Leadership Adversity
Leadership adversity helps us become strong. If you are going through leadership adversity, you are not alone. All leaders go through leadership adversity in some form or another. What’s most important is that they make it through and that they are stronger as a result.
How to make it through
So how can we overcome leadership adversity? Here are five steps to overcome leadership adversity:
- Stop and assess the situation
- Have patience and don’t give up
- Set goals and work hard
- Ask what lessons can I learn from this
- Reflect on the lessons afterwards and make changes
Obtain New Opportunities for Leadership Adversity
Find more leadership adversity to improve!
- Dedicate more energy and effort to your existing commitments
- Seek new opportunity in your current workplace
- Volunteer at a non-profit
- Find opportunities to serve others
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Leadership Done Right podcast. I included links to several articles that go into more detail on Walt Disney’s leadership adversity and his triumphs. There is one article in particular that explains some of his early jobs, the work ethic he learned, and what he did to gain his entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. It also explains some of the early characters he created and their initial reception. I really enjoyed these articles and am sure you will too!
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