Wednesday, September 30, 2020

What Walt Disney Knew About Failure

Today's post seeks to inspire digital marketers and other customer experience (CX) professionals. Lenn Millbower, a professional speaker with 25 years of experience inside Disney, shares some of his firsthand perspective here.

Walt Disney is remembered for his many successes—for Mickey Mouse, for Donald Duck, for Disneyland.

But he also saw his share of hard failures  including a bankruptcy, a mental breakdown, a devastating strike, and the loss of control over his creation Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He discussed these failures frankly. He once said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

Advantages to failure

There are advantages to failure, in other words. As Walt himself put it: “It is good to have a failure while you’re young because it teaches you so much. For one thing it makes you aware that such a thing can happen to anybody, and once you’ve lived through the worst, you’re never quite as vulnerable afterward.”

Walt also explained his formula for overcoming failure. “To some people, I am kind of a Merlin who takes lots of crazy chances, but rarely makes mistakes. I’ve made some bad ones, but fortunately, the successes have come along fast enough to cover up the mistakes. When you go to bat as many times as I do, you’re bound to get a good average. That’s why I keep my projects diversified.”


Walt’s comments show us a way out of failure: trial and error. Innovations can happen in any workplace, if you have the tenacity to keep trying. Even the great Disney had to borrow from loan officers when funding for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ran out.

Success is often built on failure. Steve Jobs knew this. So did J.K. Rowling. And Walt Disney. What failures have inspired you?


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