It is one of my core beliefs that you can find inspiration anywhere. From photos, to paintings, to quotes. Over this last week, I felt myself be inspired by these three images:
I’ve always been a big believer in dreaming, and not just the “nighty-night” kind. Dreaming is important to our creative and productive life. Without dreams, how we would move forward? Dreams help move us towards our destinies, towards our goals. This doesn’t just go for us as individuals. As leaders, we need to learn to keep the dreams of our employees alive and inspire them with our own. In an organization, dreams can bring energy, passion, inspiration, and commitment. If you want a practical example of this, let’s look at one of the biggest companies in the world: The Walt Disney Company.
Confession time: I am a big believer in Disney magic.
Walt Disney is known, of course, as the creator of Mickey Mouse and the founder of the Disney empire that now encompasses theme parks, movies, television stations, comic books, etc. This is not news. What might be news is how he got there. Through the power of dreaming.
Walt Disney founded this multi-billion dollar company on nothing but his dreams. These dreams were laughed at most of his life, even once he had mainstream success. We look at many of his dreams today and think “Of course they were going to be huge successes”, but they certainly weren’t at the time he had them. He was always pushing, always dreaming bigger and better, trying to create a “great big beautiful tomorrow”, as he put it.
The first cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse, Steamboat Willie, was also the very first sound cartoon. He was laughed at by many other animators and entertainment folks who didn’t see the point of adding sound to cartoons. But Walt saw the future and instead of waiting for it, he drove towards it. Just a few years later, he embraced Technicolor and started releasing his cartoons in full color. Again, he was laughed at. Color cartoons? Who’d want to watch those? Again, he was right.
Walt’s dreams certainly don’t end there. He dreamed of the very first full-length cartoon movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and can you guess the reaction from everyone in the entertainment business? That’s right, laughter all round. A full-length cartoon? Madness! The movie industry publicly called the film “Disney’s Folly”. Can you imagine? Snow White, of course, was groundbreaking and considered one of the greatest animated movies of all-time. It created an entirely new industry, one that Walt Disney had a huge headstart in. But he wasn’t finished yet!
Walt Disney wanted to create a theme park. Back in those days, theme parks were cheap affairs, looked down on by respectable business. His company fought against him, he was again derided by the media (Are you sensing a pattern here?), but I think that we can all agree that Walt Disney was right. Disneyland is one of the most beloved theme parks in the entire world and revolutionized the entire concept. He turned to his animation department and all of the designers of his award-winning movies to build his park. And because of his dream, he and his team created a world of wonder and imagination.
Walt Disney’s last dream actually make me very sad, because he never got to see it, nor was it realized. Everyone has heard of EPCOT Center, the theme park in Orlando, but you might not know what it stands for: “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. Walt wanted to create a prototype city in his new proposed theme park, Disney World. But this wasn’t just any city. This was a masterwork in urban design and innovation. He again brought his top creative talent to the job, designing a full-fledged city that would revolutionize urban planning. In this city, new technologies would be researched and developed, new kinds of transportation would be put into service (including what become the Disney World monorails). In other words, ECPOT would be a place where dreams were developed into reality.
Again, Walt Disney was laughed at. He was told that EPCOT would be the end of The Walt Disney Company, his board fought him every step of the way. He ignored them all, pushing forward with his plan. He moved ahead with his dreams and forget about the consequences. His creative team was behind him and, together, he was determined they would create something incredible, just as they had so many times in the past.
Walt Disney died of cancer in December of 1966. His dream of EPCOT would never be realized. After his death, more “sensible” minds and dreams prevailed and the concept of EPCOT was scaled back into a conventional theme park. Honestly, it makes me want to cry. I mean, it is a fun theme park but…
If you ever want to be inspired, please watch this documentary that Walt Disney made just two months before his death about his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Hear the passion in his voice when he talks about it, see his dream being in progress.
If you want an example of the power of dreams, just look to Walt Disney. He was laughed at by everyone for every single dream he had. And every single dream realized would change the world. Would EPCOT have worked or would the naysayers have been right? Just look at Walt Disney’s track record with dreams and I bet you will know which side I come down on.
One person’s dreams can inspire individuals, employees, corporations, industries, and even the entire world. Dreams are inspired brilliance at work. Embrace yours and discover just how powerful they can be. As was said in one of Walt Disney’s greatest films Sleeping Beauty, “A dream is a wish your heart makes”. So, dream big, ignore the laughter, and drive forward to what you believe. It’s what Walt Disney would do.
Contact Kathleen Joy, CEO of Lumiere Work to learn more.