“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 was born in 1901 in the US state of Illinois. As we all know, he was a cartoonist, animator, entrepreneur and film producer.
Many of us have fond memories of Disney cartoons and movies including the iconic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Disney’s early creative life was no cakewalk.
Disney got fired from a newspaper because the editor believed that he had no good ideas. The editor thought that Disney lacked imagination.
Disney met the cartoonist Ubbe Iwerks in the Kansas City Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio where his brother Roy got him a job as an art draftsman. He was 18 years old at that time.
Disney soon developed a life-long love for drawing, animation and art.
Soon thereafter, he hired his first employee Fred Harman. Together they opened an animation business called Laugh-o-grams.
The studio made many cartoons including Alice in Cartoonland and were popular. But by 1923, the studio was in debt and he had to declare bankruptcy.
Walt Disney, his brother Roy and Iwerks moved to Hollywood.
In Hollywood, they founded the Disney Brothers Studio. Oswald the lucky rabbit that became their first commercial success was born.
In 1927, Disney lost Oswald the rabbit and most of his creative team. His own producer, Charles Minz stole the rights to the series.
The brothers, their spouses and Iwerks who refused to leave Disney leapt into action.
Mickey Mouse was born.
The first Mickey animated short cartoons, Plane Crazy and The Galloping’ Gaucho were silent movies that did not succeed.
Undaunted, Disney made Steamboat Willie that was a sound and music cartoon.
Steamboat Willie became an instant hit and the rest, as they say, is history. You can read the full biography here.
“That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.”-Walt Disney
Here are some of the lessons on Creativity that I have learnt over the years from Walt Disney:
1. Develop An Insatiable Curiosity To Move Forward
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney
If there is one major idea about creativity that I learnt from Disney, it is the art of curiosity.
When you become genuinely curious about the world around you, you begin to view everything through the lens of discovery.
You cast aside the conditioning that great curiosity is not for adults.
You begin asking many questions.
You do not believe that asking many questions makes you look like a novice.
You allow your curiosity to move you forward, maintaining engagement and interest.
You find a field that is super interesting to you and that you are curious in.
You begin asking the how, why, what, when kind of questions and seek creative solutions.
You realize that resolving curiosity and solutions is a great intrinsic motivator.
“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” – Walt Disney
2. Engage An Unstoppable Imagination To Fuel Your Creativity
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney
What I love about the legacy that Disney left behind is that his theme parks and ideas continue to grow and expand. Disney moves into new realms of imagination and creativity.
This idea is the close cousin of curiosity but one that is often overlooked. We have to imagine things and imagine a plausible end result before we can get started. Then we have to imagine more to continue from there.
What Disney teaches you is that you can continue to grow and imagine.
The only limits are the ones that you are willing to place upon yourself.
So, have a fertile and productive imagination.
Carve out some time to imagine and brainstorm ideas much beyond what you think can be possible.
Do not delegate imagination to people who you consider the “creative types.”
Imagine a better result and then a better one. Reach your expectations and then surpass them.
3. Embrace Your Unique Creative Strengths and Play to Them
“The more you are like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.”- Walt Disney
I learnt that we need to find and then play to our strengths to be more creative.
If you are a morning person, be creative in the morning.
If you are an evening person, embrace that and stop trying to do your best work in the morning.
Make a list of all your strengths and weaknesses. Embrace your unique set of qualities and work to your strengths.
4. Worry and Negativity Will Not Get You Anywhere
“Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.”- Walt Disney
Over the years, I realized that Disney was teaching me to be the best that I could be but also have some fun along the way.
I agree that worry will not make anything better and serves little purpose.
So let me ask you this:
Do you still grapple with worry about your creative process?
Do you stop short of giving your best because you get paralyzed by perfectionism?
“Most of my life I have done what I wanted to do. I have had fun on the job” — Walt Disney
Many of us do not engage our creativity because we think that it is not good enough.
Instead of excess worry and negativity, use that energy towards your creativity.
Stop thinking and start doing.
“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”- Walt Disney
5. Do you have the Courage And Confidence to Pursue your Creative Dreams?
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”- Walt Disney
David Kelley of IDEO calls the courage to engage in creativity as having creative confidence.
When you have the confidence to move towards your dreams and the courage to pursue them, you can move forward with momentum.
Why are courage and confidence important?
“Somehow I can’t believe there are many heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret can be summarized in four C’s. They are: curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of these is confidence.”- Walt Disney
Many people who do not feel creative confidence do not pursue their creativity. They place imaginary limitations and blocks on their art.
They delegate creativity to the “creative types.”
Often, a small incident of criticism by a parent or a friend might be enough to set you permanently off from your creativity.
You begin believing that you cannot draw, create, and make.
“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”- Walt Disney
6. Forget the People Who Are Not In the Creative Arena
“We are not trying to entertain the critics. I’ll take my chances with the public.”- Walt Disney
Walt Disney taught me to take my creative case directly to the consumers or to the public who are interested. And Disney lived according to that ideal.
Make no mistake, you have to release your creative project out in the world for the public.
If you care too much about the critics, your creative brainchild will have a short lifespan.
The shame researcher Brene Brown has a way of looking at this matter that is quite useful. She says that she does not allow criticism or negative feedback from people who are not in the arena.
The way I see it and interpret it, the arena is your creative playground. There will always be people on social media with anonymous accounts or strangers who will rush in to give you unsolicited advice.
Forget the critics and take part in the arena with people willing to show up and be real.
7. Expect Tough Competition And Allow Great Adversity To Make You A Creative Force
“I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”- Walt Disney
Disney taught me that being creative is not easy. The competition will be fierce and the odds will often be stacked against you.
But the real question is what are you going to do with the adversity? Are you willing to raise the bar and be a relentless creative force?
Are you going to stay in the sidelines wishing the adversity to pass over? The creative choice is yours.
Embrace healthy competition and adversity.
“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
8. Stop Thinking + Talking and Start Doing To Supercharge Your Creativity
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”- Walt Disney
The best creative advice that I ever received is to:
Stop making excuses.
Stop asking for approval.
Stop Waiting for the perfect moment.
9. Love Your Creative Work
“Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.”- Walt Disney
What do you love to do? If the intention that drives your creative process is love and willingness to engage, little can stop you.
You become unstoppable.
You become an unstoppable and relentless creative force.
So, clarify your intentions and motives. Are you writing that next book or making that next creative project to get money and fame?
Do you love to be in your creative space? Would you rather be nowhere else and work on your creative project?
Does the end result thrill you beyond the pursuit of material acquisitions?
If yes, then you understand what Disney meant when he said that Disneyland was a work of love.
10. Do The Creatively Impossible
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”- Walt Disney
There are two choices: It is Possible.
Or, it is Impossible.
What will you choose? I learnt from Disney that having a challenge that the world considers to be impossible is a lot of fun.
A great challenge gives you great meaning and something to pursue in life.
Disney understood the fun of doing “impossible” things.
Moreover, impossibility is a matter of perspective.
If things were impossible:
- There would be no human flight by the Wright brothers.
- There would be no 4-minute mile by Roger Barrister.
- There would be no magical theme parks and cartoons from Disney.
Even the word impossible breaks down into I M Possible. What will you choose?
“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. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.”- Walt Disney
11. Put Your Creative Team in Place
“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”- Walt Disney
I learnt from Disney that we need to surround ourselves with people who challenge us and facilitate the creative process.
You may feel social pressure of surrounding yourself with a team that thinks and acts alike. But this similarity is the safe option for creativity.
If you want over the top creativity, you have to actively choose to collide with people whose ideas are dissimilar to yours.
Being creative is not enough.
You have to have an amazing team to work together on your ideas and give you meaningful feedback.
You have to create a relentless team that gets the job done.
12. The Little things that Matter
“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”- Walt Disney
Every little thing counts.
You never know what will give you great creative success and what will not.
Every skill and creative project are a prelude to the next step.
And little things add up over time.
Every little step forward matters.
Even a mouse can become a cultural icon.
“Mickey Mouse popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner.” – Walt Disney
13. The formula for Creative Success: Do it so Well That They Come Back For More
“What ever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”- Walt Disney
The Disney formula for success:
A. Think: Find a great idea.
B. Believe: Do it well and find skills that you can hone.
C. Dream: Do it better and better so that people want to come back.
D. Dare: Stay with your great idea and keep reaching for new heights.
E. Keep working at it till you get it right.
“First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.” – Walt Disney
This formula Works for me. 🙂
No quick fixes here, just good old-fashioned courage and persistence.
“Get a good idea, and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right” — Walt Disney
14. Become A Creative Imagineer
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney
Originally developed by the Alcoa aluminum company, this idea was quickly adopted by the Walt Disney Company.
Disney calls Imagineers people who engage their imagination and then take action by engineering it down to earth.
What you can do:
- Engineer and build.
- Combine and collect.
- Engage and Implement.
- Become a systems thinker.
“I believe in being an innovator” — Walt Disney
Here is my several step process that I wrote in a previous post to become a good imagineer:
1. Identify an insurmountable problem.
2. Instead of stress and struggle, unleash your imagination and let it come up with the possibilities that you have never dreamed of.
3. Mix, connect, combine and let things fall together in your imagination.
4. Look and imagine things from perspectives that you never thought you could assume. Allow your imagination to soar.
5. Allow the ideas to collide and give it down time to incubate in your imagination.
6. When you get an insight, capture the idea and then get to work on it.
7. Use the product of your imagination to build something new—a prototype.
8. Now imagine ways that your prototype can benefit people and how you can make it accessible to them.
“We make the magic.” That’s our motto at Walt Disney Imagineering, and it’s a belief that permeates everything we do. From castles, mountains and mansions to fireworks spectaculars, Imagineers are the creative force behind the iconic Disney attractions and experiences that our guests have come to know and love.”- Walt Disney Imagineering statement on their website
Now over to you!