Finding Inspiration Out of the Pool: Lessons from Walt Disney

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Finding Inspiration Out of the Pool. Today: Lessons from Walt Disney

When you hear the name Walt Disney, a lot of feelings and thoughts probably come to mind — the magic, the joy, the household empire that it has become in the last 60 years and of course Mickey Mouse. Who people normally do not think of initially is the man behind the mouse, Walt Disney. Originally from Hermosa, Illinois, Walt grew up drawing, taking art classes and delivering newspaper – far away from everything we think of when we hear the name Disney as well as a pool.

Disney was not an athlete of any kind, much less a swimmer. He really does not have anything to do with the swimming world, however he exemplifies some important lessons that anyone can learn from, but especially swimmers. So often we occupy our thoughts with swimming and the great athletes that have been involved in our own sport that we miss the stories and lessons from others in outside fields. This is a huge mistake. Great lessons and stories can come from anywhere and be applied to anything- from athletics to daily life. Some of the greatest lessons are from the most unique individuals who have really traveled to the beat of their own drummer. Often, it is because these people were so unique is why they are so successful.

Walt Disney has one of these incredible stories and lives. He built an empire based solely on his imagination and dreams. An empire that is still in full bloom today.

Here are four key lessons that we can all learn from Walt Disney.

1. Surround yourself with good people

Walt had big dreams – that isn’t a secret. The more he succeeded, the more his imagination exploded with new ideas and possibilities. To make all these big dreams a reality, he needed some help. His support system consisted of his brother, wife and a group called the imagineers. This amazing group supported Walt’s dreams and helped make them a reality. Walt’s brother Roy was in charge of making sure the books could support such imaginative thinking financially, which was no small feat since the Disneyland cost $17 million – money which they did not have. The imagineers were in charge of making the dream a physical reality, also not a small feat since most of the technology they needed did not exist at the time and they had to invent it as they went along. None of that mattered. They built the park that exceeded all expectations. Yes, it was Walt’s ideas that built the train, however he would have any momentum without the amazing support system he had behind him. Walt surrounded himself with the best people that he felt could help him get the job done. Every great adventure needs a supporting cast because dreams are never created single handedly.

2. Let happiness and love be your guide

When Walt set out to create Disneyland, he wanted it to be a place where families went experience love, joy and happiness. In essence he wanted to create a place that physically embodied all of these emotions. He let joy inspire everything he created and let it be his guide in life. Sometimes swimmers lose that in all of the training and competition, however sometimes we need that reminder of why we put so much time and effort into the sport. It made them happy. It brought them joy in some form or another. Thy found something that made them happy and provided a challenge.

3. There is no such thing as smooth sailing

While it is hard to tell from how Disney operates now- but the company and Walt struggled. Walt faced many challenged such as bankruptcy, disbelief and technology and construction limitations. In fact, the first day that Disneyland opened the cement was not dry so women’s heels were sinking into the ground and the plumbing was not finished so there was no working water fountains. Those kinks were worked out eventually, but to get to any level of success the road is not always easy. There are bumps, potholes and sharp turns along the way. However, if you work hard and believe in yourself it will all work out in the end. As Walt once said “ All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

4. Keep moving forward

With that you have to keep moving forward and keep dreaming. Walt believed that change is inevitable but also that nothing was out of the question. Every problem has a solution, it was just a matter of finding it and we will get better along the way as long as we keep our goals clearly in our minds. Walt may not have been an athlete but his actions and advice are still applicable to swimmers everywhere. Our journeys are not always easy and definitely not linear, however as long as we have a desire and fortitude to keep going- we may just reach our destination. As Walt Disney once said “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

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