Well, when I taught my history classes, and especially my government courses, I often joked that “All Roads Lead to Disney!” At first, my students thought I was joking. Over time, however, they learned it wasn’t a joke. They would lean in, listening to the lecture for the inevitable point when I would make some sort of delightful Disney reference.
You think I am kidding? Did you know that President Nixon’s famous “I am Not a Crook” speech took place at Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort? Or that his beleaguered press secretary, Ron Ziegler, was once a Jungle Cruise Skipper at Disneyland? How about the fact that the only Presidential Inauguration Parade to ever take place outside of Washington, DC happened at Epcot (May 1985). Oh, and Winnie the Pooh ran for President in 1972 and again in 1976. Don’t laugh; we’ve since elected far worse!
There are cultural connections as well. The legendary rock group, The Eagles, first played together when they sang backup for Linda Ronstadt during her weeklong gig at Disneyland in July 1971. Even the Beatles got in on the act when John Lennon signed the papers officially breaking up the beloved band at the Polynesian Resort (reportedly in room 1601) on December 29, 1974. And my all-time favorite Disney character, Dumbo, was slated to be TIME Magazine’s “Mammal of the Year” the week of December 7, 1941. But infamous events in the Pacific kept that from happening….
That point in our lives where it feels like forces outside of our control are keeping us from our goals. Our dreams. Our success. We expect to be on one path but are forced, sometimes suddenly, onto a totally different course. Like it or not, this is when you must choose the Road of Resiliency. Why? Because you are where you are for a reason. Per Tony Robbins, imagine for just a moment that life is happening for you rather than against you.
The next time you find yourself at just such a crossroads, let me encourage you to cash in on Walt’s bankruptcy nearly a century ago. Imagine for just a moment if Laugh-A Gram Studio had been a success in 1923? Then maybe, just maybe, Walt Disney would have spent the rest of his life in Kansas City—the rest of his career creating animation advertisements for a local dentist. Instead, the financial failure compelled Walt to come to California, start a new studio, and create his first successful cartoon character. All a result of the Road of Resiliency—in this case, Walt’s willingness to bounce back and keep moving forward!
Since the pandemic, event planners are asking me to hit the road and speak on resiliency more and more. It makes sense as we come back from COVID, come to terms with understaffing and a difficult economy, and come face-to-face with an ever-changing “new normal.” Walt’s story resonates, not because he was a success but because he failed so frequently, yet remained resilient and only then found success. If you weren’t born wealthy, you had a difficult relationship with one of your parents, or you ever caught what was going around during a global pandemic, then congratulations! You have a great deal in common with one Walter Elias Disney!
Even if it isn’t the path you picked, know that it can still be the right road, regardless. When I came to California in 2011, I was deeply disappointed that CBU didn’t have room in their religion department for me to teach in my area of expertise. If I wanted to come as dean of student success and be a faculty member, then I would have to set my degree in New Testament Studies aside along with a decade of teaching experience. Instead, I was given the opportunity to teach classes from the history and government department.
My “Mickey Mouse” idea for a college course on The History of Disneyland would have never been possible as a Christian Studies class (totally different kind of Kingdom). But as a US History class, that was a go! And it was the Disney class that put me on the road to becoming an author, which led to me becoming a speaker. And the rest is, well, history!
“Walt never thought he was beaten at anything—ever”
— Lillian Disney
Book Jeff Barnes, Motivational Speaker and Disney Historian for your next event. Dr. Jeffrey A. Barnes is the best selling author & captivating keynote speaker that engages the audience with lessons learned from Walt Disney. He is willing to travel to conferences, conventions, and business meetings in the following areas: