What do you remember about your first visit to your first Disney Park?
As much as I talk about my first visit to Disneyland, and the irony of hating it, I’ve rarely written about my first visit to Walt Disney World, which was my first visit to any Disney Park, ever. It was August 1974, and we went to Magic Kingdom, of course. What I remember most about that first visit wasn’t making my way down Main Street, pillaging and plundering with Pirates of the Caribbean, or even chomping on a churro.
No. What I remember most is riding the monorail, your “Highway in the Sky,” and going through the Contemporary Resort. It may not seem like much to us in 2022, but when you are ten years old in 1974 and riding a monorail at Walt Disney World, on your way to Magic Kingdom, and riding through the lobby of a first-class hotel…wow, that is unbelievable, fantastic, futuristic, space-age stuff!
When our train stopped, and I looked out into the lobby of that hotel, my jaw dropped. I looked at my parents and exclaimed, “Whoa! What the heck is this?”
My folks responded with words I never forgot. “Jeff, it doesn’t matter what this is. Because this…it’s not for us!”
In that moment, I instantly knew “It’s not for us” meant our family could not afford to stay there. Ever.
In that moment, I remembered our family of six was spending the next three nights…at the Days Inn Kissimmee.
In that moment, a limiting belief was formed. For the next forty-two years, I lost track of how many times I returned to Walt Disney World, rode the monorail on my way to Magic Kingdom, and stopped inside the Contemporary Resort. But never, not once, did I ever step inside the Contemporary Resort. Eventually, every other Walt Disney World hotel/resort, but never…not even once, the Contemporary.
Why? Because I knew at the ripe old age of ten that “It’s not for us.”
Then, in 2018, I made the mistake of sharing this reality with someone. They could not believe, especially given my love for Disney and that I have written a book on Walt Disney World, that I had never been inside the Contemporary Resort—Walt Disney World’s original, flagship hotel. I responded with words that made sense to me, “It’s not for us!”
“It’s not for us? Jeff, what does that even mean? It’s for everyone. At any point you could step off and have breakfast, have lunch, have dinner. In fact, on any given night you could stay there!”
“You don’t understand. It’s not for us!” I exclaimed.
Because they recognized how ridiculous this was, and how I was holding myself back based on a limiting belief, the next time I went to Walt Disney World, I was held accountable for stepping off the monorail and into the Contemporary Resort for the very first time. I even went as far as riding the elevator to the top and having a memorable dinner at the California Grill. Suddenly, Imagineer Joe Rohde’s words were right, “What you think is impossible is really an opinion, not a fact.”
An opinion, not a fact.
Last week, I wrote about beliefs and how we need to “Stop Believin’” negative thoughts. It’s important to realize this starts with letting go of our limiting beliefs. People act on what they believe, and your limiting beliefs might well be keeping you from acting…just like my false belief kept me from stepping off the monorail and into the Contemporary Resort…for more than forty years.
So, what limiting belief are you holding on to today? What is keeping you from leveling up in your life, from pursuing your dream? What is keeping you safe but bored? Challenge that belief. Recognize that Rohde is right; it’s an opinion, not a fact. Know that today you can choose a different belief and step off in a new and better direction.
Like me, chances are your limiting beliefs came from your childhood. I first heard, “It’s not for us,” forty-eight years ago. Like me, you also need to let yours go and change them out for new beliefs that are both empowering and contemporary.