Book Jeff

Taking Chances

Want to hear something ironic?

I’ve just returned from a near-perfect trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I emphasize the location because we were originally scheduled to fly in on Wednesday, September 28, the day MCO (Orlando’s airport code) closed due to incoming Hurricane Ian, to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on Thursday, September 29 (the one party that was cancelled due to the storm), and fly home on Monday, October 3..In between, I was scheduled to appear at DIScon for Give Kids the World, but that, too, was understandably canceled and has been rescheduled for early 2023.

Nonetheless, we resiliently rebooked our flights for Friday, walked into Magic Kingdom on Saturday morning and, before 9 a.m. Rope Drop, were able to score tickets for Sunday night’s sold-out Halloween Party. Before flying home, we visited all four parks, experienced fifty-nine attractions (including the new coaster Cosmic Rewind), and walked more than forty-four miles.

But what about the weather?

In a word, perfect! Low to mid-eighties with cool evenings, zero rain, and the humidity on hiatus. The trip that wasn’t going to happen, never should have happened, and had almost zero chance of happening, became my most memorable.

MCO might not have opened on Friday, so there was a chance our flight would again be canceled. Worse, maybe we would make it out of LAX but our connection out of Love Field in Dallas would get scrubbed. Then what? When we landed in Dallas, the Southwest Airlines board showed thirteen cancellations, including flights to Orlando, but fortunately, ours wasn’t one of them.

Or what if our off-site rental car location had been underwater? After all, news reports said the roads in and around the airport were flooded. Like Give Kids the World, our hotel was in Kissimmee, just a few miles from Walt Disney World, but also per media reports, an area hit by severe flooding. When we landed late Friday night, we surprisingly picked up our car and checked into our hotel without incident.

We were quite fortunate. Along the way, we ran into people who were impacted, some severely, by Ian’s wrath. Parts of Florida, especially the Fort Meyers/Naples area, have a long road of recovery ahead. Now, no doubt, the state will be more dependent on tourist dollars than ever.

We took a chance.

We knew there was a chance we wouldn’t get there, but we also knew there was a 100 percent chance of not getting there if we stayed home and did nothing. Personally, I was ready to give up when the flight was first canceled on Wednesday and then the event was canceled on Thursday. I grew up in Florida, have ridden out my share of hurricanes, and am too familiar with their horrible paths of heartache and destruction. Lyndsey, a youthful California native, had never been to Walt Disney World and was committed to finding a way there that weekend, if possible.

Why is staying put and standing still so tempting? Perhaps we crave comfort more than curiosity. Reason more than risk. Certainty more than chance. Then, we wonder why we are bored and whether our work offers value. Do our lives provide purpose and meaning?

Walt was Hollywood’s greatest storyteller. He didn’t just tell great stories; he lived one as well. How? By taking chances, embracing risk, and venturing off into the uncertainty of the unknown. In 1947, he wrote about this in the book Words to Live By. See if they don’t still ring true for you today?

by Walt Disney
Motion Picture Producer
“In the lexicon of youth…there is no such word as fail!”
— Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I wonder how many times these sturdy old words have been used in graduation speeches each year. They take me back to my own high school days, when I had my first pair of white flannel trousers and the world ahead held no heartbreak or fear.

Certainly, we have all had this confidence at one time in our lives, though most of us lose it as we grow older.

Perhaps, because of my work, I’ve been lucky enough to retain a shred of this youthful quality. But sometimes, as I look back on how tough things were, I wonder if I’d go through it again. I hope I would.

When I was about twenty-one, I went broke for the first time. I slept on chair cushions in my “studio” in Kansas City and ate cold beans out of a can. But I took another look at my dream and set out for Hollywood.

Foolish? Not to a youngster. An older person might have had too much “common sense” to do it. Sometimes I wonder if “common sense” isn’t another way of saying “fear.” And “fear” too often spells failure.

In the lexicon of youth there is no such word as “fail.” Remember the story about the boy who wanted to march in the circus parade? When the show came to town, the bandmaster needed a trombonist, so the boy signed up. He hadn’t marched a block before the fearful noises from his horn caused two old ladies to faint and a horse to run away. The bandmaster demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me you couldn’t play the trombone?” And the boy said, “How did I know? I never tried before!”

Many years ago, I might have done just what that boy did. Now I’m a grandfather and have a good many gray hairs and what a lot of people would call common sense. But if I’m no longer young in age, I hope I stay young enough in spirit to never fear failure—young enough still to take a chance and march in the parade.

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