Book Jeff

You Think You Can’t!

As we get ready to enter the fourth economic quarter of 2020, I want to ask you a question: Is your business thriving or barely surviving? Are you sinking or soaring?

My guess is the year looks nothing like what you planned way back at the start of the first quarter. The key word, of course, is planned. For most businesses, the idea of thriving went with the winds of March when the coronavirus arrived full force. To keep from sinking, you’ve been adjusting and pivoting…pivoting and adjusting…ever since.

In the final installment of our DWD—Doesn’t Work, Dude (or Doesn’t Work, Disney) series, I want to return to Disneyland’s opening day on July 17, 1955. Just like all of 2020, that single day was a massive DWD.

In the first installment, Doesn’t Work Dude, I wrote about how every attraction, except The Jungle Cruise, broke down that day. Note that other so-called “opening day attractions” never had a chance to break down. Walt already knew they didn’t work—that they were DWDs—so he didn’t dare try to open and operate them. At least not yet.

The two best non-operating DWD examples are located side-by-side in Fantasyland and themed around the beloved 1941 movie Dumbo.

First, a personal all-time favorite, Dumbo the Flying Elephant didn’t operate on opening day because, ironically, the original Dumbo elephant vehicles could not actually fly.

Walt wanted to take what was a standard carnival spinner ride and re-theme it with Disney décor and a Disney treatment. One way to do that was to include motors to each set of elephant ears so that they could simulate flying and flap as Dumbo flew.

The idea flopped.

The motors meant that each elephant weighed 700 pounds each. Way too much weight for Dumbo to fly, with or without his feather, and the ears rarely worked regardless.

Guests would have to wait until August 16, 1955 before they could fly with Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and because of its ongoing challenges, it was one of the first Fantasyland attractions to be fully refurbished in 1959.

Our second non-operating DWD is the Casey Jr. Circus Train. Casey is the little train that debuted in Dumbo. Today, it is a Fantasyland attraction that sits appropriately adjacent to Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

The original plan was for Casey to be Disneyland’s “thrill” ride. Again, things did not work out as planned. Sound familiar?

Casey, the so-called “Little Engine That Could,” could not get up “Impossible Hill.” He was too unreliable. Every time they tried, he kept tipping over backwards. Eventually, Walt’s team redesigned both Casey the Locomotive and Impossible Hill.

The Little Engine That Could Not finally became The Little Engine That Could on July 31, 1955, and he has been inspiring guests young and old ever since.

So how will you wrap up 2020?

Regardless of what’s going on, you are still in control. It may not feel like it sometimes, but you are. I know for me, because of my recent brain surgery, just like in 2014-2016, I am grounded from thrill rides and roller coasters for another two years.

So how exactly do I get off this ride called 2020?

By letting go of my reasonable plans at the start of the year and going for the unreasonable at the end of the year.

Maybe the best way to get 2020 back on track is by going totally off the track from here on out.

By letting go of my made-up limitations and going for my unlimited potential.

By realizing that the “impossible hill” in front of me was only “impossible” because of a word, a name, a label. Remember, all words are made up, including the word “impossible.”

“You Can’t Do It!”

I’ve heard those words throughout my life, and I’m hearing them again in 2020. I know I am not alone. Casey Jr. heard them before climbing his hill. They are why Dumbo needed his feather.

Stop listening to the language that limits you. Those words remind you to stay still. To stay small. Those words keep you stuck. They keep you in your place. They keep you coasting instead of soaring. Dumbo never needed his feather. And neither do you.

It is time for us to recognize that nothing about 2020 has been reasonable. So why not end the year by responding in an unreasonable way?

If you are ever going to climb your Impossible Hill, why not now? If you have to scale back to make it happen, scale back. If you have to start over to make it happen, start over.

It’s not like 2020 was working out as planned anyway, right?

Along the way, if someone tells you it will never work…if someone tells you it’s a DWD…if someone says it’s impossible, remember what Walt Disney always said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”


“The next time someone tells you ‘You can’t do it,’ just smile and reply: Watch me.”
— Ozan Varol
Author of Think Like a Rocket Scientist

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