- - Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy New Year from Disneyland, California!

Both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Orlando are holiday family traditions for my girls and me — places where families from all over the world converge to create memories, relive days gone by and reconnect. The music, laughter, sounds, smells, lights and experiences, take you to a world that makes us wish that this is the way the world should be really like.

For me, the Disney parks aren’t just about the rides or the food or stories of standing in long lines with family. These are places to bond, ever so slightly, with one of the greatest creative geniuses of all time, Walt Disney.

I enjoy walking around and catching the little things that most people don’t notice but still make a great impact on the experience. Things such as the meanings of the names painted on shop windows overlooking Main Street USA. Or the way they use the art of forced perspective to fool your eye into thinking something is bigger or smaller than it really is. But my favorite is the history of Walt Disney himself and how he left his mark on this world. How did a man, with no family wealth create something that by just mentioning his name … brings smiles, memories and good will to the face of nearly every human on the planet?

I studied Walt for many years and even lived about three miles from Walt Disney World in Orlando for a while. After reading about him, hearing stories from those who knew him, traveling to his parks and even visiting his boyhood hometown of Marceline, Mo.

I have created, with suggestions from Disneyland Cast Members, a list of the Top 10 positive qualities Walt Disney had that we can all adopt to make 2015 a better year.

Be Autodidactic
Walt Disney dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join the Army during WWI, although he was rejected for being under age. Even though he left his formal schooling, he never stopped his education. Walt Disney was autodidactic (self-taught). He was constantly reading and learning new things. In 2015, continue your education; it could be online, or in a book. Continue to learn things that interest you and expand your thinking. The more you use your mind, the sharper it becomes.

Ask Questions
Too many people are afraid to ask questions; fearful they will look hebetudinous to others. Walt Disney constantly asked questions of those around him. He was curious of what others thought and used their comments and suggestions as often as he could. The janitor at the studio was one of Walt’s favorite “go to guys,” not the so-called “experts.” Walt used to say, “Own up to your ignorance honestly and people will be eager to fill your head with information.”

Embrace Humility
Walt never liked the “star” treatment and tended to shun those who treated him that way. He felt most comfortable getting his hands dirty and working with the team to see what new things they could create. Yes, he was the boss and had final say, but he always worked with the entirety of the team to come up with the best solution to any problem or project.

Be Avuncular
Kindly, kindhearted and good-humored, like a beloved uncle. Those are words the dictionary uses to describe avuncular, and it’s a good description Of Walt Disney as well. Be avuncular and cheer up the room as you enter it, don’t bring a cloud of darkness with you.

Plus it!
Walt had a hard time giving praise to others. His turn of the century, Midwestern values made it hard at times to show emotion to those around him. Just a few words from Walt could be a great motivator to his “Imagineers.” When someone had a good idea but Walt thought it could be even better, he would exclaim, “That’s great boys, now plus it!” It’s a term I like to use in my daily life. How can I make a situation better? What little tweak or improvement can I add to make my work sparkle? I often hear in my head, “Plus it Rusty, Plus it!”… as if Walt himself were looking over my shoulder giving encouragement.
“It’s kinda fun to do the impossible,” is one of my favorite Walt Disney quotes.

Make Family a Top Priority
Walt was a workaholic but never forgot what was important to him — family. He drove his daughters to school everyday and made sure that Sunday’s were always Daddy/Daughter days. Even during the most difficult times of his life, he never missed a school performance.

Remember Patriotism
During WWII the military drafted many of Walt’s best artists and workers. Instead of complaining, he created movies and cartoons to help the war effort, at no charge to the government. Walt believed the country gave him much, so he felt he had an obligation to give back.

Work on Improving Your Memory
Walt was one of those guys who had a gift for remembering everyone’s name and knew it made people feel important and special. Each day he would work on his memory and would learn a new word and its definition.

Have a Childlike Spirit
A child sees a tree and thinks it’s the greatest thing in the world. Adults tend to over look those amazing things God has created. By embracing your childlike spirit, you bring a joy and zest to life, all while opening yourself finding new things to inspire you.

Be Aware of the Little Things
Disneyland is full of little things that unless you really look for them, they aren’t apparent. For our daily life it’s the attention to detail in whatever we do that can make an ordinary project extraordinary. It’s those little things that can make all the difference.

I have read dozens of books over the years on Walt Disney. My favorite is “How To Be Like Walt” written by Pat Williams, co-founder and senior vice President of the Orlando Magic NBA team. If you have any interest in Walt’s life and legacy you can’t go wrong starting with that book.

Here’s to a great 2015!

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