We recently took our daughters to Disneyland, California. Many don’t realize that the Anaheim location is actually the original, often over -shadowed by it’s sprawling Orlando counterpart. We didn’t tell the girls we were going – instead, we crept into their rooms at the crack of dawn, gave them a gentle nudge, and whispered “want to go to Disneyland?”… Instantly invoking the stuff that the Disney tv commercials are made of – wide eyes and nodding heads, disbelief yet hope and wonder all forging through sleepy eyes and still curled-up little bodies…
It truly is remarkable how no matter who you are, young or old, the response to the idea of “Disneyland” can be encapsulated by one single word: Magical. My children’s response that morning? Magical. The feeling you get when you enter the gates and see that castle in the near distance rise above the crowds, beckoning you to come and discover what lies beyond: Magical. The nighttime electrical parade of Disney characters passing by, so real and so believable, and as they wave to you in the crowd you feel, even as an adult, as though the fairy godmother has cast her wand full of wishes-come-true directly at you? Take it from me. It’s absolutely – you guessed it – Magical…
And behind it all, what has made it so magical is the stuff of one man’s imagination – so powerful that it has been able to transport entire generations to a place of wonder, where dreams really do come true. Through his stories, movies, characters, and that place we simply call Disney, Walter Disney himself was kind enough to share with us the inner workings of his incredible imagination. Could we even imagine a place where “Disney” did not exist? Where pumpkins never turned into carriages, wishing upon a star didn’t bring your heart’s desire, or we never knew it’s a small world after all? Where Pooh bear and Piglet didn’t roam the 100 acre wood and Mickey and Minnie Mouse weren’t two of the most recognizable children’s characters of all before them and all yet to come?
It doesn’t even seem plausible. But that might have been, had Walter Disney listened when he was told two almost incomprehensible words. That he: “lacked imagination“. Excuse me? He lacked what? We’re talking about Walt Disney here… creator of all the afore-mentioned magic? But it’s true. In 1919 the aspiring cartoonist was fired from his job at a newspaper because his editor felt he “lacked imagination”. Whatever he may have lacked (he did then go on to drive his first animation studio, Laugh-o-Gram, into bankruptcy), he did not lack imagination. Or, apparently, ambition. Or confidence. Nor did he lack belief in himself, his ideas, or the notion that “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”. And I think it takes a lot of courage to pursue something you’ve been told you are no good at. It takes a lot of courage to peruse something everyone tells you that you ARE good at. But to be told you aren’t good at it, or that you are lacking in some way, makes it even harder to follow. So… Beyong believing in magic, Walter Disney has taught me this: You have to believe you are good at it. At whatever it is you want to do, be, or become. YOU have to believe in what you want to accomplish. No one else will believe in you, if you don’t. It’s ok to take your time, to read, learn, practice, get better, be better. When it comes to public speaking or presenting, or simply being an effective communicator, it’s ok to start slowly, start small, and grow your skills. But believe that you have something to say. Believe that you can say it, and say it well. For if you don’t, you run the risk of leaving the world without Mickey Mouse. Without pooh bear, glass slippers or fairy godmothers. Without wishes and dreams come true. You run the risk of leaving the world without your imprint upon it, simply because someone else may have told you that whatever you were doing, wasn’t good enough. And it is, so long as you believe it.
Children offer amazing anecdotes… In my professional day I end up
quoting my children regularly; sometimes it is something funny that they have done or said, sometimes it is something insightful, and sometimes it is something I’ve learned from them – We tend to believe it is our children who do the learning from us, when in actual fact, there is so much we can learn from them. Most of the time what children offer is perspective. The world through the eyes of five and eight-year-olds can be quite extraordinary. Recently, my eldest daughter signed up to run with the school cross country team. Now, if you know my daughter, you know she is kind, sweet, funny, artistic, creative – the list goes on. The word I may not choose to first describe her is athletic. That is in no way a criticism – I am not athletic either. It is simply an observation of her general likes and dislikes. Nonetheless, she decided to go for it, and if for no other reason, I was thrilled to hear it, as she would be enjoying some additional fresh air and exercise. After several weeks of practice, race day comes up on us, and my husband and I gather to cheer her on from the sidelines. The whistle blows, off they go, and within about 12 seconds, her sprint slows to a run, then a jog, then a sort of walk-run as other runners continue to pass her. But as she rounds a bend and I am there with the camera she is smiling ear to ear and genuinely enjoying the experience. My husband and I cut across the field to greet her at the finish line and as we do, there she is, jumping up and down with pure excitement and delight. “MOMMY!” she yells as I come into her view…”I’m 185th out of 190 runners!! I DIDN’T COME IN LAST!” Her smile and her excitement were so genuine and overwhelming that I became “that” mom with tears in my eyes at the grade 4 track meet. Because in that moment it hit me – I’d just learned an important
lesson from my eight year old daughter. Our perspective on any given situation can sometimes be the most important part. It can shape our experience, and take us from disappointment to pride in an instant. Now, I would never say to set lower goals for yourself… Should my daughter
shoot for the win even though there really was no chance that she could finish first in that race? Of course she should! But it also helps to keep a positive perspective on the situation. I realized that your goal should always be to give the best presentation possible. Plan and prepare and feel like you’re going to nail it every time. But, if you stumble over your words, need to check your notes throughout the presentation, or something goes wrong with the audio and visual, then realistic expectations and positive outlooks help us to remind ourselves that the day was still a success. So, enter a race that you know you can’t win… Apply for the job you’re not quite qualified for, tackle a presentation to the largest audience you’ve ever stood in front of. You may win, you may come in 185th. But you won’t lose. At least you can say, you did it.