Modern Marketing Blog

What Walt Disney Knew About Failure

September 6, 2012 By: Heather Foeh

Today's post comes from Lenn Millbower, a professional speaker with 25 years experience inside Disney. He shares some of his firsthand perspective here.

Walt Disney is remembered for his many successes - for Mickey Mouse, for Donald Duck, for Disneyland.

But he also saw his share of hard failures  including a bankruptcy, a mental breakdown, a devastating strike, and the loss of control over his creation Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He discussed these failures frankly. He once said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

There are advantages to failure, in other words. As Walt himself put it: “It is good to have a failure while you’re young because it teaches you so much. For one thing it makes you aware that such a thing can happen to anybody, and once you’ve lived through the worst, you’re never quite as vulnerable afterward.”

Walt also explained his formula for overcoming failure. “To some people, I am kind of a Merlin who takes lots of crazy chances, but rarely makes mistakes. I’ve made some bad ones, but fortunately, the successes have come along fast enough to cover up the mistakes. When you go to bat as many times as I do, you’re bound to get a good average. That’s why I keep my projects diversified.”

Walt’s comments show us a way out of failure: trial and error. Innovations can happen in any workplace, if you have the tenacity to keep trying. Even the great Disney had to borrow from loan officers when funding for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ran out.

Success is often built on failure. Steve Jobs knew this So did J.K. Rowling. And Walt Disney.

This is exactly what I'll talk about during my session, Innovate Like a Mouse, at Eloqua Experience 2012. It will use the words, ideas, failures, and successes of Walt Disney to inspire you. Multimillion-dollar innovation may be as close as one failure.

In the words of Mickey Mouse, “I’ll see ‘ya real soon.”

What failures have inspired you? Share your own stories or examples that inspire you?

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