The Life of Walt Disney: Our Failures Can Make Us Great Episode #13

Aaron McHugh

 I wonder how many of us would consider failure a blessing?

Walt Disney did.

Mickey Mouse was born on a sketchpad during a train ride home after Walt Disney had a failed business venture.

How many of our greatest moments in life are shrouded in the appearance of failure?

Time is often the best judge of what was a success or failure.

Walt Disney was a revolutionary man

He did not accept the words “It’s never been done before” as a reason to quit. Here is a quick rundown of a few of his most notable creations:

Podcast Highlights:

Click to Listen


Walt Disney Family Museum
Walt Disney Family Museum

Podcast interview with Walt Disney Family Museum CEO

In today’s podcast you will hear my interview with Gabriella Calicchio, CEO of the Walt Disney Family Museum. The museum is absolutely amazing. It is located in the Presidio in San Francisco. You will hear me describe a magical day that my family and I had riding tandem bikes from downtown to the museum and then across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I would encourage you to listen with ears fixed on Walt’s innovation, tenacity, creativity, and fierce commitment to excellence, and vision for a future that no one else could see. I believe the lasting effects of Walt Disney’s life is similar to the way we see Steve Jobs today.

I hope you enjoy.

Riding Across the Golden Gate
Riding Across the Golden Gate

I grew up with Walt Disney

My grandfather worked at Disneyland for over 28 years, starting in 1956, the year after the park opened. Growing up I thought my grandfather and Walt Disney must have been great friends because he had a picture of them hung in his office. They were on the Jungle Cruise together. My grandfather was driving the boat and Walt was right behind him as the two of them cruised through the jungle river.

Walt Disney Family Museum
Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt’s imagination was woven into my childhood.

I’ve spent hundreds of days at Disneyland. My grandfather had a free guest pass.

So the first time I paid for a ticket to Disneyland was when I was 39.  We used to get in through the employee back-gate and see Disneyland from a rare view.  My brother and I would get dropped off in the morning to play alone all day and then picked up at midnight after the fireworks.

Talk about a boyhood dream.

 Walt Disney the Entrepreneur

I recently listened to Walt Disney’s biography by Neal Gabler titled
Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

Walt Disney is obviously best known for the animation characters that he created, most notably Mickey Mouse. What’s important is to understand is that in addition to being an animator, Disney was an entrepreneur, a visionary, and transformed multiple industries.

For instance, product merchandising.  Today, we take for granted seeing product lines accompanying a movie release. We are used to seeing lunch boxes, dolls, action figures, and the like as part of a major movie release.

Walt Disney was a pioneer of this concept.

Takeaways from visiting the Museum

When I visited the museum there were two significant takeaways for me.  One was that Walt Disney tinkered and experimented with his animation in the garage at night while he maintained his day job.

So often we see men like Disney for only their greatness and we forget that they were just like us.

Like us, he had a day job.

And like us he invested the small margin areas of his life into the work he dreamed of getting paid for doing.

The second takeaway was that during the tour you hear Walt’s voice saying

“I think everyone should have
a good failure when they are young”.

Failing and greatness

What I learned was that he sketched the very first Mickey Mouse on a train ride home after an admitted business failure. The takeaway that is applicable to you and I is that out of failure, sometimes, greatness can be born.


5 Reasons Why You Should Start Creating in Your Garage In this post, I write about Walt Disney’s story of starting work in his garage at night after he got home from work.

The “How” of Your Life In this post, I write about the importance of focusing on “How” we accomplish success in life, not just “What” we accomplish.

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