How to Find and Follow Your Life Passion in 5 Surprising Steps: What We Can Learn From Walt Disney

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The essence of the life of Walt Disney (dreamer, innovator, and entrepreneur) makes him a legend and a folk hero of the 20th century. His universal popularity is based upon the deep-rooted ideals which his name elicits: imagination, optimism, creation, and self-made success in the American tradition. Yet this pioneer of animation had a tumultuous life wrought with numerous challenges and obstacles. His life story demonstrates an exemplary example of finding passion the resilience of the human spirit and the wonders of life’s infinite possibilities when you follow your passion.

Apart from his phenomenal contributions to the world of animations and theme parks, his tenacious spirit demonstrates some critical life lessons on finding passion and following your passion in life. I would like to share with you these life lessons we can learn from the story of Walt Disney, timeless icon!

1. Discover your passion and nurture it. 

It was during the early years of his childhood that Walt developed a keen interest in art and drawing. Listening to the voice of his muse, he gradually began to cultivate his talent. After years of practice, Walt was finally able to transform his hobby into a lucrative enterprise by selling his drawings to neighbours. Not surprisingly, he decided to forge ahead by pursuing an education in art and photography. Shortly after, he was dispatched to the Red Cross for mandatory services during World War I.

It was believed that even during his service as an ambulance driver; Walt’s passion for drawing was indisputable. He would cover the truck canvas with his little caricatures and doodles. On returning home, Walt became convinced that his life’s direction should be to follow his passion in life. He garnered every available resource to establish a steady career as a commercial artist and it was at this stage that he discovered a new niche creative outlet: animation. Like Walt Disney did, finding passion in what you do can give you the drive and motivation to keep on reaching for your dreams.

2. Believe in yourself. 

Unfortunately having a professional epiphany did not warrant a smooth start for Walt. After failing to sustain his small company, he eventually fell bankrupt. Reduced to living in his studio and eating cold beans out of a can, Walt endured the hard times any worthwhile success story demands. These dire circumstances did not extinguish his dreams and visions. He simply moved on to different terrain: California.

When Disney arrived in Los Angeles, he had $40 in his pocket and an unfinished cartoon in his suitcase. With his Uncle Robert’s consent, the unrelenting Walt set forth on laying the foundations of his first Hollywood cartoon studio. It was not long after that he secured his first distribution deal with a New York based publishing agent. Following your passion in life is not easy but you should never give up at the first few hurdles. Who knows what is waiting for you around the corner?

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3. Sometimes obstacles are opportunities in disguise. 

Contrary to what a lot of people think, Walt’s first major animated character was not Mickey Mouse but Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Within a year, he made 26 of these Oswald cartoons. However for a long time, Walt remained blind to the fact that he did not own the exclusive rights to Oswald - the distributor did. Without his consent the distributor signed up almost all of his animators in pursuit of making the Oswald cartoons in his own studio at a lower cost without Walt Disney. It was a painful albeit valuable lesson for the young cartoonist to learn. Yet it was after the loss of Oswald, that Walt needed to conjure a new character, and that character was none other than his famous alter ego: Mickey Mouse.

4. Let family and friends be a grounding force. 

Walt always maintained a strong bond with his brother Roy Disney. Consequently, it didn’t seem inappropriate for him to appeal for help during this particularly challenging phase of his life. He specifically needed steady financial support for resurrecting his ailing studio. Roy, who was in a hospital recovering from tuberculosis at that time, agreed and embarked on this new enterprise with his brother. This joint venture was the genesis of the Disney Brothers Studio where it would remain until 1939.

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5. Don’t be afraid to dream BIG (or small) when you follow your passion.

Throughout his life, Walt constantly reminded the public that it all started with the tiny concept of a mouse. Even after the enduring success of his animations and movies Disney was never satisfied with what he had already accomplished. As his motion pictures and television programs became successful, he felt an urge to branch out. One area that always intrigued him was amusement parks. He envisioned a park where both parents and children could have fun and enjoy the experience together. Thus the concept of Disneyland was born. When considering your own passion in life, always keep in mind that whatever your dreams are now you never know what bigger dream this one could lead you to.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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