Resilience lessons from Walt Disney

In 2018, the Walt Disney Company made $59.434 billion.

It’s well known that Disney is one of the biggest brands of all time, with instantly recognisable characters, films guaranteed to make millions in revenue, and theme parks all over the world.

However, in the early 1920s, Walt Disney himself was a struggling animator.

His first studio, Laugh-O-Gram Studios, went bankrupt in 1923.

In 1928, although he’d created a popular character in Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, he lost all rights to the character to his business partner.

He was also refused additional funding, and was under pressure to shut his studio down after most of his animators left.

At this point, with no money and his main assets taken away, many lesser entrepreneurs would have given up.

However, he didn’t.

He bought a train ticket back to Hollywood, and on the way, sketched a character to replace Oswald. That new character was Mickey Mouse, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So why didn’t Disney give up?

His answer was because of optimism.

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”

Indeed, optimism goes beyond simply “thinking positively”.

That would suggest a level of delusion, where you keep trying the same thing and getting the same (negative) result.

Optimism comes from a growth mindset.

It is grounded in reality, and comes from being able to learn from our experiences in order to gain success.

It is also something that we can all practice ourselves in order to become more resilient.

This is known as ‘learned optimism’, where we challenge negative beliefs by finding evidence to dispute them, and then generating alternatives.

Those alternatives can be anything – from revising different information in order to pass an exam, changing your diet and exercise routine to lose weight, or, in Disney’s case, finding the inspiration to create a new character.

You can learn more about how to gain ‘learned optimism’ on BounceBack’s Developing Resilience eLearning course.


Take care,

Team BounceBack

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