“Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work it until it’s done and done right.” —Walt Disney
If you know me, you know I love all things Disney. To be more specific, I am an unabashed, plastic-ear wearing, princess-song singing, Toy Story hee-hawing, Disney fan. Beyond the fluffy characters and classic story adaptations, my fan loyalty stems from my impression of the business acumen of the Walt Disney Company. It is a company that continues to innovate and lead in the entertainment industry and captures the hearts of many generations and walks of life.
It all started with a simple idea. Walt Disney identified his talents; he knew his passion, and he took this and shared it with the world. But it wasn’t an immediate success. In fact, Walt Disney’s first animation company filed bankruptcy. Did this failure stop him? A trip to the toy section of the five and dime, or a scan of the cable line up, or a glimpse at the predicted Blockbusters of the summer can answer this.
Part of the Disney Company’s success is the way that it takes the old and combines it with the new. It re-invents, re-markets, and wins over fans regardless of age or background differences.
But my intent here is not to sell you on Park Hopper passes or get you to upgrade your cable package to include the Mouse Channel, it is to draw an analogy about what great teaching involves.
It all starts with an idea. Don’t dismiss ideas that appear on your mind or that are shared with you from your mentor or colleague as not good enough. Strive to put them into action. Continue to stick with them, tweak them, make them something you can use. Disneyland was not built in a day, and neither was a great course or a great teacher.
And a great idea does not thrive as is. It can grow stale or even obsolete depending on the time and audience. Continue to reflect upon your ideas and your teaching, and continue to combine the old with the new to make it relevant for students of various backgrounds and walks of life.
Another lesson learned from Disney, don’t let failures and setbacks bog you down. Brush it off, learn from it, take away something new from the experience, and start again.
While we don’t have to dream as big as building animated entertainment empires, we can learn a lot about becoming the best professionals we can be through reflecting on the success of a thriving business that started on a simple, even “silly idea.” So don’t let those lingering ideas go to waste. Don’t let setbacks get the better of you. And don’t be satisfied with good enough. Great is what we, and all of our students, deserve.