If you want your pot to boil just keep the heat on.

Inc. Magazine is a great publication about entrepreneurship. I got a subscription to Inc. when I was in my early 20s. Every month I would devour the magazine. (To be clear, I did this with my mind, not my digestive system.)

From my readings I learned about every aspect of starting a business. I knew all the lingo. I knew the major influencers. I felt like I was part of the entrepreneurial tribe. I had everything I needed except my own business. Which is kind of like having everything a cowboy needs except the horse, ranch and loneliness.

I had been a subscriber to Inc. for nearly 2 decades before I became an actual entrepreneur when I opened The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency. But when I did, I was well prepared. And it was well worth the wait.

Preparing

It’s natural to give a lot of time, thought, and energy to a dream. By dream I mean things like the following:

  • Starting your own business
  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail
  • Buying a vacation home
  • Epic travel
  • Running a marathon
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Moving
  • A career change
  • Taking on a major hobby
  • Buying a motorcycle
  • Starting a club, group or society
  • Learning to dance properly
  • Writing a book
  • Streaking the Quad

Don’t get down on yourself for having a dream that you think about a lot but haven’t yet realized. Keep pouring your thoughts and energy into preparing for your dream to come true. Keep reading and studying. Learn all you can. Talk about it. Write your plans down. Know the next step you need to take to make it real.

The next steps could be saving money, finding resources, getting prices, or simply putting a date on the calendar. The key is to make directional progress instead of swirling. Because no one likes a swirly.

To boil a pot of water you have to light the burner, then just keep pouring on the heat. It won’t look like anything is happening for some time. But eventually, that water will boil. As long as you keep increasing the energy you invest in your goal and keep looking for the next step forward to take, you will make it happen.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney didn’t start his epic journey by opening Disney World. He started by reading comics. Then he made drawings. Then he made up stories and put on plays for friends. All of these are easy, small steps in the right direction. Make sure to keep taking your easy small steps. Eventually, they lead to your goals.

Key Takeaway

Set your goals. Then read, learn and prepare yourself. It may take months, years, or decades to get where you want to go. Be patient, but persistent. And keep the heat on. It’s how you make the pot boil.

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Why I embrace last-minute requests and ridiculous deadlines.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything in life worked according to your schedule?  You simply set the amount of time you need to handle anything, personal or professional. Then nothing ever challenged your pre-established timeline. That would be pleasant. And it would bore me to tears.

The world doesn’t conform to your schedule. Business, and life, are far too unpredictable. As Nationwide Insurance used to say, life comes at you fast. Really fast. Opportunities and threats appear in a blink. In the social era you need to respond before your opportunities become yesterday’s tweets. You must be able to thwart threats before they become Napa-sized wildfires, engulfing your home and vineyard.

Get Creative

But opportunities abound in the imperfect schedule. As the Founder of the Advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am always thrilled by quick deadlines. They add excitement to the work. They test our abilities. They push us to learn what we can do without.

Ridiculous deadlines present favorable conditions for creativity too. When time is short the approval process is also short. You run through fewer approvers, who tend to be more accepting of really great creative solutions. So better ideas are often produced under tight timelines, because the client has less time for second guessing.

Walt Disney’s Magic

Recently I read about a crazy request Walt Disney received from Pepsi in 1963. Pepsi had been working on a collaboration with UNICEF for the World’s Fair, but had failed to come up with a worthwhile idea. So they approached Disney with the daunting task of creating an exhibit to fill their 94,000 square foot exhibit space. But they had far too little time and far too little money for the challenge. So Joe Fowler, the supervisor at Disneyland, turned down their request.

When Walt Disney heard this he was furious. He said, ‘I’ll make those decisions,’ and then informed his team that they would indeed take on the Pepsi project. To solve for the time, space and money challenges, Disney devised a boat ride through a canal, surrounded by animated dolls from around the world. The dolls sang a song that Disney commissioned the Sherman brothers to write. As Disney described the concept of the exhibit to the Shermans, he explained ‘It’s a small world after all.’  That, of course, became the name of the song, and the ride itself.

The World’s Fair exhibit was a resounding success for Pepsi and UNICEF. Today, almost 55 years later, that boat ride is still one of the most popular attractions at Disney World.  And its theme song is known around the world.

Conclusion

Your next great opportunity may show up at your doorstep wearing a really short deadline. But don’t be too quick to shoo it away. Don’t focus on all the reasons you can’t take on the challenge. Focus on the possibilities. That opportunity just may turn into the greatest thing you’ve ever done. But if you truly can’t find a way to make it work, send it my way. I love a short deadline after all.

How Walt Disney saved his best for last. And you can too.

I have finally finished reading Walt Disney. The Triumph of the American Imagination.  It was not a small book after all. To the contrary, it was large, dense and fascinating. Author, Neal Gabler, is an enviable writer who pulls back the curtain to reveal Disney as a complex, chain-smoking, reluctant American icon.

What I learned.

I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the formula behind Disney’s magic.  I wanted to know how he made all those great movies and cartoons. How he got us to put on those silly mouse-ear hats and think we looked cool. And how he got us to pay $100 a noggin to visit his Land or World.

As Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am always looking for insights from other great creative businesses. So I’ve been studying organizations like Disney, Pixar, The Wright Brothers Workshop, Andy Warhol’s Factory and North Korea’s Vacation and Tourism Board.

I expected Walt Disney would be a book about creativity. Certainly there is a lot of creativity and imagineering in the book. Walt was a visionary who had a crystal clear picture in his head of everything he set out to create. But the reason everyone should read this book is to see how hard his journey really was.

DisneyDali_Walt

For almost 500 pages of the biography you wonder when Walt Disney will finally catch a break. Seriously. The classic movies we know and love today were largely box office flops, failing to make enough money to pay for production. Disney was a half-step ahead of the Financial Grim Reaper for what seemed like the bulk of his career. In the 1940s he narrowly avoided bankruptcy thanks to government film contracts during WWII. He just kept doing what he had to do to keep his mouse ears above water.

The next time you are working on unsexy projects for tough clients, take comfort in knowing that Walt Disney did the same thing to keep his dreams alive too.

walt-disney-animator-photograph

Saving The Best For Last

But the most fascinating thing about the book was that the greatest achievement of his career didn’t come until the very end. In fact, it wasn’t even mentioned until page 603 of the 633 page book. That’s right, Disney World, the 40 square mile resort the size of San Francisco, was his best and last chapter.

Walt-Disney-Disneyland

When Walt told his wife about his plans for Disney World she was aghast, asking him, ‘What do you want to do that for?’  He replied,

I would get stagnant if I didn’t do new things.

Today Disney World employs 62,000 people, making it the largest single-site employer in the country.

disney-on-dreaming-walt-disney1

What it means to you and me.

It is never too late in your career to have your biggest and best chapter. If you are willing to keep growing and pushing and driving yourself, the best is still in front of you. Employ all of your accumulated experiences, insights and know-how to create bigger and better chapters of your own story.  Keep doing new things until you are done. Like done, done.

Thanks for reading.

See you real soon.

The End.