How to keep believing in your dreams despite failure: Walt Disney’s Story

The story of Walt Disney is an inspiration of how we can fail forward and achieve what we desire if we keep moving on towards our wildest dreams … Through perseverance, against the odds and beyond all the disappointments and failures, success will welcome us with open arms.


The Walt Disney Story

Walt Disney, an American film producer, director, voice over actor, animator, as well as international icon, created over 81 feature films and gave the world some of the most popular cartoon characters. During his lifetime, he received more than 950 honors that included 22 Academy Awards and four honorary Academy Awards. He built the California Institute of the Arts and Disneyland … and of course, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world!

Here is the story of Walt Disney, from growing up in his farm in Marceline, Missouri, starting his own animation studio and imagining his greatest dream, Disneyland, which he opened in 1955.

A success story with a happy ending, but full of painful events and failures

At the age of 22, he went bankrupt after the brutal failure of a cartoon series in Kansas City in 1921. He had made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. He was forced to dissolve his company, could not pay his rent and was surviving by eating dog food.

He headed to Los Angeles with $40 in cash, and an imitation-leather suitcase containing only a shirt, two undershorts, two pairs of socks and some drawing materials. Feeling that others did animation better, his goal was to be an actor out in Hollywood. It never occurred.

He then went bankrupt several times before he finally built Disneyland.

When he tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse in 1927 he was told that the idea would never work, because a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.

The Three Little Pigs was rejected by distributors in 1933 because it only had four characters, it was felt at that time that cartoons should have as many figures on the screen as possible. It later became very successful.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was sneak previewed to college students in 1937 who left halfway during the film causing Walt Disney great disappointment. It turned out the students had to leave early because of dorm curfew.

He also wanted to become a Hollywood actor but it never happened.

He was once fired by a newspaper editor who accused him to be lazy and lacking imagination and creative ideas.

Lessons from Walt Disney’s life journey

Walt Disney

In the end, our own success is defined not by opportunity, but in our persistence in defeat. Here’s to vision, persistence, courage, and simply hard effort. Even in these more difficult times.

Do you see struggle as the road to opportunity?

Do you learn from your failures?

He managed to set criticism and failures aside, and never gave up trying or stepping forward

“I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”

He proved that success is not what opportunities bring to us but the perseverance and courage in failure that keeps us motivated to succeed

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

He kept reinventing and improving what was in front of him

“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.”

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

He learned from each setback, and continued to take even bigger risks which combined with the wisdom that experiencing failure can provide, led to fabulous financial rewards

Only by constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of not just animation, but what Disney was as a business, did the company go from a moderately successful animation studio, to a complete entertainment experience, with theme parks, merchandising, cruise ships and on and on.

Walt Disney famously said “if your dream it, you can do it.” The story of his life and the creation of his company reminds us that once you dream it, you must continually re-dream and re-imagine it, to succeed.

207 Disney Characters

Disney’s 10 Rules for Success

Top 10 Rules for Success by Walt Disney, as see by Evan Carmichael.

15 best quotes from Walt Disney

  1. Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows.
  2. The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.
  3. It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
  4. All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
  5. Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.
  6. Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.
  7. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
  8. If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse.
  9. That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.
  10. First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.
  11. Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.
  12. Money doesn’t excite me. My ideas excite me.
  13. There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on treasure Island.
  14. In bad times and in good, I have never lost my zest for life.
  15. The difference between winning and loosing is most often not quitting.