A Fool and His Money? (Diet for Dreamers)

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All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. —Walt Disney

Many of us are familiar with the story: a young Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job because he “lacked imagination”! Learning that one of the world’s most creative and successful entrepreneurs struggled through his own share of rejection, is incredibly inspiring for the rest of us wannabes. Unfortunately, Uncle Walt never worked for a newspaper. He did work for an ad agency, however; only he was never fired from the company.

It’s impossible to find a reliable source for this fanciful anecdote. Like most urban legends, someone somewhere got the facts wrong, and we’ve been repeating the “story” ever since. But it’s all good. Disney did have his share of misfortunes, and he did face many naysayers in the course of achieving his dreams — including two in his own family!

One obstacle Walt Disney dealt with repeatedly was financing. In the early 1950s, when Disney announced his plans to construct a 160-acre theme park in California, there were no investors lining up to help foot the bill — which ultimately grew to $17 million. Disney was turned down by so many banks that he finally devised an alternate means of funding the project: he created a weekly anthology show called Disneyland, which he gave to the fledgling American Broadcasting Network. ABC was ranked third behind CBS and NBC, so the “alphabet network” benefited greatly from airing the popular show. In return, ABC joined with Western Publishing (which had gotten the rights to publish comics and activity books based on Disney characters) in bankrolling Disney’s dream world.

Disneyland opened in 1955 and immediately became one of the chief destinations of vacationers from across the globe. There’s an ancient proverb that “a fool and his money are soon parted,” but that certainly wasn’t the case with Walt Disney. He may have had the most grandiose dreams, but he was no fool — contrary to what his critics thought.

Disney hadn’t always been the best business manager, though. Based on the financial success of his earliest cartoons, he and his brother Roy had purchased their own animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram, in 1922. Then Disney recruited the best animators he could find, paying each of them a salary far more generous than Disney could balance against his studio’s profits. Within months, Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt.

Further defeats lay ahead of Disney. His first breakout cartoon character was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a comical and “exceptionally clever” creation that was not only a hit at the movies, but which also made beaucoup bucks in merchandising. But Uncle Walt saw very little of the profits; he’d signed a contract with Universal Pictures which gave the studio complete ownership. Eventually Universal hired away most of Disney’s animators and then took over the production end of the Oswald cartoons. Universal had gotten a “Lucky Rabbit.” Walt had gotten the boot!

Such failed business ventures don’t exactly bolster confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Which is why the creator’s next project was universally greeted with dismay. Uncle Walt wanted to do something that had never been attempted before; he wanted to produce a feature-length animated movie — based on the children’s fairy tale, Snow White. He also wanted realistically rendered human characters and elaborate special effects. To create his unorthodox masterpiece, Disney would need to hire an art professor to train his animators in a more realistic style of design; and the studio would need to experiment with advanced processes and, hence, purchase all new equipment, such as a multiplane camera.

When the film industry learned of the project, they jokingly dubbed it “Disney’s Folly,” confident that such a movie couldn’t be made and that attempting such an audacious feat would ruin Disney Studios. And it almost did. The production, which commenced in early 1934, took the better part of three years, and before the movie was finished the studio did indeed run out of money. In order to finance the remaining work, Uncle Walt screened a rough cut of the film to a group of investors who applauded it.

Shirley Temple presents “Uncle Walt” with an Oscar for Snow White — with 7 mini statures to represent the dwarves!

Meanwhile, Disney’s brother Roy begged the creator not to gamble with the studio’s future. And even Disney’s wife pleaded with him to drop the project. But Disney refused to give up on his dream. He also refused to let his past mistakes define him, or to listen to well-intentioned advice from people who couldn’t catch the vision. Then again, perhaps he was just stubborn.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the most successful movie of 1938. During its initial run, the film earned $8,000,000 — which today is roughly equivalent to $135 million. Disney was often, precariously, parted from his money, but he was no fool. Just a dreamer.

Don’t allow yourself to be defined by past failures. Dream big. Follow your instincts and the leading of the Lord. “You will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way. Follow it, whether it turns to the right or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21 GW)

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The Sacrifices We Make (Diet for Dreamers)

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“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” (J M Barrie, Peter Pan)

When we devised the title of this series, our thoughts ran along these lines: to accomplish anything in life, we need proper nutrition, and to achieve certain goals we need certain foods. A bodybuilder needs extra protein, a runner needs more carbs, and someone wanting to lose weight needs … uh, less of everything that’s truly delicious! This last example seems unfair, doesn’t it? But until someone invents a pill that consumes excess fat, a dieter will have to stick to his or her diet — which means sacrificing desserts.

Anyone who’s trying to achieve great things also needs a special diet: Inspiration to feed the dreams, encouragement to foster the creativity; organization and strategy to make the most of time, talent and resources; and steadfast faith and a deep passion for the goal or dream, both of which can fuel a person all the way to the finish line — all the things we’ve discussed since we began this series.

And some dietary sacrifices will have to be made, and that’s never easy; which is why many people quit — or cheat too often and too much. Diets only work if we’re willing to stick with them. Although occasionally we do need to give in to a craving in order to keep our sanity, most of the time we have to resign ourselves to sacrificing the foods we love (in the case of a nutritional diet) or the activities we love (in the case of a dreamer’s diet).

Writers, artists, actors and musicians who achieve a level of virtuosity, entrepreneurs who exceed their goals, researchers and inventors who make great breakthroughs, visionaries who change the world, and even people who build solid marriages and raise well-adjusted kids, all do so because they stick to their diets … and that usually means sacrificing certain things.

We have friends who — during their spare time — watch tons of television, or play video games almost non-stop, or participate in any number of other leisure activities. These people are relaxing and doing what they enjoy most, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We, on the other hand, want to achieve our goals, so we need to make the most of our time. (Personally, we’re always working on our books, articles and stories.) We can’t walk away from our day jobs, family responsibilities, and social obligations; and we have to take time to eat, sleep and shower, so what’s left usually goes to pursuing our dreams.

In other words, we sacrifice our leisure time — and that’s tough. Well, we all know dieting isn’t easy, but if we want to fit into our pants or achieve our dreams, we resign ourselves to making sacrifices.

We used to teach adult Bible classes for both singles and married couples. We wanted to do this, and we wanted to make a difference in the lives of our students. We wanted to give our best efforts to this pursuit, and that meant hours of personal study and course outlining. We had other responsibilities on week nights after work, and all day on Sundays, so we had to devote our Saturdays (our only “day off”) to preparing for our weekly class. Hence, we had to sacrifice our only opportunity to read and relax, or go for a walk and have a picnic.

We won’t lie, sacrificing our down time continues to be a challenge; and sometimes, seeing others at play while we toil away at extra (and optional) tasks can be a little irritating. But we keep reminding ourselves that, if we are to accomplish something — any thing — worthwhile, we need to stay on our diets and continue to sacrifice activities that could ruin our progress.

Can you relate? Do you find yourself getting a little envious of people relaxing while you’re working, training, studying, tinkering, analyzing, researching, practicing, or honing? Remind yourself, if you’re pursuing a goal then you’re simply paying the price. You need a certain diet with built-in sacrifices. Stick to it, and stop begrudging the guy next door who’s playing Candy Crush all day long. Your diet and sacrifices will make you a lean mean dreaming machine, and someday you will achieve great things! And the guy next door? He’s happy with his diet of computer games, and perhaps someday he’ll be the best Candy Crush player in the neighborhood!

Pay the price today, so you can celebrate tomorrow. It’s the diet we choose for ourselves, and the sacrifices we make to succeed. “…I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8 Berean Study Bible) “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)

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