After the overwhelming success of Disneyland, Walt Disney reflected on WED, the company he created to make his theme park dreams a reality:
Click to hear Walt Disney talk about WED Well, WED is, you might call it my backyard laboratory, you know, my workshop away from work. It served a purpose in that some of the things I was planning, like Disneyland for example, is pretty hard for the banking mind to go with it. I had to go ahead on my own and develop it to a point where they could begin to comprehend what I had in mind. So—it’s been true with alot of things in our history here—we’ve been doing something that’s a little bit out of the run of things, and it’s pretty hard to sell people on what you have in your mind, so you have to go ahead and develop it. And that’s what I’ve been doing with WED.
While the quote above deals directly with the differences between creative people and…well…bankers (my apologies to people who work at banks), it has a much deeper meaning that we can use in our lives. You can sit and plan and dream all day long if you like, staring out the window at that big blue sky, but you will never get anything accomplished until you put all the distractions aside and dedicate yourself to really getting things done.
Walt summed this up much more succinctly when he said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
At a time when the Walt Disney Studio was slowed down by its own size, WED, now called Walt Disney Imagineering, was nimble enough to begin doing. The company didn’t need to send everything through committee, it didn’t have a front office to slow down progress while it researched the economic feasibility of every decision. It didn’t need to talk and talk and talk…it began doing and it got things done.
The reason the original Imagineers were able to move so quickly was because of the personality at the top. Walt Disney was a man of action, frequently described as jittery and jumpy, nervously drumming his fingers on the armrest of the chair that could barely contain him. He couldn’t bear to coast by. Walt understood that none of his dreams would become reality if he did not act.
Certainly this hits home. I have more projects in the works than there are triangles on Spaceship Earth, yet very few of my plans ever get going. While I do want to weed out the mediocre ones and hone in on the best of the bunch, in many cases my inactivity is simply a failure to act. I don’t have the excuse of a committee or front office, and I don’t even have the excuse of needing to run an idea past Walt before starting, I just have me. I have all the room in the world, I just need to make the decision to begin doing.
It’s amazing that the first step, that simple act of starting, could be so difficult. Believe it or not, within this bad news hides very good news. When we tackle a project we are alot like a rocket. A rocket burns most of its fuel during liftoff, but once it is in motion it requires far less energy to keep moving. Getting started is always the hardest part, but once you get going and get up to speed it becomes easier and easier to keep going.
Make the decision. Sit down and write that book you’ve been dreaming of. Get in there and decorate that playroom with all the Disney Princesses your daughter loves. Go live with that new website you’ve been talking about. You’ve had your blue sky session, you’ve run it by your own inner Walt, now put on your Imagineering hat and start.
Action without a plan might lead to bad action. On the other hand, a plan without action does not lead to a bad plan, it leads to nothing. Walt Disney knew, and his Imagineers know, that the longer you sit around the more likely you are to keep sitting around. If you want to get something done, like building your own theme park for example, you have to develop it. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
Contributed by: John Gray (NDI#194). John is the Imagineering blogger.