6 Things You Can Learn From the Man Who Had No Shoes

September 11, 2007

A long time ago, a struggling business man was so poor he had no shoes. They were being mended by the cobbler but he couldn’t afford to collect them. He couldn’t afford food either, so he resorted to eating raw beans from a tin. Then, his company -Laugh-O-gram films went bankrupt.

The man was Walt Disney and he went on to build one of the biggest and best known companies in the world. So, how did he manage to turn things round?

It can’t have been down to luck. In the early years, he wasn’t particularly fortunate at all and he often got into financial difficulties.

Six things helped Walt Disney achieve success and you can apply them to your business too:

1) Never give up.

Walt didn’t give up. Even when he lost his first company, he didn’t even consider packing it all in and getting a job. Walt just learned from his mistakes and tried again.

2) Ask for help the right way.

Even when people lost money through Walt’s earlier business ventures, he wasn’t afraid to ask for more help. But, he didn’t beg or plead or ask for favours.

When Walt asked for help, he always assumed the answer would be yes. For example, he would write to the recipient about his amazing ideas, then ask “when” not “if” they were going to join him.

3) Get help from people who have different skills to you.

Walt surrounded himself with people with the right skills – especially skills that he didn’t have, right from the early days. And even though Walt did his own animations at the outset, he realised that it wasn’t his greatest strength. So, he employed highly skilled animators as soon as he could.

4) Turn negative situations into something positive.

If something went wrong, Walt didn’t dwell on it. He simply turned it into something positive and usually came up with a better idea. A competitor stole his best animator, Ube Iworks and also the rights to his popular character, Oswald the Rabbit.

Instead of dwelling on what he’d lost, Walt simply came up with an even better character – Mickey Mouse. And he found new animators to replace Iworks.

5) Don’t just focus on making money.

Walt didn’t focus on making heaps of money. His goal was to give people what they wanted – magical experiences. He did this through producing the best quality cartoons, the best feature films and theme parks where children and adults could have fun together.

6) Dare to be different and avoid negative people.

Walt wasn’t afraid to be different and he ignored the naysayers, no matter how many there were. When he made his first animated feature film – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, many people in the film industry said it would bankrupt him. He ignored them, and the film went on to be an outstanding success.

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out the biography: Walt Disney: An American Original

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22 Responses to “6 Things You Can Learn From the Man Who Had No Shoes”

  1. Carl Zetterlund on September 11th, 2007 11:03 pm

    I like these stories and you broke it down in a nice way.

    For #5, I starting to think that by not thinking about money, you are more likely to create something people will want to use. Otherwise, you may just copy the guy next door like the man you thought opening another pub/restaurant would the trick.

    Just my 2 cents. :)

  2. Sean on September 11th, 2007 11:19 pm

    Wow, that gave me the goosebumps, in a good way.

    I really like how you tell story in explaining things, it’s a fantastic idea.

    Inspiring post! Keep it up with telling story in your post, I really like it.

  3. cathlawson on September 12th, 2007 9:50 am

    Thanks Carl. Thank you. That is so true – it is much better to find something people are looking for, or help them find a solution to their problems.

    Sean – thank you. I suppose I just love reading biographies about interesting people then trying to work out how things they’ve done could be applied to other businesses. I’ll definitely be doing some more story type posts. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. JoLynn Braley on September 12th, 2007 5:58 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    I remember Walt’s bio after reading it a long time ago, but haven’t thought about it recently. What a motivating and inspiring story. It could be applied to many different situations and goals in life, thank you!

  5. 6 Weight Loss Motivators From Walt Disney - The Fit Shack on September 12th, 2007 10:33 pm

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  8. Asako on September 16th, 2007 8:17 am

    I find #3 actually the challenging part. And it may be related to #5. These days, it is difficult to find people with whom you can just share your vision and work for the vision, because many people are focused on money. Walt Disney must be a person with an amazing vision to really attract people to devote to his vision.

    I truly respect Success Passcode keeping us reminded us of this most important thing “value for customers”.

  9. cathlawson on September 16th, 2007 8:54 am

    Hi Asako – 3 has always been my biggest challenge too. In the past, I’ve always recruited the wrong people through desperation. But, we’re gradually improving things by looking out for new people year round, instead of waiting until we need them. And anyone who asks about salary in the first interview doesn’t get a second one!

  10. Asako on September 17th, 2007 6:53 pm

    Good tips, “anyone who asks about salary in the first interview doesn’t get second one”. All entrepreneurs should implement that interview tactics!

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  15. Stefanie on June 2nd, 2008 2:23 pm

    Great post – I had a little trouble getting to it from your main page, though. It looks like some of the links on your homepage have a bit of extra code. When you actually click on them (near the bottom left of the page), they go to 404 error pages.

  16. Jenny on June 18th, 2008 7:21 pm

    this is great advice.

    Jenny’s last blog post..Mommy Blog Carnival Edition #6

  17. Marelisa on June 23rd, 2008 9:18 pm

    I’ve always admired people who stick to their guns despite whatever else is going on around them. This made me think of JK Rowling and how she wrote those Harry Potter books as an obscure single mom with few financial resources living outside London. She gave voice to the vision in her head even if it did involve warlocks, witches, and cave trolls.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..Decide What You Want

  18. cathlawson on June 24th, 2008 8:16 am

    Hi Stefanie – Thanks. I’ll check that out..

    Thanks Jenny.

    Hi Marelisa – JK Rowling is a great example. I’d never really thought about living outside of London being a disadvantage to new novelists but many people have mentioned that it can be.

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  22. Sofft Shoes on March 23rd, 2009 7:53 pm

    Hi Catherine. This article give a lot of inspiration. I really love the first item >> Never Give Up!

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