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

September 11, 2007

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A long time ago, a struggling business man was so poor he had no shoes. He couldn’t afford the cash to collect his shoes from the cobbler. And he couldn’t afford food, so he’d 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 just luck, because he was far from lucky in the early years, and often got into financial difficulty.

You can learn a lot of things from Walt Disney and apply them to your own business. Here are just a few:

1) Never give up.

Walt didn’t give up. Even when he lost his first company, Walt didn’t even think about packing it all in and getting a job, he just learned from his mistakes and got up 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 he was asking for help, he would always assume the answer would be yes when he was asking. 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 with skills that you don’t have.

Walt surrounded himself with people with the right skills - especially skills that he didn’t have, right from the early days. For example, although Walt set off doing his own animations, he realised that he needed skilled animators, so he employed them.

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. For example - a competitor stole his best animator, Ube Iworks, and the rights to his popular character, Oswald the Rabbit. Instead of sitting down and crying, Walt simply came up with an even better character - Mickey Mouse, and found new animators.

5) Don’t just focus on making money.

Walt didn’t focus on making heaps of money. His goal was always 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 Dwarves, 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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19 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

    [...] I read Catherine’s post, it immediately made me think of how the traits she listed that helped Walt Disney succeed in [...]

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    [...] motivational post: 6 Weight Loss Motivators from Walt Disney, which was inspired by my post What Can You Learn From the Man With No Shoes [...]

  7. Pa$$ivePa$$ion.com › Top Money Posts of the Last Week on September 15th, 2007 5:07 am

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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!

  11. Story of Walt Disney | My Big Idea on September 17th, 2007 7:08 pm

    [...] Success Passcode wrote a great article on the story of Walt Disney. [...]

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    [...] If you want to be like Walt Disney, you’ve got to have the courage to forge ahead with an idea when everyone around you is saying it sucks. For more Walt Disney attributes you may also want to check out Six Things you Can Learn From The Man Who Had No Shoes. [...]

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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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    [...] Six Things You Can Learn From The Man Who Had No Shoes: This man’s was broke after losing his business. Yet he went on to build one of the most well known brands in the world. [...]

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