Several weeks ago during spring break our family loaded up the SUV and took off from Arizona to make the great American pilgrimage to Disneyland. While it was packed with people from all corners of the globe, everyone seemed to share a common sense of wonder at this magical place that, as Walt Disney said, “all started with a mouse.” But the truth is, it started with a dream. In How to be Like Walt, Pat Williams chronicles a conversation that occurred in 1971, five years after Walt’s death, right as Disney World opened in Florida. He writes, “Someone commented to Mike Vance, creative director of Walt Disney Studios, ‘Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?’ ‘He did see it,’ Vance replied simply. ‘That’s why it’s here.’”
That is the power of vision. It is embracing a dream and staying the course even when times get hard, boring, confusing, and discouraging. What is now the Disney empire came about only because of an unyielding belief that the dream could actually happen, and there would be no giving up until it did! Warren Bennis writes in Organizing Genius that Walt Disney was undaunted by obstacles largely because he was relentlessly optimistic. In fact, according to Bennis, “success is often rooted in optimism that may or may not be warranted by the facts.”
Sadly, however, it is incredibly easy to start questioning our dreams at the first setback or disappointment. Also, because we are by nature people who want everything now, we end up setting unrealistic expectations about when we will succeed.
But one of the axioms of life, which is so easily lost in our disposable culture, is that to produce anything of value in life takes time, and usually much more time than we assume at the outset. Sure, there are those out there who seem to rocket into the stratosphere faster than anyone could have predicted. But in reality those stories are extremely rare. For most people, the road to success is really not all that sexy. It consists of many years dedicated to the same task, keeping the ship moving in the same direction despite the violent waves, gale force winds, and naysayers who love to predict disaster.
But the really encouraging part is those who do endure have a very high likelihood of succeeding. There’s nothing really all that magical about it, except the will to stay the course. This even has implications in one’s spiritual life. For example, in the Bible it says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) In other words, there seems to be built into the system of life a reward for those who stay at it day by day.
Perhaps there’s something in your life right now that you’re ready to quit. It could be a new business, the pursuit of a degree, a marriage, or maybe even your military career. While things might look bleak at the moment, you just may be in the middle of one of those “defining moments” that you must get through in order to succeed. Plowing through the next project, quarter, counseling session, (or even UTA!) might be what makes all the difference in the world.
I’m glad Walt never gave up on the vision that he had. Our family (along with ten million other families) was able to have an amazing time in the world he created. So don’t you give up!