What Disney Can Teach You About Rekindling Your Passion at Work
Last weekend, my family and I went to Disneyland, where we spent two days playing at what has become known as “The Happiest Place on Earth”. And there really is something about that place that allows all your troubles to melt away while the kid in you comes alive. It is easy to be in the moment while you’re there – totally present, completely immersed in the experience, and sharing joy with everyone around you – even people you’ve never met.
It got me to thinking. What is it about Disneyland that is so transformational, and how can we create a similar experience wherever we are?
Now, you might be saying, “Come on, it’s Disneyland! And people are on vacation when they’re there. How can you not be happy in a place where there is beauty everywhere you look and where the whole point is to let go and have fun? And when you are on vacation you’re not pulled in a million different directions and under the same pressure and stress you are every other day – especially at work.”
Yeah, I get that. But the experiences we have come down to what we allow ourselves to feel and what we are thinking about and believing when we are having them. So, perhaps it is conceivable that we can learn to deliberately respond to situations in ways that would lead us to draw out the same emotion and energy – no matter where we are.
I can’t help but think about the people who were (and still are) responsible for creating and running Disneyland. Their workdays consist of being a part of and contributing to something that evokes the very best in all the millions of people that come into contact with it. And it seems that they wouldn’t be able to do that if they weren’t bringing the very best of who they are to the experience as well – despite the pressure and tension they surely feel along the way.
I believe part of the wonder and magic we experience when we are at Disneyland is the same wonder and magic that the place was infused with from it’s very beginning — starting with the man called Walt Disney and equally shared by every human being he partnered with from the beginning to bring his incredible vision to life and keep making it better and better. Walt Disney dared to dream and dream big. He worked with people who shared his passion to build on this dream by adding their own unique talent, energy and imagination. They were inspired by the possibility of being a part of something bigger than themselves.
When was the last time you felt inspired in your work? When was the last time you had passion for your career? What is it that allows you to feel a sense of wonder and contribution to something bigger?
If you have lost touch with that, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and take some time to reconnect with it. Each one of us has something deep inside that we are uniquely qualified and put on this earth to create or do. When we are young, the energy of our dreams propels us along our path —sometimes blindly, but it gets us off our duffs and into action. We experience hardships along the way, and will undoubtedly fail again and again. Life will throw us curve balls and we may find ourselves feeling beaten down and doing what we can to just get by, running from one crisis to another and sometimes going in circles. At some point, we may check out and take an easier path – one that allows us to go numb and somewhat unconscious. It may work for awhile, but over time we begin to feel the misery that comes along with abandoning our dreams and letting our passion take the back seat.
What would it take for you to get excited about what you are doing right now? What is the bigger why of the work you do every day? Who does it serve, and how? If you can’t answer that question, do some digging. When you can connect those dots to a bigger picture, you may find that what you thought was insignificant is really actually quite meaningful and a vital piece of a larger puzzle you are meant to help assemble. As you recognize your part and the value you provide, perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring a little more of who you are to what you do by playing more fully, being more present, and connecting more deeply with those who rely on you.
Your passion is like a hidden well with unlimited reserves – in the act of tapping it, you will replenish it in such a way that it multiplies. And as you unleash it in your work, you will draw out something extraordinary in every human being that comes into contact with it – just like Walt Disney did (and still does).
Sometimes when we are honest with ourselves, we recognize the ways in which we have boarded up that well and consciously or unconsciously do whatever we can to keep it locked. Something may have happened that led us to doubt our chances of success, or fear the outcome of expressing our greatest ideas or challenging the status quo. Perhaps we’ve experienced something that led us to harden ourselves out of resentment at a turn of events that was painful – maybe a reorganization, restructuring or layoff. We may have come to the conclusion that the best way to stay safe was to lay low, going through the motions and getting through the day until we could go home and really live.
Such a reaction may yield dividends in the short term. We may feel as though we have beaten a system that seemed to be beating us. Or perhaps we can stay under the radar long enough to avoid what we believe will be more pain. But in the end we are only cheating ourselves and others.
Walt Disney experienced his share of hardship. After his failed attempt to be hired as an artist for his local paper, he took an apprenticeship at an Art Studio and ended up getting laid off. He started two different companies, neither of which were profitable. He lived in his office because he couldn’t afford rent and hardly had enough money to eat. Before he was able to complete his “Alice’s Wonderland” film, he declared bankruptcy. Imagine how many millions of people would have missed out on his unique genius if he gave into his frustration and fear and played small instead.
It seems that we are at a kind of crossroads where the tension is mounting. The deviations and quick fixes that used to work for us are no longer satisfying. The pain that comes from denying our greatest dreams and visions is beginning to intensify and more and more people are asking how they can create lives of meaning and significance. Some of the people I talk to believe they need to leave their jobs to do what they really want to do. Others see opportunities where they can make a bigger difference but just don’t know how to start and fear that taking action could be put themselves at risk somehow.
I strongly believe that we can all make a difference right where we are — no matter where we are or who we are — and that we have everything within ourselves that we need to succeed.
I have been so fascinated with the question of how people can tap their inner reserves to reconnect with their passion, wisdom, creativity and unique talent (and how I can do this for myself as well), that I wrote a book about it. It is called The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be and it is now available