Jeff Dixon's Blog - Posts Tagged "life"

I had the opportunity to sit at a table with a group of 7 pastors. These guys range in age and background but every few weeks get together to share a meal, swap a few stories, and connect the dots of life. During the discussion the topic turned to the book I authored entitled, Key to the Kingdom. The novel is a mystery through Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. As always when people start talking about Disney World people start sharing the memories they have of their visit to the theme park.

As I listened to these guys talk I was struck by how powerful our memories are. They help mold us, they help shape us, and sometimes they even define the rest of our lives. Sometimes this can be good and sometimes, if the circumstances of life are not so hot, this can be bad.

I asked the question, "how often do we try to make sure that the memories we are creating are memories that make our lives better?"

As you might imagine this ignited another round of conversation. When the meal was over I walked away and was still pondering the things we talked about. We don't usually think very often about the kind of memories we are creating...for ourselves...and for others. Yet every encounter, each moment, each visit, each event, might become the memory that will last a lifetime. We all have a need, a call, a purpose to take seriously our role in impacting the lives of others. I want to help make life shaping memories for others that make them better not bitter. We are in the memory making industry. What kind of memories are you helping others make today?
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Published on June 24, 2011 05:16 • 61 views • Tags: disney, impact, life, memory, purpose
Being from Central Florida I have always been a big fan of the US Space Program. Watching NASA send rocketships into space always energizes me and stirs within me the awe I have at exploration.

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space and when she was asked to describe what is was like she said it was "an E-ticket ride"

She of course was referring to the old ticket books that were used when Walt Disney World first opened to the public. The E-tickets were always used for the "best" and most "exciting" attractions.

Sometimes I deal with people who live lives that they are not very excited about, not very thrilled with, and in many ways they are just going through the motions. In some cases they have quit living, they just don't know it yet.

My prayer for you and for myself is that we would embrace life like an E-ticket ride. Don't ever settle for being anything less than all you were created to be!
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Published on July 18, 2011 12:17 • 77 views • Tags: disney, life, space
Way back in 1940, the animated film Pinocchio was released. This creation by Walt Disney is considered by many film critics as his greatest achievement, both artistically and technically.

There are a number of reasons for this I suppose. It was the first feature film to really use the multi-plane camera to it's full capacity. Although expensive to operate this camera allowed animated films to take on a more realistic three dimensional look that people had never seen before. The animation was also made sharper as animators used live action models and puppets to get movement more fluid which advanced even futher the art form Walt had used in previous animation.

For all the critical acclaim the was piled upon the film the one group that did not respond well was the audience. At the box office when it came to people buying tickets to see Pinocchio...well, it just did not happen. There is a lot of speculation about why it happened or in this case did not happen...there was an outbreak of war in Europe, the film was a bit dark in content and theme, and even though there was a very happy ending it never caught the dollars or the goodwill of the viewing public.

The money the film would eventually make came in re-release in theaters, strategic releases in the video and DVD industry, and marketing through the various branches of the Disney corporation..but you have to remember that none of those resources existed when the film was first seen by the public.

Walt Disney had a brilliant work of art that was a flop at the box office. History tells us what happened, he just kept doing what he knew how to do. His attitude of "quality will win out" kept him moving forward and he kept doing with excellence what he knew how to do.

There is a lesson that we can all learn from that. In a day and age where people seem to want to do just enough to get by, where people rarely want to put forth the extra effort, and when people don't want to do anything where there is not a quick return...the reminder that doing things well, with excellence, with an eye on quality is the difference between creating something that becomes timeless or simply something that just runs out of time.

Keep your life focused on creating things that will last, pour your life into things that will stand the test of time, keep striving to use your life to make those around you better...quality and excellence can be words that are used to describe your life. No matter what people may say or think in the short term remember that true value can only be seen with some space and distance. Your life counts, it matters, you do make a difference when we throw ourselves into things that make an impact.
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Published on August 01, 2011 08:16 • 81 views • Tags: animation, critics, life, success, time, value, walt-disney
As Walt Disney World is getting ready to celebrate its 40th Anniversary there are many stories of how the "world" was built that are being rediscovered or shared for the first time.

The name of Admiral Joe Fowler is not new for many Disney enthusiasts. Fowler was one of the primary builders who took what was a hot Florida swamp and created what would become the number one tourist destination in the world.

Fowler tells a story of what it was like before construction started. Walt Disney did not get the chance to see the real work on the Florida property ever happen. But Fowler would recall how he and Walt would drive all over the Florida property in a jeep. The project was laid out, Walt would pace it off time and time again, and one day he decided he wanted to get a view of what Walt Disney World would look like from the top of the Contemporary Hotel.

Arrangements were made and the biggest utility crane they could find was brought in. Joe Fowler and Walt Disney stood in the bucket of the crane as it was hoisted high into the air. The higher it rose the quieter it became. They finally stopped at the actual height of the lounge that would be placed at the top of the resort, the "Top Of The World."

Fowler remembered being absolutely terrified. Hanging on for dear life, hoping to get down quickly, all he managed to do was grab a fast glance and was satisfied that everything in the plans were located correctly. Walt on the other hand was leaning out over the side of the bucket, he was pointing out where things would be located, with all the enthusiasm in the world like a kid at Christmas, Disney was smiling and saying, "Oh Joe, look at this...this is going to be great!"

Fowler realized that Walt could visualize it all. He had the ability to see what wasn't there yet but what could be and what it would become.

People in many ways live their lives on the dreams of visionaries. Many of the things we enjoy that make our life better happened because someone had a vision, could see it before it existed, and were willing to chase and dream until it became a reality. We don't usually think about it but we live our lives better because people weren't afraid to chase dreams.

I may not know a lot of things but here is something that I do know. You and I are not here by accident. We are all unique and we all have something that we can offer that will make an impact in the world around us. I don't know if you can see it but here is what I know about you...you can make a difference. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves a moment to rise above the crowds, the noise, and the clutter and take a second and see what might be. Then we need to hit the ground running and start chasing dreams.

Here is my hope and dream for each of us. That we would always be willing to chase dreams!
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Published on August 12, 2011 07:47 • 272 views • Tags: difference, disney, dreams, impact, life, vision, walt-disney, wdw
Charles Shows knew and worked with Walt Disney for a number of years. His memories of Walt give us a glimpse into the early days of Disneyland.

Shortly after the California theme park opened Shows took his mother and father on a tour of this new creation. Their family ended up riding the Santa Fe train around the park. As the train chugged forward his father said,"Look!"

Glancing out the window they saw a man driving a jeep trying to catch the train. The man behind the wheel of the jeep was none other than Walt Disney! The jeep raced alongside the puffing engine, Disney waved wildly, he made faces, as he challenged the massive train to a race.

The whistle of the train answered the jeep's horn with a series of toots as Walt laughed like a little boy. Later that day when the family took a ride on the river steamboat at Disneyland they stepped on board as the whistle sounded a series of sharp, loud blasts. As they looked to the captains quarters on the ship they were amazed as Walt Disney stepped out, grinning like a kid with a brand new toy, to greet the parents of his staff member. Walt insisted on being their personal tour guide for the rest of the day as he showed them the kingdom he had worked so hard to build.

Shows said that was the Walt Disney that his parents will always remember...and the Walt Disney he would never forget.

It hard to imagine having those kind of encounters. Certainly there is the Walt Disney that history remembers and captures and the Walt Disney that really was. The reality of the man is probably somewhere in between in all fairness. But there is something about his life that stands out.

Walt Disney enjoyed life. He enjoyed the work he did and the things he created. I love the descriptions of him moving about Disneyland like a child with a new toy. In other words he wasn't so busy or focused on building his dream that he didn't enjoy it along the way.

I think there is a life lesson in there for all of us. Many people live life waiting for one day or someday. They get so caught up in trying to build a life that they forget to live a life. Don't get so busy trying to make a living that you quit living. Enjoy the moments God gives you to make a difference, embrace the moments to laugh, love, and live!

If you do, life will be better...really. You will be better.
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Published on August 18, 2011 13:16 • 625 views • Tags: disneyland, family, laughter, life, trains, walt-disney
Years ago when the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was being built at Disneyland, Walt Disney noticed that one of the construction workers on the project was from the Louisiana bayou country. The Louisiana bayou is the setting of the first part of the attraction.

Walt took the worker aside and walked him through the first part of "Pirates." Disney pointed out details, they took their time, allowing the man to look around. Finally he asked the construction worker what he thought of it. Was it authentic looking? Did it remind him of the bayou country that he had grown up in?

"You know," the man said, "it is good, but there is something missing. I just can't put my finger on it."

"Well," Walt said, "let's walk through it until you figure out what's not right."

So they started over again, and then they went back and did it again, each time allowing the man to look and ask Walt questions. Finally as they were passing through the bayou the man snapped his fingers.

"Fireflies!" The man excitedly proclaimed. "There ought to be fireflies in this swamp!"

Just a few days later, the swamp was alive with electric fireflies.

Walt Disney was a lifelong learner. He was always looking for more information, he was always listening to what others were thinking, and he wasn't afraid to ask questions. The reason he was doing this was so he could constantly improve or plus what he was doing, creating, and investing in.

It didn't mean that Walt just did everything other people suggested but he was willing to engage and process new information. Some of it was worth keeping and using, some of it was filed away until later, but he was always absorbing new ideas and concepts to learn from them.

What have you learned this week?
My fear for many is that we have gotten lazy and content with attitudes that reflect a belief that we have heard it all before, we know it all already, and there is nothing else we need to know. I think we were all created to be lifelong learners. You can't hear enough, read enough, or ask enough questions.

Some people ought to get in the habit of setting aside a little bit of time to learn something they didn't know before. We live in a great big amazing world. I pray we would never get bored living in it and that we would be willing to discover new things that are just beyond the horizon.
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Published on August 23, 2011 13:36 • 436 views • Tags: disneyland, dreaming, learning, life, listening, living, pirates-of-the-caribbean, questions, walt-disney
Walt Disney spent the last decade of his life "plussing" the experience people would have at Disneyland.

"Plussing" was a term that Walt coined in the 1940s that built on the idea of what it meant to "plus" something. If you were to "plus" something then you would add more value to it. "Plussing" would come to mean giving your customer more than they paid for, more than they expected, and more than you had to give them.

This idea and concept was a very much a part of Walt's philosophy as Disneyland was created and opened. He would continually tell his cast members the following :

"The customer is king"
"Every cast member is responsible for the impression we make"
"Take five minutes a day to make a magical memory for one of our guests"

Walt would walk around Disneyland with a roll of five dollar bills in his pocket to tip any cast member who worked extra-hard to "plus" the experience for a guest.

"Disneyland will never be finished," Walt said. "It's something that I can keep developing, keep plussing, and adding to. It will be a living, breathing thing that will always keep changing. Not only can I add new things, but even the trees will keep growing. Disneyland will get more beautiful every year."

Walt Disney understood what it meant to "plus" something. It was the "Plus Factor" that set Walt apart from so many others. It was once said, "If you understood the plus factor you had a glimpse into Walt's heart."

I wonder sometimes how well I do at "plussing" the life and experience of others? Do I make the lives of others better? Do I take the time to look for ways to help others create memories and moments that they will remember forever? And if not...why not?

Our lives should constantly be lived looking for ways to add value, to improve, and make better the lives of others. We all need to learn to embrace the plus factor.

Whose life will you make just a little bit better today?
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Published on September 20, 2011 14:53 • 174 views • Tags: disneyland, life, plussing, walt-disney
The place is the Walt Disney Studios. It is in the early 1960's. The place is a beehive of activity and the studio is on the cutting edge of creating entertainment for television, film, and of course...theme parks.

In a story first recalled by animator Floyd Norman, there was an incident that took place on this particular morning.

A horse drawn carriage arrived at the gates of the studio. (Yes, you read that correctly...a horse drawn carriage) This horse drawn carriage was driven by a little white haired lady. Sitting on the perch of her seat on the carriage she leaned down and promptly told the security officer at the gate, "I am here to see Mr. Disney!"

"Do you have an appointment?" The officer asked looking at his registry for the day.

"No, I don't. But I need to see him."

"You can't see him without an appointment," the guard said. "He is a very busy man."

Crossing her arms and rising up just little bit taller in her seat she declared, "I am not leaving until I see him!"

The guard placed a call to the administration office and eventually word reached Walt that there as a nutty and very stubborn woman at the gate who was demanding to see him. So Walt did what he thought was best. He walked out to the main gate to meet her.

As he stepped outside the gate he leaned against the carriage, talked about the horse pulling it, he smiled, he laughed, and engaged this strange woman in lightheared conversation. He learned that she had written a movie script. That was the reason that she needed to see him, she wanted to give it to him, because she knew it was the perfect film for the Disney Studios to make.

Walt gladly accepted the script with the promise, "I will definitely read it."

The woman left satisfied and Walt kept his promise and read the script.

Now, in writing this account of Disney's life I would love to twist the story and tell you the script Walt was given that day became the biggest money maker in the history of the film industry, or that it became a classic Disney film, or that you will remember the movie that was made....I can't do it. The reality is that the script wasn't really that great and it was never made into a movie.

That of course, is not the point.

The point is that the executive of the studio left his office, came to the main gate, talked about horses, and made a promise (and kept it) to a crazy woman who demanded to see him. That was something that Walt understood. (I am not saying he understood crazy...keep reading) He understood the importance of people. He put a value on people. He treated everyone the same. It was said that it didn't matter if it was a king, a president, or a ticket taker, he would always give them the same attention. He was humble enough not to always be talking about Walt Disney. He cared enough and valued people to put others first.

And that is a life lesson that would radically change many of our lives and ultimately change the world. Learning to put others first. Sometimes that is a value or a quality that is lost in our society and culture today. But it only takes a few people to remember what is most important..real people, like you and I, and if we are willing to put others first...learn to care...we really can change the world and make a difference!
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Published on November 11, 2011 04:23 • 190 views • Tags: difference, disney-studios, disneyland, life, people, theme-parks, walt-disney
Imagine you are traveling along a frosty, winter road, through a neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. It is close to 4 am, and the night is bitter cold. Something catches your eye on the darkened front porch of the house you just passed. You look closer and you see it, a young boy is seated on the front porch, playing with toys, eating candy…and next to him is a stack of newspapers…

This is not the usual thing you would expect to see in the early morning hours, on the day after Christmas. But why would it be? The young man sitting there would grow up to be anything but usual…

As you continue to watch, you see the boy finish eating, carefully line up the toys he was playing with, pick up his newspapers and then march away from the house…heading for his next stop. He is the newspaper boy.

The description you just read, is indeed something that you might have seen if you had been in the right place at the right time. The newspaper boy was unknown to the world at that time but would day become one of the most recognized faces and names on the planet. It was none other than Walt Disney.

If you are familiar with Walt’s life you know a little something about his life history. His dad, Elias, bought a newspaper distributorship in Kansas City, Mo., so he became responsible for making sure the paper was distributed each day in a particular region. Owning the route, he then hired paper boys to deliver the papers. Walt, was one the boys that delivered the papers but was paid nothing. That was the down side of being employed by his father. Elias felt that since he provided clothing and food for his son that was payment enough and this opportunity gave Walt a chance to earn his keep and learn responsibility.

Now Walt had a good work ethic for a child. Disney historians recall for us that he earned extra money by delivering prescriptions for a drugstore and would sell extra newspapers on street corners without his father knowing about it. This enabled him to earn a bit of pocket change for himself. He would sweep and clean the candy store across from the school in return for a hot meal. At the end of each school day there was not as much time as he would like for playing with his buddies because the afternoon edition of the newspaper had to be delivered.

Young Walt’s route was in a fairly wealthy neighborhood. His family worked hard to be sure, but they didn’t have much. This neighborhood was full of people that financially made the Disney’s look like paupers. Each day as Walt made his way along the route he was encountering homes and lifestyles that we very different than the life he knew. Every morning at 3:30 am, Walt would trudge out into the streets and in the winter it was brutal and tough. Ice, snow, and frigid temperatures might be waiting for him on any given winter morning. As he made his way to each house he discovered that sometimes the kids in the neighborhood had left out their toys after playing with them at the end of the day.

Walt didn’t have a lot of real toys. The gifts he got from his parents tended to be practical like underwear or a perhaps a jacket. His older brother Roy and his mom would be the ones who set aside some extra money so that Walt and his sister Ruth would get some surprise, special small toy for Christmas.

But on the porches of these homes were toys that Walt had only dreamed of. During the darkness of the early morning hours, Walt would put his paper carrier down and go up and play with the wind-up trains and things. He’d sit there and play all alone with them. Years later he would recall a time when he came to a porch and there were some toys, as well as a box of half-eaten candy. So he sat there and ate some of the half-eaten candy and played.

When Walt talked about these days, he always insisted he always left the toys in good shape and always put them back in the exact same place so the families wouldn’t know he’d played with them. Then it was off to the next porch, to drop off the next paper, and then finish the route and off to school.

The life lessons learned on these frosty front porches stuck with Walt all of his life. Years later, as the head of the Disney Studios, he would take the time each year to give gifts to hundreds of children, making sure each got a large Disney merchandise item, as well as additional gifts. They were all wrapped individually and Walt kept a staff of people working to make this happen in a special area set aside at the studios, it took nearly two months each year to pull it off. The original Toys for Tots logo would be designed by a Disney animator, with Walt throwing his support and energy to the cause…to make sure kids had toys at Christmas.

Many of us face moments in life that we will never forget. A great number of these moments are good memories…others are born in the time of struggle.

Often these moments define us forever…but how they define us is up to each of us as individuals.

The young boy, playing in the cold, was defined by his upbringing…but as he grew older it helped drive him to success. When success arrived, he never forgot what it was like to be in need and desire something that was beyond his reach.

I’m not sure what each of us will face this Christmas season. Perhaps it is a time that is full of good memories and all is right with the world. Perhaps it is a time where you may be struggling…but no matter what you are facing, never forget to learn from what is happening, strive to find something to hold onto and embrace, and whenever and wherever possible…remember to give back to others.

You can make the world a better place…for not only others…but for yourself as well.
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Published on December 09, 2012 12:57 • 121 views • Tags: christmas, hardship, life, toys, walt-disney
Walt Disney loved America. He loved the idea that you could dream, work hard, and make those dreams come true. The history of his life reveals a man who believed in his dreams, chased them with a passion, worked hard, risked it all (and lost it all)…and never stopped trying. Eventually, his dedication and commitment paid off and the things he created impacted the world and have left a legacy that continues to this day.

When Walt was working and designing attractions for the 1964 World’s Fair, the state of Illinois sponsored the featured attraction, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. By now, most know the attraction featured a life sized audio animatronic Abraham Lincoln that would speak to the audience, creating a moment to inspire and ignite patriotism. The attraction would eventually move to Disneyland and become inspiration for the even bigger stage show, The Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World.

If we travel back in time to when this attraction was being prepared for The World’s Fair, what many people forget is that the technology was so new that it was being perfected right up until the last possible moment. The time had come for the show to be unveiled but the work was still being completed and many, many, many glitches were being fixed and improved.

The state of Illinois had spend a great deal of money to develop this attraction. Walt Disney had spent money as well, in addition he brought the expertise, the manpower, the man hours, and his reputation was riding on the success of Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. Two days before the show was opened at the World’s Fair, The Lincoln Theater was full. There were 500 invited guests from Illinois. There were members of the press on hand to report and give their review of this premier attraction. The governor of Illinois introduced what everyone was about to see. There was a buzz of excitement charging through the room.

But…there was a problem.

The show did not work. There was a malfunction, a glitch if you will, and the show would not perform as planned. So now the crisis was compounded by all the eyes watching and waiting in the theater. Should Walt let the show run? Did he allow people to see the show explaining that they would be seeing something that was not quite ready? or…..would he cancel it?

The pressure to let the show go on was tremendous.

So under all of that pressure, Walt did the only thing he could do.

He stepped out on the stage and addressed the crowd. He explained what the problem was, why the show was delayed…and then told them there would be no show for them this evening.

Walt Disney cancelled the show.

He promised it would be fixed. And of course, it was. The fix took a week and then…and only then…the show went on as it had been created. **

Walt Disney had done something that reminds us all of an important lesson about doing things well, leading others, and bringing a quality of excellence to work and life itself. Walt was willing to suffer the embarrassment and criticism for the moment because he knew what he was doing was worth it. The short term pain he went through was necessary for the long term gain that he achieved.

Walt Disney would not sacrifice the quality of the show.
His name, his reputation, his creativity, his company, his vision, his dream, and his dedication to excellence were all on the line…and he would not take a shortcut to short-circuit the process.

In life, in our culture, there are many who are willing to take shortcuts, the easy road, or the less than the best pathway to get what they want. Usually it is for immediate gratification or short term gain. Sadly, most people have such a “live for the moment” view of life that they don’t understand there is a difference between “living for the moment” and “living in the moment.”

If Walt chose to “live for the moment” he would have offered his best excuses (and people probably would have understood) and let them see whatever portion of the show worked best. He could have saved some dignity and a little pride. If he would have been “living for the moment” his entire focus would have been on how to not look like a complete disaster that night. He chose something better.

Walt knew that “living in the moment” meant that he would take the heat, the criticism, and the responsibility for doing what was right and delivering what he promised…which was a great show and attraction. “Living in the moment” means that we take and squeeze every bit of life we can out of each moment, never forgetting that it is a moment that we need to use wisely…because this moment leads us to the next…and then next…and the next.

His wisdom, his patience, his leadership all were on display…because” living in the moment” wasn’t that comfortable, but when the show finally opened, living in that moment made it all worthwhile. Sometimes the moments we “live in” can be tough ,uncomfortable, and even embarrassing…but never trade the lessons that can be learned “in the moment” for the short term convenience of “living for the moment.”

The difference is huge…and the decisions you make will determine the kind of impact you will have in the world.



** The historical accounts of this event come from a variety of sources, “Walt Disney-An American Original” by Bob Thomas & “Disney U” by Doug Lipp. There are other accounts of this preview recorded in other places but both of these sources are excellent and worth checking out. The commentary and life application are the work of Jeff Dixon, author of The Key to the Kingdom and Unlocking the Kingdom.
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Published on July 09, 2013 13:49 • 132 views • Tags: america, choices, creativity, decisions, history, life, walt-disney