It was in the 1950’s when Walt Disney placed a phone call to Santa Monica High School and asked the drama teacher if there were any promising students that year in their graduating class. The teacher mentioned one, a talented actor, named Ken Wales. So Walt issued an invitation to Ken to come to the Burbank Studio and spend some time with the head of the studio. Ken did and for three days Walt Disney mentored him. He gave him a behind the scenes look at the studio and a personalized tutorial on every aspect of film making. They spoke of crafting a story, creating effects, and pulling all the elements of film together.
Ken Wales would later recall to author Pat Williams, “I spent three days with Walt and he was my friend for life. He didn’t just teach me the fundamentals of film making, he taught me the fundamentals of creativity.”
He explained that Walt did not just teach him to dream big but instead taught him to dream beautifully. He saw the reason that Walt Disney films have remained timeless…they contain imagination, values, warmth, and delight.
The three days with Walt changed Ken’s life forever. On the last day Walt wrote Ken a check, a personal check , for $5000. Walt gave Ken a fully paid scholarship to USC to study filmmaking. Those years at USC directed the trajectory of Ken Wales’ life.
After graduation Wales became involved and active in a variety of projects. He partnered with Blake Edwards and helped to create films like The Great Race, The Pink Panther, Islands in the Stream, The Prodigal for Billy Graham, and the highly acclaimed TV series Christy. He also became an executive with the Walt Disney Studio and The Disney Channel.
Wales went on to teach filmmaking at USC. According to Ken it is a “way to give back what I was given. Walt Disney mentored me, and now I mentor my students as a way of honoring Walt and repaying him for the kindness and generosity showed to me when I was a high school senior.”
Please make sure you hear the important takeaways from the story just told. Walt Disney was not just dreaming of the future, he was helping to create it.
He leaned into the future…not just by making educational films and television productions (which he did), not just by endowing a school of the arts (which he also did), but most importantly he poured his life into the lives of people. He mentored, he trained, he lead, he gave them opportunity, he coached. He knew the most important resource for shaping, molding, and creating the future was in people.
Who do you pour your life into? Who is pouring their life into you?
We exist so that we can make a difference and impact the world around us. You are the product of others who have taught you, mentored you, and somehow poured their life into you. The world we live in is overly consumer oriented, we live in an entitlement culture where too often everyone is in it for what they think is owed to them. How about giving back and pouring your life into others. By doing so you are also leaning into the future and the life you impact…well…you just never know what might happen. Think about it.