If you could get into a time machine and travel back in time to October 9, 1966 with Walt Disney you would find him in Kansas City. Walt was returning to the Kansas City Art Institute, the very place he attended classes 50 years earlier.
This Kansas City trip had started with Walt being in town to receive an award from an international goodwill organization. He had decided to visit the art institute while he was there. Walt was informally doing research for one of his latest projects, CalArts…and so the Walt Disney rumors swirled around the campus on that day.
Mark Kausler was a freshman art student at the Kansas City Art Institute and like most on campus had heard the rumors that Walt might be visiting. Keeping a watchful eye out, and trying to decide whether or not the rumor had any truth to it or not, he saw a car enter the campus, stop near the main building where the Dean’s office was located, and Walt Disney emerge and enter the main building.
Once Disney was known to be on site a crowd of curious fans and autograph seekers began to assemble outside the building. Eventually Walt, the dean, and some other school staff members exited the building and stepped into the crowd of admiring well wishers. Mark Kausler was nervous and waiting his turn as Disney greeted the crowd.
He stammered, “Mr. Disney would you sign my book for me please?”
He presented a copy of Bob Thomas’ Walt Disney, the Art of Animation for the legend to autograph. Disney took the book and signed it. Mark managed to tell Disney during this brief encounter that he (Mark) had “always wanted to get into the business.”
Walt handed him back his book and said, “You want some advice from me, kid?”
Kausler was awestruck and of course, could only say “yes.”
Walt smiled, paused, and then said softly, “Learn to draw.”
The entire crowd cracked up and laughed loudly. It was a humorous moment, it was an honest moment, and the impact lasted a lifetime.
The advice was good, heartfelt, honest, and practical. It makes sense doesn’t it? If you want to be an animator, then perhaps you should learn how to draw.
What Walt did in that moment was something that we all need to do from time to time. We need to be honest with ourselves and take an honest appraisal of ourselves. In order to chase dreams we need to make sure we have the right dreams. For example, if you have the desire to be the middle linebacker for an NFL football team, but you are only 5 feet tall and weigh 98 pounds, realistically you are probably chasing the wrong dream. The art of chasing dreams begins when we are honest with ourselves and are willing to take an inventory of our heart, our passion, our skill set, and our giftedness…when we are willing to do that …then we are ready to start chasing and making dreams come true.
The other thing that Walt did in that moment was to drive home the powerful yet often missed principle…direction, not intention, gets you to your destination. In other words, if you want to be a great animator…then wishing it would happen doesn’t make it happen…instead, you must be purposeful in your pursuit of your dream. In this young artists case, learning to draw, refining skills in art school and hard work were all directional things that had to happen.
As a dreamer and doer, Walt reminded us there are no shortcuts to making dreams come true. So today, get ready to roll up your sleeves, get to work and start chasing your dreams. And along the way help and encourage others to do the same. The end result is that the world becomes a better place and your dream has the potential of impacting the lives of others forever.
(This account was recorded in much greater detail the Michael Barrier book, The Animated Man – A Life Of Walt Disney)