Setbacks as Fuel or Poison — Walt Disney

“The more you nourish the old memories of pain, the more you obstruct the new lights and new truths.” ― Amit Ray

The final stage of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is the most beautiful. When the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it holds on and gazes into the cocoon. The cells of what used to be the caterpillar have nourished the butterfly and fuelled what has now become: a new and improved being. It is as if the butterfly is holding the cocoon in a moment gratitude, thanking the cocoon and the caterpillar for their contribution towards its new self. After giving thanks, the butterfly lets go of the cocoon and flies into the future.

Many of us hold on to bad experiences, hurts and grudges that do not serve us. These ills of the past hold us back and prevent us from becoming our true selves and pursuing our potential. To take flight, the butterfly must first let go of what it used to be, so must we.

For a long time after I retired from rugby I held on to memories of non selection, of unjust selection, of injuries, fuelling anger that I did not achieve more in my sporting career. When I encountered this image of the butterfly holding on to the cocoon, I imagined it as a moment of gratitude. Today, I realise that it is thanks to my rugby career that I developed capabilities essential for progress in all areas of life. Discipline, resilience, empathy and teamwork are skills that sports players develop in abundance. Such capabilities can become fuel to power new and evolved versions of oneself.

Fuel or Poison?

“Setbacks often energise people in one of two ways, as fuel or poison. For some people, disappointment poisons their spirit, and they sabotage their future by punishing themselves with self-destructive behaviour. Others, however, allow the disappointment to serve as fuel, driving them to accomplish great feats. They won’t allow themselves be defeated by the circumstances.” — Mike Goldsby (Guest on Innovation Show 177)

When we reframe life as a continuous process of becoming, it means there is no destination. When there is no destination, we must continue to move forward. We cannot move forward if we hold ourselves back. By experiencing joy or pain and deriving a lesson from those experiences, we continue to evolve. Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” In order to evolve we nust stand on the shoulders of the previous versions of ourselves. Each experience is a learning experiences, some are positive and some are not.

Walt Disney is hero of innovation and reinvention. He epitomised the concept of continuous evolution. Walt experienced many setbacks, many of which we cover on this week’s innovation show with the author of “Entrepreneurship the Disney Way”, Mike Goldsby.

A true testament to an entrepreneur is not the initial business they build but the business they leave behind. The Disney corporation continues to be one of the most enduring organisations on the planet and that is a testament to Walt’s commitment to continuous evolution.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” — Walt Disney

Walt was the visionary who brought sound to animation. He created the first feature length animated movies and he reinvented the amusement park experience. In his latter years, he had evolved from working “in the business” to working “on the business”. He evolved from being the creator and builder of the business to become the evangelist. Walt often appeared on TV and walked around Disneyland talking to guests. There is a great story about Walt when a child once asked him if he was The Walt Disney. He answered that he was no longer Walt Disney, today Walt Disney was a company; today Walt Disney was a brand.

Disney succeeded because Walt recognised that he had to continue to evolve the business he had started and he had to evolve as a businessman as a person. He succeeded because he did not dwell on the hardships nor the betrayals he had experienced; he used these as fuel and not poison.

It is not the Bite that Kills, It is the Poison


When we get bitten by a poisonous snake, it is not the bite that kills us. We die because we do not remove the poison. When we remove the poison and recover, we are more tolerant when the next bite comes along. When it comes, we can beat it again easier the second time and even easier the third time, but we can only win if we remove the poison.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney This episode focuses on the business story of Walt Disney and the enduring company he built. Combining a unique blend of entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation, and a relentless drive to bring out the best in his teams, Walt Disney created one of the most successful ventures in business history. Through the lens of Disney, we hear about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership. Beginning with a general introduction to the concepts relevant to the entrepreneurial organisation today, we examine how Disney built his empire and how the company remains an industry leader. We touch on the Entrepreneurial Leadership Instrument, which measures one’s style in leading entrepreneurial ventures.

Have a listen:







More about Mike and the Entrepreneurial Leadership Instrument here:

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