Book Review: The Wisdom of Walt


This book is a master curation of other Disney stories, from Walt's childhood tales, Bob Thomas' Disney vault, Imagineer Marty Sklar's memoirs, and other primary and secondary sources.

So it was hard to pick out 10 original quotes that speak for what this book offers, originally. Most of it has a leadership 101, self-help, motivational spin.. And that's OK!

Sometimes, you just need a book to give you a pep talk, and this one does so in a Disney way! ....Without piling on the fluff!

It even has thought exercises with blanks to fill in your own plan for success!

Without further ado, let the quotes speak for themselves:

"You need to treat your dreams like you treat your children. Dreams, like children, don't raise themselves."

A common theme in the book is to make dreams concrete, and actionable! Another theme is children -- how to be child-like and let your curiosity drive your day.

"Leadership is not about managing things as they are today. Leadership is about transforming reality into your vision for a better tomorrow."

Leadership 101. The book draws on Walt's personality and attitude for lessons in leadership, being someone that people want to follow. It's so awesome that so few people supposedly left Walt's team despite his demanding nature!

"Big dreams require big canvases."

Disneyland is huge, and it's one of Walt's largest works of art.

From Dream It! Do It! Marty Sklar: "The public does not trust what industry, government, and even academic tell them. The public does trust Mickey Mouse."

I lied: had to include a quoted quote, curated from former Imagineer Marty Sklar's book. Even more true today!

"Not only must you face fear and failure, but at some level, you even need to embrace fear and failure. Both are strong indicators that you are taking the necessary risks to be successful, and, while it may not seem like it at the time, that you are very much on the right path."

Right, life is like an RPG: the more villains and enemies you see on the path, the more you know you're headed in the right direction!

"Our inaction paralyzes us, and we become frozen in a primordial soup of procrastination."

I know I've been "frozen in a primordial soup of procrastination"! I can just feel the goop dripping off, pulling me from my next task!

"Can you remember the undiscovered, unlimited wonderment of being a kid? All youngsters fancy themselves to be Picasso incarnate. Every drawing is a masterpiece. Every doodle deserves valuable real estate in the only art gallery that ever really matters, the family refrigerator. As we transition from childhood into adulthood, our inner critic takes over and we become terrified of our own ideas. We stifle our creativity. We stop drawing. Stop daring. Stop dreaming."

This quote comes from a context of comparing adult reluctance to draw, to children's desire.

As a child, our inner critics are at their weakest, but our outer critics -- teachers, parents, gatekeepers -- are at their strongest.

As an adult, our outer critics may weaken somewhat, but our inner critics grow to be so strong they reign us in.

"The key to curiosity is staying open and childlike."


"Confidence isn't knowing that you will succeed. Confidence is knowing that you will be okay even when you fail."

I like how the book lists Walt's failures and what they led to. Did you know the media called Disneyland and its long lines, food shortages, and attraction breakdowns a failure in the early days? The failures led to lessons learned, improvements made, and now are almost a footnote in Disney's history.

"Part of the berm's magic is how it plays tricks on your person... Yes, there are times when you physically depart Disneyland, but the magic masks you from knowing it."

This comes in a chapter about focus. Directing your guests' attention where you want it to go helps obscure some of the product's imperfections. A key lesson when preparing a v1.0!

"Walt knelt down in front of the castle and challenged his team to view it from a child's perspective."

I support viewing things from a child's perspective. More people should try squatting down once in a while!

"Criticism is a poor contractor for constructing an awesome life."

This review should be more positive! Giving constructive criticism is a life skill.

"Visualization, your ability to see your dreams coming true down to the tiniest detail in compelling and vivid pictures, is a success principle supported by science, psychiatrists, and even sports coaches... Walt Disney's dream of Disneyland came with an original price tag of $17 million. His successful solution was to envision the most beautiful, themed, and detailed amusement park the world had ever seen."

This is the part in the book where I really wish it provided more images.. not just black and white photographs of Dr. Disneyland and his wife, but full-color maps and early-day visuals juxtaposing Disneyland in Walt's mind's eye, and Disneyland today! Seriously, some colorful images would take this book from great to unforgettable!

"Walt lived his life believing that fantasy and fun should be at the heart of everything we do. Imagination isn't just for kids, and fantasy isn't just a land in a theme park. Walt once said, 'That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.'"

I totally bought in to this. "Too many people grow up..." and then have to deal with other grownups! The sequel to this book should be, "How Walt Dealt with Grownups" -- inquiring minds wanna know!😅 

"The campus takes on the personality of the dean."

So true, and so applicable, if you're building or planning any sort of physical or virtual space.

As Walt once said, "A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there."

This is low-key deep. Underrated quote! All those years we spend as children are such a gold mine of time that we can spend preparing or pursuing goals, because the older we grow, the more precious time becomes. This quote resonates particularly when you consider Walt's passing before EPCOT's completion... those years are precious.

"Here is the key point: Disneyland is recognizable in the original, bird's-eye view drawing. We can see such familiar sights as Main Street, The Hub, Fantasy Land, Frontier Country (Frontierland), and True-Life Adventureland. At the same time, there are also mystery locales such as Holiday Land, Recreation Park, Lilliputian Land, and Mickey Mouse Club. What happened? Walt started, and over time, his process led him to something similar, but different, than his original concept. He didn't begin with perfection. He simply began with start."

My favorite part of the book, the one that would benefit most from a visual: the story of Herb, one of Walt's artists, sketching the first map of Disneyland.

Takeaway: Don't worry about it making it perfect the first time. Just put something down, and keep plussing it over time! Disneyland is always going to change, expand, and take on new forms and meanings as the people and times around it change. But if Walt never got Herb to draw the first one, it never would have even existed to change in the first place!

You can't edit what you haven't written!

Written by
Noko Pikari