28 Jan No Imagination. No Future.
Walter blearily looked over at the alarm clock and fell back into his pillow – this was a bad dream, he told himself.
4:30 in the morning – time for his paper route to get underway. He looked over to his brother and heard him moan before he tugged the covers over his head.
Walter shook the cobwebs away and padded toward the bathroom, yanking the pillow from his older brother’s head as he passed. It was time to go to work.
That first day might have been the hardest – maybe because it was so very cold in that midwestern city and the work was hard. But Walter trudged on – there was a job to be done.
For the next six years the brothers got up at 4:30 every day to deliver a morning paper before they went to school. And when their academics were complete they delivered another paper in the afternoon.
Walter’s grades suffered. He often fell asleep in class. He was not considered to be particularly intelligent by most. But he worked hard and there was something to be said for that – even if he sacrificed a part of his childhood with the hours invested in earning money for his family.
By the time he was 16 his country was at war. Walter tried to enroll in the fight but was told he was too young. Undeterred, he faked his admission papers and instead joined the Red Cross where he became an ambulance driver – arriving, much to his disappointment, after the enemy’s terms of surrender.
Walter – in his own way – was ambitious but it was a curious ambition. In his spare moments he loved to draw – an idle pastime to be sure. Sometimes he would make sketches for his friends; even going so far as putting his own work on the side of the ambulance he drove. But there was little future in it.
When he returned stateside he decided to try his hand commercially as an artist – and failed miserably. He even approached that newspaper he once delivered for but the manager he talked with there told him he unfortunately “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Walter was going nowhere.
But then again the young man who spent all the years of his youth riding that bicycle in the darkness never seemed to completely accept defeat – finally getting a low level apprentice job at a commercial artists’ firm – which promptly laid him off.
So he tried to start his own small business with a friend. It went under in less than a year.
Maybe the City Manager at the Kansas City Star was right – “no good ideas.”
But Walter had a passion. He enrolled in art classes. He continued to perfect his craft. Along the way he finally stumbled on a unique way to present the cartoons he sketched… and so he plied his craft quietly, using the imagination that some suggested didn’t have.
Until he found the magic.
In the years that followed Walter found his stride – creating, finally a character patterned after a pet he had adopted while he was struggling in one of those early jobs. Who would have guessed that little houseguest he fed everyday would live on for generations – the buddy he had named Mortimer the Mouse?
There was a last adjustment to be made – by then Walter had married another aspiring artist and she suggested Mortimer might be too stuffy an appellation for a public that was starting to take notice.
So they renamed him. They called him Mickey.
Walter never gave up on his passion – and some may say that he funneled it in a way that someway made up for that portion of his life he had sacrificed as a youth. He would go on to build an empire that made the magic of childhood imagination real for millions.
And the characters that sprang from the fertile mind of the genius who was once told he had no future – from Mickey Mouse to Snow White to Donald Duck to Pinocchio to Fantasia – well, they might tell you that Walt Disney was destined for greatness all along. He simply had to find the path that led him there.
No great career is born from comfort.
Adversity is a part of everyone’s path.
Those who find their passion also find their purpose – and, for some, perhaps even a Magic Kingdom.
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
– Jiminy Cricket (From the Movie Pinocchio – Walt Disney Pictures – 1940)