The Wisdom of Walt: Leadership Lessons from the Happiest Place on Earth by Jeffrey A. Barnes finds personal improvement and leadership lessons in the history and enjoyment of Disneyland. Barnes provides 17 chapters that vary from topics like continuing education, getting stuff done, leading teams, telling stories and creating superior experiences. Each chapter includes information about Disney parks and history. Disney content is paired with experiences from Barnes' own life which provide practical anecdotes showing how Barnes' concepts can play out in one's life. Each chapter includes a "Souvenir Stop" where readers can reflect on the chapter, and take first steps towards growth. The chapters conclude with "Getting Your Hand Stamped" which is one last chance to reinforce the chapter's lesson as one leaves the park.
Mr. Barnes and I started off on a bad start. Every chapter starts with a quote by Walt Disney, as reported by the author. But the first chapter's quote is not an actual Walt Disney quote. Now as much as I love the quote, "If you can dream it, you can do it." it was not actually said by Walt Disney. So I set my eye towards fact checking everything. Now I did eventually did give up on this. There were several new to me facts that seemed incorrect or slightly off to me. But everytime I went to double-check Mr. Barnes, I found he was correct. I found myself transformed from "I'm going to get him" to "you know this guy knows a thing or two about Disney history."
And then there is the fact that I am the perfect audience for Barnes. Barnes works in higher education, and has been both an administrator and history instructor. My education is in history and I am now a higher education administrator. So many of Barnes' tales of working with students and logistical concerns of the higher education are all things that I can and do relate to. You got me there Mr. Barnes! In fact I am quite jealous that he was able to achieve his dream of a Disneyland history course. I really would love to take it! And Barnes was highly relatable to me.
I also found myself inspired. While reading The Wisdom of Walt I found the courage to try two new things. I also found myself inspired to focus myself and make progress on some personal projects that I have been stalled on. So while I have read books of this type before, I found myself taking action instead of simply passing over the words to complete the text and shelf the book. What is even more remarkable, is it was Barnes' stories not the Disney history which motivated me to action.
I am the guy who spends his day telling stories about Walt Disney and Disneyland to lead my team. Sometimes the stories actually go over well. I love the fact I have heard colleagues say, "Yes, If" in meetings twice this week. Jeffrey A. Barnes in The Wisdom of Walt entertained me while helping me to grow as a leader and professional. And now I have additional stories to bolster my story database.
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