Success, part 2

I’m adding a bit to my success post because I want it it to stand alone. This really touched me and changed my whole view on success.

In 1940, Walt Disney’s daughters fell in love with the book Mary Poppins and for twenty years, Walt tried to persuaded PT Travers to sell him the rights to her book. In 1961, she agreed but she had control over the movie. Two composers, Richard and Robert Sherman, wrote a song called Feed the Birds.

Tony Brown of The Plain Dealer related additional Sherman comments about the song and its role in Mary Poppins in “Finding ‘Mary Poppins’ from book to movie to stage: Follow ‘Feed The Birds'” [1]:

“… [w]e seized on one incident, in Chapter 7 of ‘Mary Poppins Comes Back’, the second book — the bird woman. And we realized that was the metaphor for why Mary came, to teach the children — and Mr. Banks — the value of charity. So we wrote the song and took it up to Walt’s office and played it and sang it for him. He leaned back in his chair, looking out the window, and he said: ‘That’s it, isn’t it? That’s what this is all about. This is the metaphor for the whole film.’ And that was the turning point in our lives … We were full-time staff, so we had an office at the studio, and every so often Walt would call us up to his office on a Friday afternoon. We knew what he wanted. When we got there, he would say, ‘I just wanted to know what you boys were up to these days.’ Then he would turn around in his chair and stare out the window, like the first time we played it for him, and he would say, ‘Play it.’ And we would … And you could just see Walt thinking, ‘That’s what it’s all about, everything we do at Disney.'”

That’s what it’s all about, everything we do at Disney.

PT Travers said about the song, “The Parents when they are watching do not look at each other. Each looking at themselves, you see, inside.”

What Mrs Travers meant is that the parents were focused on themselves, not those around them, not the old lady, not the birds, not the starving people. There are two verses in Feed the Birds that break most people who hear the song.

Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

So what is Mrs. Travers, the Sherman brothers and Walt talking about? Be a blessing to others, be kind, be generous, don’t think only of yourself, but think of someone else.

Disney jumped on this mantra when he said this is what Disney is all about, be kind and give to others. The world was pretty unstable in the 1960s. Nuclear war loomed over the world, politicians spoke of a place called Vietnam and black children defied segregation by going to all white schools and some paid the price for defying an all white school.  Walt understood all of this and wanted to give back to the world. So Feed the Birds became his mission statement. Give folks just a few hours of peace and make them smile.

In 1955, a man named Van Arsdale France pitched an idea to Walt Disney regarding Disneyland.

Van Arsdale France, who in 1955 founded the “University of Disneyland,” and was tasked with creating a training program for those who would bring Walt’s dream of Disneyland to life.

As he was preparing to pitch what would become the purpose of Disneyland to Walt and Roy Disney, Van Arsdale France once said, “My goal, as I saw it, was to get everyone we hired to share in an intangible dream, and not just working for a paycheck.”

Van recounted the experience…“And here were top executives, all of them right there, and I had to get up and say ‘And now our theme: the purpose of Disneyland is to create happiness for others.’ And you see, the beautiful thing about saying, ‘We’re going to create happiness’ was then I could say, ‘Look, you may park cars, clean up the place, sweep the place, work graveyard and everything else, but whatever you do is contributing to creating happiness for others.’”

Look, you may park cars, clean up the place, sweep the place, work graveyard and everything else, but whatever you do is contributing to creating happiness for others.

So has money changed the way Disney does business? Some might say, YES!! They are money grabbing fiends!! Well, no. Disney’s mission statement is still Feed the Birds:

We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.

So what does this this have to do with success?

As Christopher J. Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton Worldwide puts it, “It’s really about developing a culture and creating an environment where people feel like they are part of something that is bigger than they are.”

Make people happy, make them feel as if they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Disney’s mission statement for today has been  expanded, but if you read between the lines, you’ll see more birds.

The Mission of the Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world (Walt Disney Archives:

The Walt Disney Company carries out its Mission Statement quite effectively. As Apel (2007) succinctly stated, “Disney does it right.” He was referring to the Disney Company’s three-pronged approach of combining research of the market to find out how to best please its clients, considering who its clients are and making sure that all cultures are represented, and a long history of pleasing its patrons, the “Disney Way,” which has been effective for over fifty years. In other words, Disney combines research, client culture and preferences, and expertise to assure that the company fulfills the Disney Mission Statement, a statement that defines the Disney Company’s plan for today.

Feed the Birds.

So maybe success is more than having your books turned into movies and your name becoming a household word. Maybe success is making others smile, making them think, making their world a little brighter.

For me, my definition of success is now very simple. I just want to Feed the Birds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: