Review: Walt Disney, the Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Review: Walt Disney, the Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Walt Disney was arguably one of the 20th century’s most iconic businessmen. His vision, perseverance, and quest for upmost quality built a commercial behemoth that would dictate the media, entertainment, and merchandising landscapes for generations. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, by Neal Gabler, is an in depth look into Walt’s life story, his personality, and his motivations. It goes into great detail on everything from the early days of Walt piecing together a thinly capitalized and rag tag production company through the Depression Era and into the creation of Disney Land.

I came across this book through a recommendation given during a podcast I was listening to with Marc Andreessen. The topic of conversation was related to how an early stage investor could find founders who wouldn’t cash out too early in the growth cycle. This is an important consideration as these types of investors are looking for the next unicorn to supply multiple returns on their seeding. A founder who bails out early and sells to a buyer before an IPO could hamper this outcome. They are looking for candidates whose life’s work would be building an empire and not quitting when they can finally afford the lime green Lamborghini. I was further inspired to read it after a visit to Walt Disney World, where I became enamored with the experience they provided and their excellent customer service and I wanted to know more about the statue of the man with the mouse in the middle of the park.

How Walt Disney fit into this ideal personality class that Andreessen relates is mostly in line with how driven Walt was to build something great. In fact, Walt died wanting to do more and probably would have if not for succumbing to lung cancer. He absolutely pushed himself day in and day out to bring his vision to life. However, what insights can we take from Walt’s life that affect us, the non-mega startup capitalist?

The most important takeaway I got from this book relates to how the pursuit of quality in one’s work can have a profound impact in one ‘s life. In fact, when you start piecing together the life lessons from any high performing individual you will find this trait front and center. For Walt, this attribute reflected heavily in his work. Although not so much an artist, Walt knew what his audience wanted and he pushed others to provide the product that would beat expectations for them. From producing ground breaking work that culminated in the first animated feature length film about a girl and her 7 dwarf companions to a theme park that redefined the genre, Walt’s touch can be seen everywhere. It is this dedication to quality that one can learn the most and apply to benefit their life.

If you’re interested in reading more, you can find the book HERE.