Jeff Barnes and the Wisdom of Walt

Will Talks Biz Episode 25 Jeff Barnes and the Wisdom of WaltIt’s not hard to remember your first visit to Disneyland. My first reaction in the parking lot was, “what? That’s it? I thought it would be huge!” Yet I had a wonderful time making memories that have stuck with me ever since then. Today’s guest is someone that hated his first trip to Disneyland. However, he has now built a career around educating people on the history of the park and powerful lessons we can learn from Walt Disney. We couldn’t be more excited to share this conversation with Jeff Barnes and the Wisdom of Walt.

Key Takeaways:

{3:27} Curiosity had Jeff wondering why everyone else loved Disneyland when he hated it. What was making it work when it seemed so broken to him? That is when he discovered Walt’s story and the fact that the park is challenging us to live our story.

{4:20} After giving the first lecture in the course Jeff was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. Doctors said he needed brain surgery the next week, but he refused. He called on the “all in” mindset of Walt Disney and told his doctors he was staying committed to teaching the course.

{7:03} Pay attention to what you’re thinking about. Pay attention to your ideas. Make sure you’re consuming content that is moving you forward. We need to do what Walt did. Get off the park bench and start taking action.

{9:38} Coming out of academics, Jeff was often held up in his writing because he wanted to make sure everything was 100% right, 100% accurate, true. He finally realized he had to let that goes because he wasn’t turning in a term paper or a doctoral dissertation. He wanted to be right as much as possible, but had to leave that worry behind since he wasn’t going to be graded along the way.

{11:02} Jeff uses Walt’s experience on Disneyland’s opening day, known as Black Sunday, as a reminder that things may not be perfect. It is important to take responsibility for what went well and respond well to the legitimate criticisms.

{13:01} Walt used four words to define his secret to success: Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy (or Consistency). Most people excel at one. However, need to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses as well as the strengths and weaknesses of our teams.

{20:46} Management is dotting the Is and crossing the Ts to maintain the status quo. There is a place for that. But visionary leadership is about showing people where they are and where they need to be. You know you’re a leader when you have follower’s and Walt had followers.

{21:47} Work like Walt by looking at the business through the prism of a story. Narrative, characters, confit. The bigger the dragon, the better the story. Use that dragon as a way to level up in your business and life. Hire based on culture and attitude fit. You can train on skills, but first you have to set yourself up with a solid culture.


“Every individual has their own idea, their own crazy thought. It might not change the world like Disneyland did, but it could at least change your world.”

“Our goal is progress not perfection.”

Connect with Jeff Barnes:

The Wisdom of Walt book

The Wisdom of Walt audible

Connect with Will:

Book I Can’t Read: A Guide to Success Through Failure


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