For anyone involved in a passion project, we regularly encounter doubts about reaching our goals. The Tomorrow Society exists because I love theme parks and want to connect with other fans through writing and podcasting. It isn’t always a smooth road, however. Motivational books can provide answers, but they’re often too general to meet specific needs. It helps to receive these messages from a Disney fan with similar interests. That connection helps the books from Jeff Barnes resonate stronger with me than most. Following his success with The Wisdom of Walt in 2016, Barnes is back with another inspiring release. His new book Beyond the Wisdom of Walt arrives this week and expands the message to “The Florida Project” and far beyond.
Barnes clarifies up front that he isn’t a historian, and many of his stories will be familiar to Disney fans. What makes this book different is the way Barnes gleans life lessons from the expected tales about Walt, Roy, and others. Barnes takes the sometimes-painful history of EPCOT the city and uses it to show the value of change. Disney’s choice to convert the dream into the EPCOT Center theme park connects to ways we must adapt every day. It might seem obvious but clicks because of how Barnes weaves together the history and the message.
Another positive is the structure, which emphasizes a single theme within each chapter. Barnes doesn’t try to capture too much about a topic at once. He also populates them with a “Souvenir Stop” that provides a fun anecdote to reinforce the idea. For example, the chapter on Disney’s presentation of America also covers the “Pooh for President” campaign in the ‘70s. Another section on hustling includes 30 motivational quotes to align with the 30-day FastPass Plus advance window. Seeing all of that knowledge in a small space makes a real impact.
Barnes also includes worksheets that give you a chance to identify barriers and set goals. The print version of Beyond the Wisdom of Walt is probably more helpful in this realm. The chapter about obstacles contains blank lines for you to list past experiences, benefits, and current obstacles that you face. This direct approach is still helpful because we’re on board as Disney fans. That chapter shows how ingenious thinking helped bypass the different elevations to create Bay Lake at Disney World. Converting a hindrance into an opportunity is a key part of any success.
I should note that Barnes is an optimist when it comes to Disney and its history. His explanation of the Universal/Disney conflict over the studios parks reflects that view. However, that doesn’t mean the book can’t succeed with more cynical minds. I’m typically a realist yet still find a lot of connections between my life and Barnes’ lessons. The obvious reason is the subject matter, but that’s really just a entry point to get me engaged. The difference maker is the specificity in the Disney stories and how they can apply to life. You rarely feel like Barnes is making a big stretch when he connects the two. Very few of his conclusions feel thrown together.
Barnes also incorporates stories from his own life that aren’t just about Disney. They remind us that he isn’t lecturing from a pulpit about wisdom. We all face challenges and look for ways to overcome them, and Barnes is no different. Teaching a class about Disneyland and writing books were his dreams, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more down the road. It’s hardly been an easy path too. Barnes encountered serious brain surgery that left him sidelined from even riding most attractions at Disneyland. In the lighter realm, he even includes some errors from The Wisdom of Walt to reinforce the point that you’ll encounter doubters to any dream.
In his first book, Barnes focused on Walt’s successes and failures to offer inspiration. Beyond the Wisdom of Walt expands the story to cover a wide range of topics, which fits with the title. A book with stories about Harry Truman, Dick Nunis, and Brian Grazer all in one place is definitely not one-note. He also cites valuable sources from Marty Sklar, Jim Korkis, Jack Lindquist, and many others to support his points. The bibliography at the end is an excellent guide to Disney history. If you’re in the right mindset, this book should provide serious motivation. I know it has for me.
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