Book Review: The Wisdom of Walt
I love books about Walt Disney and Disneyland. I also have a particular affinity for books that use something about Disney to teach the reader something about their “real world” life. I wrote one myself that does both of those things, after all! Books like How to be Like Walt, Creating Disney Magic, and Everything I Know I Learned from Disney Animated Feature Films educate, entertain, and inspire.
Now, there is a new book to add to that list: The Wisdom of Walt Disney: Leadership Lessons from the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland): Success Strategies for Everyone (from Walt Disney and Disneyland). In The Wisdom of Walt, Dr. Jeff Barnes combines elements of Disneyland, Walt Disney’s life story, his own story, and leadership/success principles to create a one-of-a-kind (until he writes another one) book.
Usually when it comes to books like this, there is a certain “been there, done that” quality to them, as the author simply recycles what dozens of others have said with their own little spin to it. It would be untrue of me to say that everything in The Wisdom of Walt is brand new. It’s not, nor should it be Why reinvent the wheel? However, the tried-and-true wisdom that’s in there is contextualized enough with Jeff’s own experience and the stories of Disneyland and Walt Disney that it often feels fresh. Also, there are definitely instances of new ideas (they were unfamiliar to me, anyway), like personifying your “inner voice” and making it more of an entity to be listened to and bounce ideas off of.
In addition, each chapter ends with a “hand stamp” that gives a memorable story hook for what you just read in the chapter and a “souvenir stop” where you can take what you just read & learned and apply it in practical ways to your life before moving on. I highly recommend paying special attention to these two parts of each chapter, by they way. No matter how good a book is, if it’s not applied intentionally soon after reading it, it does very little good. Actually answering the questions and doing the exercises suggested significantly help reduce that risk.
Did I have any qualms with The Wisdom of Walt? A couple, but all relatively minor. First, I had expected the book to be a more comprehensive look at Disneyland, which it is not. Perhaps that is just because of the way I wrote my book. Different authors, different approaches.
Second, I would have liked the references documented in more detail. There are many other books, blogs, etc. referenced, but no detailed footnotes or endnotes to tell the reader exactly where a quote came from. I talked to Jeff and this was an intentional choice, and it doesn’t take away from the readability at all. I just like detailed references.
Finally, there were a couple of facts about Walt Disney and/or Disneyland that may not be 100% accurate. I’d say the majority are, but there were 3 or 4 that stood out to me as either things that I had never heard before and couldn’t verify (which doesn’t mean they are wrong, I just want to confirm them) or that are the commonly thought to be true but probably are not–the colorblind bulldozer operator comes to mind for this one. Again, this doesn’t affect the readability of the book, and the lessons are still just as valuable. The truth is, it’s extraordinarily difficult to write a book on this particular subject that is 100% accurate in all those little details. I’m sure mine has a couple, too, and 99.5% (estimated) is pretty impressive.
Because of those little qualms, I can’t quite give the book a full 5 stars out of 5, but the rest of it is so good and valuable that I can confidently give it 4.75 stars. If you have an interest in Walt Disney and Disneyland and you’re looking for a book that can help you take your success to the next level, I highly recommend The Wisdom of Walt.
Disclosures: I received a review copy of this book at no charge, but all opinions are my own. Also, I am quoted twice in the book. It didn’t affect my view of the book, but you should know. Finally, Amazon links to purchase the book on this page are affiliate links.