What Walt Disney Can Teach Photographers About Failure

why do photographers and creatives fail. PRO EDU tips


"It isgood to have failure while you're young because itteaches you so much. For one thing it makes you aware that such a thing can happen to anybody, and once you've lived through the worstyou're never quite as vulnerable afterward.” – Walt Disney

No one wants to fail. Failure is a painful experience that disappoints us, makes us question our ability to achieve our goals, and even whether we deserve them. But failure can be a gift, and dealing with it is all about mindset.

How does one cultivate a mindset that allows one to see failure as a gift? Partially through experience, and partially through learning from those who have already discovered how. Walt Disney is one of those intrepid artists who knew what it was like to fail, and how failure could also be the key to success.


One of the worst side-effects of failure is that the pain of it makes quitting look like a safer, less painful option. When you’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months, and years of effort chasing a dream, failing to realize your goals makes you wonder if you’ve wasted your time.

But the secret of success isn’t lucky people who got it right the first time; it’s people with grit who don’t give up even after hundreds of failed attempts. It’s getting up time after time, stronger than you were before, and ready to take on the next challenge with your hard-earned knowledge.

Too many people give when success is right around the corner.

Why do photographers fail?

"“The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.”



Why are you chasing your dreams? What is so important that you’d risk the pain of failure? Keeping your vision in mind and reminding yourself of the importance of your goal changes failure from a final result to a surmountable obstacle.

You can’t just have a vague hope that your dream is worthwhile, you must believe it. You must believe it enough that 5 failures down the road, 50 failures, 500 failures, you still believe. When you believe, failure just becomes part of the journey toward the goal.

Not only that, but when you achieve your goal despite every failure, you’ll have proved to yourself and everyone around you just what your dreams were worth. They were worth everything.

“The best way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”


Photo byAlex Green


As important as belief is, not goal was ever accomplished through belief alone. Action is required to see a dream turned into reality. No one ever failed who never tried. And no one ever succeeded who didn’t fail, first.

Believe, then do.

It wasn’t belief alone that earned Walt Disney 32 Academy Awards. It was belief alone that made the first truly successful full-length animated motion pictures or tuned the Walt Disney Company one of the most successful companies in the world. It was action.

Action will inevitably result in failure, but anything worth doing is worth failing at, and it’s those continued attempts that teach us the lessons we need to learn to succeed.

"“The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.”



Failure doesn’t feel good, but could you believe that it’s good for you? That failure is one of the best teachers there is? And what does failure teach us that makes it worth the pain?

Well, part of the lesson is in the pain. It teaches us where we don’t want to be, keeps us humble, and creates empathy for other people who are trying and failing.

Failure is the surest teacher of what not to do, what doesn’t work, and what things can be improved upon. It strengthens us for the next challenge, shows us what we can endure, and produces the grit that makes success possible.

"All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all the troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you." --Walt Disney



To look at the massive success of the Walt Disney Company now, you’d never know that Disney himself began life in a reportedly abusive and unhappy home. His first business went bankrupt, his first successful character was stolen by his boss, he had a nervous breakdown shortly after creating Mickey Mouse, and the grand opening of the Disneyland theme park was beset by so many problems Disneyland workers dubbed it “Black Sunday” after one of the worst dust storms in American History.

The next three animated films after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were considered failures.

One of the most successful men in the world failed. He failed often, and severely. But he had a vision of what entertainment could be, he acted on his belief, he didn’t give up, and he learned from every mistake. One of the best ways to learn is to study the people who have come before you and consider their advice.

As a photographer, you’ll fail. You won’t meet deadlines, you’ll disappoint clients, and sometimes your work will fall short. But those things don’t have to stop you. You can learn the same lessons Walt Disney learned, and turn every failure into another run on the ladder of success.

Lead image byAndrea Piacquadio


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