Joy and Inspiration Forever

Last night at EPCOT thousands gathered around World Showcase Promenade to watch Illuminations:  Reflections of Earth, for the last time.  For many years this show has been the capstone, inspirational close to a magical day and/or evening at EPCOT. 

As Disney and all great companies tend to do, there will be yet another iteration of the magical, inspirational capstone event to close out the day at EPCOT.  Disney Parks has announced their new, limited-time fireworks show at EPCOT, debuting tonight, calling it, “EPCOT Forever.” Sometime in 2020, EPCOT Forever will be replaced by HarmoniUS, which will become the next iteration of the nighttime spectacular at EPCOT for years to come.

Having grown up a Disney kid and starting my career there during college and then again later in life, like you, I cherish the many memories, friendships, relationships, and emotional connections with Disney I have to this day.

Many of my closest friends were in attendance last night, at EPCOT to ring in the final Illuminations together.  Many other close friends of mine were there working, and others have been working on creating the future of EPCOT and Disney Parks and Resorts for all of us to enjoy for years to come.   

I received so many text messages yesterday and couldn’t help but notice all the love on social media, giving thanks to EPCOT, Illuminations, and Disney Parks for all the memories over the years.  When I lived in Orlando, we’d end up at EPCOT on a Saturday or Sunday evening, share some laughs, a nice beverage, and always stay for the fireworks.  Many of my friends still living and working in Orlando still do the same, to this day.

I asked myself, “Why?”   Why do we keep going back, time and again to experience the same park, with the same people, taking in the same fireworks over the same lagoon, over…and over…and over…again?

Many of you have your own stories of returning, time and again, to the same theme park to experience the same attractions and watch the same fireworks shows, over and over again.

Why?  Why go back?

It’s not the fireworks.  It’s not the music.  It’s not the lagoon.  It’s not even the amazing food and beverage program. 

It’s how the experience makes us feel.

We feel comfortable at EPCOT. 

We feel comfortable at every hotel, restaurant, bar, lounge, and airline to which we return, time after time, over and over again. 

Not only do we feel comfortable and keep going back for more, we tell stories about our experiences.  The stories aren’t about the fireworks. 

They’re about the people who were with us, why we share a connection, and how the whole kit and caboodle makes us feel.

When Walt opened Disneyland in 1955, he said, “Disneyland is a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

When Roy O. Disney gave the speech forty-eight years ago today at the opening of Magic Kingdom on October 1st, 1971, he said, “Walt Disney World is a tribute the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney…

We can all agree, it’s a pretty decent leadership philosophy as well, being a source of joy and inspiration to those we lead.  When leaders bring joy and inspiration to their teams, good things happen.  A great place to start is to make sure people feel comfortable on our teams, joining our cause, and in our presence.

When people feel comfortable they:

  • Open up and engage in more conversations
  • Feed their curiosity with more exploration, research, and discovery
  • Foster deeper relationships with others
  • Feel a sense of belonging

Consider the reverse for a second. 

Think about what happens when we feel uncomfortable in a situation or around certain people. 

We don’t want to talk to anyone, we have zero curiosity to learn anything more about said situation (other than how to get out of there as fast as humanly possible), we foster very few meaningful relationships in that awkwardly uncomfortable space, and we absolutely, positively do not feel like we belong!

How does your team feel right now?

Better yet, think about how you want your team to feel, and maybe more importantly, think about how you need your team to feel.

Leadership is all about inspiring and influencing the absolute best effort and best versions of everyone on the team. 

Therefore, it behooves any leader, in any industry, at any level, to approach every single day striving to make their teams feel comfortable enough to be their best, give their best, and become the absolute best they can be.

Bringing it all together

Make sure everyone on your team is comfortable by:

  • Engaging each individual in conversations every single day.  Be interested in their well-being today and for their personal and professional growth in the future.
  • Encouraging them to be curious, constantly asking questions, looking for new ways to create, connect, and deliver for each other and your key stakeholders.
  • Focus on building, fostering, and nurturing relationships – personally and professionally – with every member of your team.
  • Create a sense of belonging among the team.  When people feel comfortable, they feel safe, and when they feel safe, they feel like they belong. 

When people feel they belong, they’re more open to receiving and experiencing joy and inspiration…forever.

That’s reason enough to lead with hospitality

Have a great day, and thanks EPCOT, Disney Parks, and especially the Cast all over the world who make us feel the magic every visit – you truly make us feel welcome, comfortable, and important.


One for the road

I’m no longer working at Disney, as few things are truly forever. However, the lessons in leadership, life, friendship, hospitality, and becoming the absolute best I can be will go on forever. Perhaps, this is why I’m so passionate about hospitality, in every sense of the word; especially when it comes to how we lead others.

Because of the leaders, relationships, and experiences I’ve had and you’ve had with Disney, we know how to deliver joy and inspiration forever.

We go on.