Walt Disney’s Bankruptcy

“When you declare bankruptcy, you simultaneously pave the way for the best of yourself to emerge.”

If Mark Twain’s story teaches us that bankruptcy does not diminish a person’s strengths, Walt Disney’s story teaches us that a person’s strengths might actually rise to the surface because of bankruptcy.

In 1922, Disney and a partner launched Laugh-O-Gram, a studio that created advertisements and cartoons. The studio seemed to be on the verge of success when it struck a deal with a distribution company to place its films in theaters.

Things took a turn for the worse when the distributor began cheating Disney out of his money. With no cash ow to cover his overhead, Disney led bankruptcy in 1923.

And that was the pivot point for Disney. Without the strain of creditors breathing down his back, and with his debts forgiven through bankruptcy, Disney formed a new company. Five years later, in 1928, Mickey Mouse was created—and a legend was born.

Disney went on to win 22 Oscars, holding the record for the most Academy Awards earned by an individual.

What you can learn from Walt Disney goes one step beyond what you can learn from Mark Twain. Declaring bankruptcy does not change who you are or what your strengths are, and, perhaps more importantly, it might even allow your strengths to rise to the surface. No one thinks clearly when they are flooded with stress and emotion. We are never at our best when we are riddled with anxiety. When you declare bankruptcy, you simultaneously pave the way for the best of yourself to emerge.

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