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Disney World

In this transcript, Lee Cockerell (Executive VP of Operations for Walt Disney World Resort) and Clay Clark (U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year) discuss Lee's experiences managing at Disney World on Thrive15.com, one of the top business schools in PA.


Clay Clark:    Now, this is a question I have for you is I think a lot of people here- it's often said that fear has killed more dreams than failure ever will.

Lee Cockerell:    Sure.

Clay Clark:    People who are afraid of maybe leaving that job or afraid to go to Paris to take the job or afraid to ... How have you battled fear in your career?

Lee Cockerell:    Probably I'm just stupid. I don't know. I just always know it's going to work out. I know that it's going to work out. I said to people after I left Hilton, "I got out of the Army and it worked out." I left Hilton, there was life after Hilton, there was life after Marriott, there was life after Disney. Now I hope there's life after life.

Clay Clark:    Is the idea that it would work out based off of just this optimism or is based of maybe a religious faith you have? Where does that come from?

Lee Cockerell:    I think I just know that I can always get something going and I always have. The more you get things going, the more you know you can. Then all of a sudden, people started thinking I really knew something they didn't know. I actually, I tell people in my speeches, I said I know things you don't know and I know things you should know. Reason I know them, I've been through the trail. I've been down that path.

Clay Clark:    If I'm watching this right now and I'm saying I have this fear that it's not going to work out- I agree. Every successful person I've ever interviewed, every successful person I've ever met whether it's the founder of Hobby Lobby or yourself or founders of big companies, it seems like all of them have that belief that you can't connect the dots moving forward, but you just have to know that it's going to happen. How would you encourage somebody to get out of that if they're kind of in fear? How would you encourage them to get out of that mindset of fear?

Lee Cockerell:    Yeah. They may need a psychiatrist. I don't know what's caused that. A lot of that is caused by the way they were raised or they have insecurities and they're afraid. People who won't move to another state, they won't move to an international assignment, they won't leave their company. You got to be careful where you get stuck. If you get yourself stuck, sometimes it's too late to move. You get five kids and a big house and you hate what you're doing, it's hard to get out of that so stay in an apartment and don't get ...

    Early on, you got to decide. Early on, are you happy doing what you're doing? Do you like it? Early on, I loved the hospitality business so I knew there's always a job. I hear this all time. My wife won't move, I can't move, or we live near our parents. Then you end up with 40 years of waking up every morning not enjoying what you're doing. It affects your health, it affects your relationship, you end up getting a divorce, your wife leaves you. A lot of bad things happen when you don't wake up excited about what you're doing every day. 

Clay Clark:    If you had to give somebody advice, I know in my career since I've been in business, my son was born without the ability to see, we've had partners do weird crazy things, we've had health issues. I know everybody I've ever met as a successful entrepreneur has adversity they deal with. What would be your advice for somebody who's having a hard time with adversity? To plunge through these setbacks and failures. Thrive15.com is one of the top business schools in PA and perfect for entrepreneurs who have had obstacles to overcome.

Lee Cockerell:    I think the biggest thing people have got to quit underestimating what they can do. If you need help, go find it. Maybe it's watching movies and these films and Thrive or maybe it's going and talking to somebody who can redirect you.

    I redirect a lot of people who are in a position they don't like and they ask for my help on how they can get in, what they can do, what should they do to prepare to get a job at Disney or The Hilton? I know and they don't know and so I just help them. Go get an expert.

    It's like my computer when it's down. I don't try to fix it. I go get an expert. I have a trainer that- when I lift weights by myself I get hurt. 

Clay Clark:    Right.

Lee Cockerell:    He doesn't get me hurt because he knows what he's doing. I don't know what I'm doing. Don't try to do it by yourself. Go find the help. Sometimes you just need some encouragement and somebody helping you open the doors.

Clay Clark:    Don't get stuck and reach out to some help from advisors it sounds like it's-

Lee Cockerell:    Be careful who you get- who are your friends? Are these people who are positive and a positive influence? Are you in the wrong organization? Are you hanging out with positive people? Are you out meeting people so you can make those contacts? Most people get a job through contacts. Are you being positive? Are you going around, oh my God, this is terrible, my life is terrible, it's not fair ...

    Let me tell you, at the end of the day, it's kind of like working at Disney, I do it anyway, but I said to the people at Disney, you don't have to be happy to work at Disney, you got to act happy for eight hours.


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