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7 Grown-Up Lessons From Your Favorite Disney Movies

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Mickey Mouse

We all know Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced some treasured stories about self-discovery, love and growing up. Ariel becoming human and Cinderella going from rags to riches are relatable stories, even if they’re whimsical.

But as someone in the midst of a job hunt, I’ve discovered that many of my favorite Disney classics have lessons that can be applied in the professional world, too.

Here are a few of my favorite career lessons inspired by Disney movies:

1. Speak up — from A Bug’s Life

Flik was often ignored by the rest of the ants in his community. They thought he was unfocused and disruptive, when in reality he was the most innovative.

If you have an idea that you know is gold, don’t shy away during meetings. Raise your hand, get noticed, and put your idea out there. Every community of ants needs a Flik, and every company needs a problem solver.

2. Be curious — from Alice in Wonderland

Alice might have dozed off while her sister was trying to help her study, but Wonderland was too intriguing to ignore. Don’t feel the need to stay trapped where you are, doing what you’re doing. If you’ve always wondered what it might be like to quit your job and become a freelance photographer, there’s only one way you’ll get to experience what that feels like!

3. Be true to your heart — from Mulan

Always go with your gut. While I don’t recommend cross-dressing for work like Mulan had to, if there’s a warrior inside of you, don’t be afraid to let him or her out.

All along the journey, make sure you are doing what you think is right. This has an equal meaning for workplace ethics, too. Bring honor to your family (and company) and stand up for what you believe in.

4. Train hard — from Hercules

Sure, now Hercules is a hero with more muscles than the juice-head at your local gym. But remember the beginning of the movie when he was a scrawny little boy? He had to put in a lot of time and work to get from A to B.

You might not have a satyr voiced by Danny DeVito giving you motivational quips the whole way, but practice makes perfect. (Even athletic practice can make you a more valuable employee.)

5. Know your place — from The Lion King

Running away from your troubles won’t get you anywhere. (Ok, you may make some amusing friends along the way, but that’s beside the point.)

If you have a responsibility, own up to it. If you’ve taken on a big project, make sure you come through. And the same can be said for the opposite: don’t jump at the chance to take on a huge task if you aren’t ready.

6. Don’t take credit for work you didn’t do — from Ratatouille

Sometimes it’s all too easy to accept praise, even if you aren’t deserving of it. Give credit where credit is due. If you take the spotlight for work you didn’t do, at some point the rug will be pulled out from under you, and you’ll look like the rat. Alfredo was naive to think nobody would discover that Remy was really the master chef, but you’ll be smarter than that, right?

7. Hard work pays off — from The Princess and the Frog

Tiana is synonymous with dedication. She was a “slasher” before the word even existed, working two jobs to save up for her dream of opening her own restaurant. Despite the prejudice and stress in her life, she always kept her eyes on the prize. And I don’t want to spoil the movie, but Tiana’s Place is open for business!

Take a cue from her; stay focused on what you want to achieve, and make sure you’re taking steps towards accomplishing whatever that is. Set goals for yourself, like earning a promotion in 2012, and do what you can to make it a reality.

Got any Disney lessons to add?

Adam Britten is a Master of Digital Marketing Student at Hult International Business School in London. Read more about him at AdamBritten.com or chat with him on Twitter @AdamBritten.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • edmackaveli

    Don’t play favourites. If there’s anything that Coach Boon taught me from Remember The Titans, it’s that you need to be fair to everyone to have a successful team. Probably more of a life lesson, but no less applicable to a team environment in the work place. Nice work!

    • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

      Remember the Titans is full of lessons; this is a good one!

  • http://twitter.com/ahmed_hussein12 ahmed hussein

    i have to say adam very well written i really liked it and made me really think about what Disney have taught us over the years and i think that is why we all love them

    • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

      Thanks, Ahmed!

  • Priya Ganguli

    Love it! I totally agree with the fact that Disney cartoons teach us a lot – a real lot! The most important one for me – NEVER give up on dreams (in this case career ambitions!) – however big or small – you can push yourself to accomplishing your dream – Ratatouille, Up, Mulan – all taught me this!

    • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

      Yeah, many Disney movies do have that perseverance theme running through them. “All you need is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust!”

  • Marusia Sandu

    Inspiring! Wisdom comes from life’s simplest lessons. :)

  • http://twitter.com/DaanSuijlen Daan Suijlen

    My favourite is: “Be true to your heart — from Mulan” so true!

  • http://twitter.com/thatbrooke Brooke Rutherford

    Every community of ants needs a Filk, well put.

    • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

      Thanks, Brooke,

  • http://about.me/evangelos.tselentis Evangelos Tselentis

    Train hard — from Hercules

    or “no pain no gain”… :)

  • Dmpayson

    giant LOLZ that Adam wrote this…you know your friend has made it big when they wrote something that gets passed your way w/o a “hey adam wrote this” preface.. haha. Congrats!!! -Deanna

    • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

      Hahaha this is amazing.

  • http://meetjoyce.blogspot.com/2011/04/paypal-versus-odesk-local-funds.html Joyce

    Such a very inspiring article you have here. My favorite would be “Be true to your heart.” You won’t be confused if you really follow what your heart desires.

    • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

      Thank you, Joyce :D

  • diana nazareth

    These are great! I’d love to see a Best Lessons From your Favourite Miyazaki Movies Column…but that’s because I’m a geek.

  • http://twitter.com/4uthebest1 DYNAMIC

    Plan, monitor and correct: Mickey Mouse starring in ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ in Fantasia exemplifies the disastrous results in the absence of proper training, preparation and strategy when tackling projects. The aftermath necessitates intervention from a supervisor or wizardly magic to correct and fix the mess.
    :D

  • Anonymous

    Now I have the song, “True to Your Heart” (the 98 Degrees version) stuck in my head. Thanks, Adam.

    • http://twitter.com/AdamBritten Adam Britten

      You’re welcome ;)

  • Krazikitti1

    Belle also taught that there is no crime in being a bookworm

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewKardon Andrew Kardon

    What an awesome post! I’d also add Toy Story to the mix along the lines of “Don’t be threatened by competition.” Woody hated Buzz from the get-go because he thought he’d steal the show. In the end, the two become friends and are both better for it. So don’t jump to conclusions and get jealous immediately. Try collaborating.

  • http://twitter.com/arandomthoughts Arianna Merritt

    Impressive work Adam! These are great lessons. I’m going to add this link to my post. I learned the lesson of “Digging Deep” in relationships from Beauty and the Beast.
    http://ariannasrandomthoughts.com/2012/01/12/dig-deep-the-lesson-i-learned-from-beauty-and-the-beast/

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  • http://www.wwuniversity.eu/ wwuni

    the characters of disney have learned us a lot, as they were our first impact with the world ….all the grown up have inside a bit of those characters

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  • Jrjrouse13

    These 7 lessons are so on point. Love it! Thank you very much for the share. @jrjrouse13

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1160472422 Joel Rigonan

    I’m reminded of the movie, The Princess and the Frog. My favorite line there was “I’m almost there.” And I am indeed, almost there. Maybe that’s what everybody needs. A hope that they are already near on their accomplishments. You can start by seeking for help. Career Confidential can help you for your future: http://bit.ly/KCR4st.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=734461578 Stephanie Knauff

    The “Be curious” advice sounds reckless at best. In this economy, most people are lucky to have a job, much less one they like. But your choices are to have a job, or be broke. There’s very little opportunity for soul-searching in this job environment…

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