Walt Disney was a futurist.
He was always thinking about how the world could be a better place. And he wanted to be a part of that movement, a part of the solution. He dreamed big and then he dreamed even bigger. Most people, after having a tremendously successful studio and building a theme park unlike any in the world would have felt pretty content. But not Walt. Instead he embarked on the next great adventure – Walt Disney World. It was going to be more than just a theme park but would be an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow or EPCOT for short. Walt envisioned what he called “The Florida Project” to be a fully-functioning city designed much like Disneyland with a hub and spoke system. The business and entertainment district would be in the center and houses would be on the outside where the people who worked in the city could live. And you’d be able to get there using public transportation designed like the Peoplemover. If you’ve ever seen the plans, they look spectacular! Unfortunately, Walt died before it could happen. In 1966, Walt passed away from lung cancer. But even up to his death, he was still making plans for EPCOT. At the press conference for the movie Tomorrowland, Brad Bird told us, “On his deathbed he was looking up at the ceiling and pointing out how the city would be laid out.” That’s how strong a vision and passion he had for the project. He could literally see it in front of him. When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the first phase of “The Florida Project,” “someone commented to Mike Vance, creative director of Walt Disney Studios, ‘Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?’ ‘He did see it,’ Vance replied simply. ‘That’s why it’s here.’”
Walt’s vision and passion fueled his every decision.
When he got an idea in his head, he was like a dog with a bone; he was determined to get it done. Critics were sure Disney’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, would be a flop. But Walt invested everything he had in it, to make this vision a reality. He brought in his team one night and laid out for them the entire story as he saw it in his head. He literally acted every part in front of them and when that meeting was over, they were committed. When the film was released it was the highest grossing film in history and even today remains in the top 10. Critics again were all over Walt over the idea of a family theme park the scope of which was more extravagant than any built so far. Ironically, they called it “Walt’s Folly” much like they called Snow White “Disney’s Folly.” But Walt had long dreamed of a place he could take his daughters that wasn’t grimy or slimy or dirty; a place where families could enjoy the magic of being together, and from a bench at Griffith Park where Walt sat watching his girls ride the carousel, a vision was born that would later become Disneyland. Despite the road blocks, difficulties, and criticism, Disneyland brought in over a million visitors in the first 10 weeks.
It was Walt’s vision that led to his success.
Having a clear vision gave purpose to his employees, to his company, and to his life. Walt is a clear example of how important vision is to us all. But that’s a lesson we learn not just from Walt, but from our own Bible, too. Perhaps, that’s even where Walt picked it up. He grew up in the Congregational Church but later avoided stepping foot in one, having since become skeptical of organized religion. The lessons he learned though influenced his life. He once wrote in Guideposts, “I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person’s whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storm and stress of life and keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish. All I ask of myself, ‘Live a good Christian life.’ To that objective I bend every effort in shaping my personal, domestic, and professional activities and growth.” Without inspiration, we would perish. That’s the same sentiment, nearly word for word we find in the Bible. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Without vision, the people perish.”
That word, “vision,” is called chazown.
It’s spelled funny, sounds funny, but has a deep, life-giving meaning. Chazown means vision, dream, or revelation. Chazown means vision, dream, or revelation. What is the chazown for your life? This concept of a life-giving vision or dream has become more and more real to me as I’ve gotten older. I’ve realized that more than anything else, this one thing can shape your entire life. Without it, we wander aimlessly. We move from moment to moment without any real meaning. My wife has this in spades. When Cassie gets a vision, she too is like a dog with a bone. You can’t dislodge it no matter how hard you try. That doesn’t mean she’s always right. I still give her a hard time about the Laundromat she wanted to buy (and which she still insists would have made a great investment). But I am certain that the key to her success in her career is because the clarity of her vision is as clear as crystal. She knows what she hopes to accomplish in her work and it drives her on. She knows what she needs to see happen at the end of a project and that helps her pursue it. I believe we all have this capacity within us, to pursue the vision God places on our hearts no matter what it is. It might be for your spiritual life, for your home life, for your work life, but God has a vision for your life. I take the words Jeremiah shared with us seriously, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).”
In his book of the same name, Craig Groeschel says chazown gives us four gifts.
Focus, endurance, peace, and passion. Focus, endurance, peace, and passion. When we are following our vision, we have focus. We aren’t easily distracted because we have our eyes on the goal. Knowing what our vision is allows us to streamline our decisions and to make choices that move us forward. Craig puts it this way, “Chazown gives you the ability to say no to good things and say yes to great things.” Vision also gives us endurance. We can stand short-term pain for long-term gain. We can stand short-term pain for long-term gain. That might mean biting your lip while working with a difficult person. It might mean going the long way around at a carnival to avoid the fried Twinkie booth that you know you’d be too tempted to eat. It might mean having the discipline to go for a walk every day, even though we get 100 degree weather in the summer. But knowing where you are headed in life allows us to overcome those obstacles without distracting us. It also give us peace. Which is different from being cocky. Cocky is insecurity disguised as self-assuredness. Peace is actual self-assuredness. Peace gives you confidence in what you are doing, in the choices you’re making, and the person you are. And finally, passion. Walt’s passion was obvious. In every book I’ve read, in every article online or in a magazine, in every documentary I’ve seen, they all say the same thing. Walt was passionate about what he did. He obsessed over every detail and wanted to see every plan. But that’s not because he had control issues. It was because he had a clear vision for what he believed was possible and he wanted to make sure that in the pursuit of that vision, he got it right. Groeschel told a story in his book about the evangelist, D.L. Moody. A group of ministers asked him what was the key to his ministry’s success. He brought them to his hotel window and asked them what they were able to see. They looked and told him they saw people in a park. “With tears in his eyes, the great evangelist said, ‘But I see countless souls who will one day spend eternity in hell if they do not find their Savior.’”
What is your chazown?
If you don’t know, I would encourage you to pray about that today. I would encourage you to be in thought about that, to be in prayer about that, to read your Bibles with that thought in mind. What is your chazown? What is the vision that God has placed upon your heart today? It doesn’t matter how old you are, God wants you to live your most fully realized life. Those are the plans he has for you. Too many of us simply exist in the world when we really need to live. We get weighed down by the anxieties of everyday life and held back by our own fears, but that is not the fully realized life God has in mind. When you truly find the vision God has for you, everything else will click into place. That does not mean you won’t make mistakes in pursuing this vision. That doesn’t mean that everything will run smoothly. It simply means that your life will have a purpose and a destination that will give you those four gifts: focus, endurance, peace, and passion. And who wouldn’t want to live that kind of life?
Disney’s vision can be summed up in three simple words: We create happiness.
We create happiness. Today that vision is still being taught to cast members throughout the company. Now it’s a little longer and little more nuanced, but the essential elements of that vision are simple. We create happiness. It is that singular focus that has kept the company profitable for so long. It is why Disney has become an entertainment giant. When other companies have floundered, Disney has grown. When other companies cut corners, Disney invests even more – and becomes even more successful. At the Disney Institute class I took over my sabbatical, I was astounded by one thought in particular. One of our instructors told us that the goal of the company isn’t based on profit. It’s based on happiness. Because they know that if they achieve their goal of creating happiness for their guests, the profits will come naturally. And that rule for success has carried the company for nearly 100 years. Too often companies, churches, and people measure their success in money, attendance, or accolades. But what if instead we had higher goals, a loftier purpose? Perhaps if we allowed ourselves to fully embrace the vision God has for us, we could do even more amazing things the likes of which we can’t possibly imagine.
 Craig Groeschel, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, p.48.
 Ibid, p.23.
 Ibid, p.24.