The Lessons I learned as a Disney Imagineering Intern When I was 15
[A note I sent to our team this morning]
In 1993, I was hired as an intern to Walt Disney Imagineering. I was 15.
I arrived in Burbank for the summer and lived with college students in corporate housing.
It was very lonely and I couldn’t drive and I didn’t have any friends.
I’d get to work each day and not really know what I was supposed to be doing. After a week I went up to the guy who hired me and said,
“Jeff*, what do you want me to do?”
And he replied,
“Jonathan, if I knew what I wanted you to do, I would have done it myself. If I knew what I wanted you to do, I wouldn’t have hired you.”
I went back to my desk and I felt scared but free. Everything fell into place after that. I found projects to work on. I invented. I did studies. I built things. I learned to code a little. I became a great intern.
The next summer, me, Jeff, and others from Imagineering took a trip to Silicon Graphics in the valley. It was the top company in technology at the time.
I told Jeff I was nervous.
He said, “Jonathan, these people are not smarter than you, they just know things you don’t know. And you can choose to learn anything you want.”
I’m 41 years old. These lessons and others stick with me today 25 years later. I hear the words as if they were spoken to me today. I remember Jeff’s tone and his face.
Much more is possible than you think it is on a given day. Things are within reach that you first think are miles away.
Let your mind be open to what is possible. Imagine that things are within reach by just learning and putting one foot in front of the other. Where others see impossible, see work, a path and blue skies. This is our story. This continues to be our story. It is yours if you want it to be.
*Jeff is not Jeff’s name. We’ve sadly lost touch. So I used a pseudonym.