Great Books Distilled: Books by History's Greatest Innovators, Founders, and Investors

The page is a reading list sharing the best books written by history's greatest innovators, founders, and investors. You’ll find more than 100 good books to read, organized by category. This is a reading list for people who don’t have time for unimportant books — which should be everyone. I only list the best books I've read and recommend. So you can be sure that each will be worth your time.

Great Books by Category

These are the best books to read, listed by category. Along with a few collections of rare and hard-to-find speeches, lectures, talks, interviews, letters, and memos that are a great way to go deeper.

All Book Summaries

For the best books that I read, I go through the painstaking effort to put together and publish my personal notes including highlights, excerpts, and takeaways. You get the best 5% of the ideas in these books in a form that takes 20 minutes at most to read.

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Daniel Scrivner

The Official Walt Disney Quote Book

Book Summary

This is my book summary of The Official Walt Disney Quote Book by Walt Disney Archives. My notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.


Overview

Walt Disney Archives' The Official Walt Disney Quote Book is a collection of Walt Disney's quotes on everything from storytelling, progress and innovation, building the Disney theme parks, children (young and old), and success. All thoughtfully compiled by the staff of the Walt Disney Archives.

It's an incredible compilation of the ideas, values, and principles that guided Walt Disney's work and life. I've often said, the best way to gain insight into anyone is to study their ideas through their own words. This book is a fantastic way to do just that.


The Book in Three Sentences

Walter Elias Disney, commonly known as Walt Disney, lived an incredible life. His many contributions including the creation of Mickey Mouse, Disney, animated cartoons and films, Disneyland, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Zorro, Dumbo, Imagineering, and more. This book contains the ideas and values that guided Walt Disney's work and life — in his own words. It's a worthy meditation on creativity, passion, luck, success, diversification, optimism, and childlike wonder.


My Favorite Walt Disney Quotes

“We are not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public.”

“Somehow I can't believe that there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four Cs. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

“I'll tell you what it costs when we're done. We're innovating.”

“In this volatile business of ours… we can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”

On competition: “I am not influenced by the techniques or fashions of any other motion picture company.”

“The truth of the matter is that by the time we had the studio built, the banks owed me money, thanks to Snow White. And it gave me more personal satisfaction than anything I have ever done. It proved to a lot of sneering critics that a full-length cartoon could make money.”

“We did not know whether the public would go for a cartoon feature. But we were darned sure that audiences would not buy a bad cartoon feature.”

“There's really no secret about our approach. We keep moving forward—opening up new doors and doing new things—because we're curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We're always exploring and experimenting. At WED we call it Imagineering—the blending of creative imagination with technical know-how.”

“If I were a fatalist, or a mystic, which I decidedly am not, it might be appropriate to say I believe in my lucky star. But I reject 'luck'—I feel every person creates his own 'determinism' by discovering his best aptitudes and following them undeviatingly.”

“I think if there's any part I've played the vital part is coordinating these talents, and encouraging these talents, and carrying them down a certain line. It's like pulling together a big orchestra. They're all individually very talented. I have an organization of people who are really specialists. You can't match them anywhere in the world for what they can do. But they all need to be pulled together, and that's my job.”

“Get a good idea, and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it's done, and done right.”

“I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.”

“When I make a profit, I don't squander it or hide it away. I immediately plow it back into a fresh project. I have little respect for money as such. I regard it merely as a medium for financing new ideas.”

“When planning a new picture, we don't think of grownups and we don't think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot, down deep in every one of us that maybe the world has made us forget, and that maybe our pictures can help recall.”

“I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty.”

“It is a curious thing that the more the world shrinks because of electronic communications, the more limitless becomes the province of the storytelling entertainer.”

“Since the beginning of mankind, the fable-tellers have not only given us entertainment but a kind of wisdom, humor, and understanding that, like all true art, remains imperishable through the ages.”

“I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination.”

“There are fashions in reading, even in thinking. You don't have to follow them unless you want to. On the other hand, watch out! Don't stick too closely to your favorite subject. That would keep you from adventuring into other fields. It's silly to build a wall around your interests.”

“By nature I'm an experimenter. To this day, I don't believe in sequels. I can't follow popular cycles. I have to move on to new things. So with the success of Mickey, I was determined to diversify.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

“You don't build it for yourself. You know what the people want, and you build it for them.”

“In order to make good in your chosen task, it's important to have someone you want to do it for. The greatest moments in life are not concerned with selfish achievements but rather with things we do for the people we love and esteem, and whose respect we need.”

“Mickey Mouse, to me, is a symbol of independence. He was a means to an end. He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad twenty years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner. Born of necessity, the little fellow literally freed us of immediate worry. He provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium of cartoon animation toward new entertainment levels. He spelled production liberation for us.”

“No man alone can do very much of consequence without the help of others.”

“We developed so many talents as we went along that I lay awake nights figuring out how to use them. That's how we became so diversified. It was a natural branching out.”

“The most important aim of any of the fine arts is to get a purely emotional response from the beholder.”

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.”


Preface by Rebecca Cline

During his long career, Walt Disney frequently commented on his philosophies of life, his ideals, his dreams, and his hopes for a better world. This book is a collection of those quotations attributed to Walt. His words have been gleaned from publications, productions, and interviews over the breadth of his amazing career. Some are simple nuggets of homespun wisdom, while others are statements of deep insight gained while he crafted the enchanting films, television shows, and unparalleled experiences that are so beloved by audiences the world over.

Walt once said, "In order to make good in your chosen task, it's important to have someone you want to do it for. The greatest moments in life are not concerned with selfish achievements but rather with the things we do for the people we love and esteem, and whose respect we need." So this book is dedicated to the esteemed founder of the Walt Disney Archives, Dave Smith, who gathered and edited the first book of Walt's quotes and left us an incredible road map to follow.

It has been compiled for those whom we at the Walt Disney Archives are most grateful …those discerning souls who are eager to learn more about the man who made such an incredible, positive impact on his own time and on the future yet to be—Walt Disney, the Showman of the World.

Rebecca Cline
Director, Walt Disney Archives

For more, I highly encourage you to order The Official Walt Disney Quote Book and read the entire book yourself.

Recommended Reading

If you enjoyed The Official Walt Disney Quote Book, you might also like:

Related Collections

You can find other books like The Official Walt Disney Quote Book in these collections:

Learn more about Walt Disney: Who is Walt Disney? Timeless Lessons on Storytelling, Creativity, and Craft from the Founder of Disney →


About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer turned founder and investor. He's led design work at Apple and Square. He is an early investor in Notion, Public.com, and Good Eggs. He's also the founder of Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Mar 3, 2024

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