Psychologists tell us that money spent on experiences provides more happiness than money spent on things. Tellingly, I can’t remember the toys I received from my parents (I mean, um, Santa!) in 1983 or 1984, but I remember driving all the way down to Florida from Indiana. From that trip I remember dad taking us into the Atlantic, our first ocean experience. He held onto us while we rode what seemed like impossibly huge waves. And the memory of pleasure from that trip to Disney World, while dormant, remained so strong that decades later as my eyes fluttered opened on this past Monday morning, I immediately thought, Today’s the Day We’re Going to Disney!
And so this week began with an intense, all day session of Uncling on Monday at Disney’s California Adventure Park. My sister, her husband and my three nephews came into town last week and we had saved Disney for the last full day of the trip. Despite living in Southern California for nearly ten years, I had yet to set foot in the company’s venerable Anaheim location and it was my first time at a Disney park since the age of 13. Much of the experience seemed in line with my memories. Music filled the air at the entrance and an impossibly happy “cast member” took our tickets and ushered us into the park. Characters occasionally roamed the streets (despite the heat) and detailed animatronics flanked several of the rides.
My inner liberal arts student wants to write something critical about the company. Perhaps a humorous critique like this one, that the company’s princesses demean women by contributing to gender stereotypes. Or a diatribe like this one about the consumer culture it instills in our children. Or an exploration like this one of how much the company these days stands on the shoulders of ESPN for the majority of its profits. Or a piece like this one exploring, among other things, how much Disney now relies on acquisitions for quality content.
All of these are worthy subjects. Investors particularly should understand the outsized role that ESPN plays in the company’s earnings and how that would be impacted if cable bundling ended as a practice. Parents of young girls are right to question if their daughters should be exposed to other role models. Disney’s current creative malaise fits in line with a broader story about Hollywood’s reliance on actions films and sequels to meet revenue expectations.
Yes I could write about all of these things, but my blog always celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of Californians. And as I visited the park I remembered that few people have embodied that spirit like Walt Disney. His many ventures often met early ridicule and yet his exacting, perfecting vision lives on today. When facing difficulties and needing a little pump up, entrepreneurs should remember that Disney himself was rejected on several occasions as he sought financing for Disneyland – rejections that now seem crazy.
As the late Steve Jobs said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
But enough with the motivational rah rah . . .
After taking my sister and her family to the airport on Tuesday I had a miniature case of empty nest syndrome. It’s not that my nephews were perfect angels. In fact, at times I marveled that my sister did not break down in total exasperation (“Moooooom Charlie touched me”). But the silence was a little deafening as I went back to my hustles of the week.
Mostly I played catch up on client work, but on Thursday evening I attended a mixer sponsored by Digital LA at Sayers Club in Hollywood. I chose the name of my blog to celebrate a spirit and milieu I constantly saw and continue to see in Los Angeles. Randomly I would find myself at, say for example, a location of Urth Café on a Wednesday in the middle of the afternoon. But even at that hour it would be packed with other able-bodied, presumably educated professionals yakking to each other. And I would think to myself, what do these people do? How did they get here? Or . . . in moments of insecurity . . . how am I here?
It’s an ethereal, dissilient liveliness without the boundaries of a traditional job that I find unique to California. Creative class warriors always hustling for the next gig and entrepreneurs working on the next deal. I can’t capture it in words but occasionally I see it and at the Digital LA event I saw it in action. Kevin Winston came up to two men under the age of 25 to give them nametags. I overheard both of them debating whether Winston should list them on the tags as . . . writers, producers or directors. One had arrived in Los Angeles only last week.
Even some of the people I met there with more traditional jobs work in fields cascading with change. Marissa Zaenger told me in detail about her work for Collective Digital Studio, which represents emerging YouTube channels. Some with as few as 30,000 to 40,000 views per video. Collective Digital Studio promotes the channels and negotiates better advertising rates. YouTube, of course, recently opened a production facility in Los Angeles for YouTube creators to produce original video content. All of these activities Zaenger, using air quotes, referred to as “New Hollywood.”
Will Keenan the Vice President of Vertical Development at Maker Studios also told me about a lot of the changes happening in the YouTube space. Much like the narrowcasting that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s when cable channels segmented audiences, YouTube verticals continue to segment even more. The platform’s global reach enables smaller, niche interests to be sustained.
I know of people making great content for YouTube, but I still don’t think of it as a go-to place for new, interesting content. Quirky, yes. Cat videos, of course. However, I know that it’s the epicenter of a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial energy in Los Angeles. And I also know that every day people arrive here like Disney did from Kansas and we never know where their hustle will take us. Enjoy the ride.
Los Angeles, California