I met a wonderful, inspirational gentleman at Walt Disney World last month. It might be the thing that I remember most when I reflect back on that trip. Daniel said I could share his name and story, so here it is …
Daniel was serving us at the restaurant in the lobby of the luxurious Wilderness Lodge and getting trained-in by another employee. My wife noted that he had a special, blue name tag with a silver employee recognition pin on it (similar to the one above). I thought it might be a ‘trainee’ badge, but she was sure it was something special.
It turns out, he wasn’t a new guy at all – he had worked at Disney for more than 25 years. During that time he had been awarded the special badge for exceptional leadership & customer service. It was a big deal and his trainer for this role told us all about it. The Disney ‘Legacy’ Award is the highest honor and employee can receive. They are voted the award by their colleagues, direct reports, and supervisors. Very few of them are awarded – just a few hundred out of 200,000 employees in a worldwide in a given year.
Daniel’s story is amazing. He came to the USA from Venezuela and started working as a cleaner in the resort restaurants. He worked his way up in responsibility over the years and had been in some really fun roles. He became a cook in the restaurants, worked in Disney World transportation as a Monorail pilot, and had been a ‘handler’ for the Disney characters in the parks and visiting hospitals/working with Make A Wish. He was getting trained as a restaurant server to be prepared to now run a WDW restaurant himself.
We are similar age and I asked him what retirement would look like for him. He said he wanted to spend time with his grandkids, travel a lot (more than 50% of the year), and talk to young people about achieving success in America the way he did.
He was very clear that young people need to know that “life is about the power of choices”. The power to work hard, the power to find opportunities, and the power to always make the most of what you have. He said it is critical that they see that “they need to commit to a PLAN.” That’s what he did and what he wants the next generation to also do.
His advice for young people to reach success applies equally for planning your retirement. “Have a plan” and know that “retirement is about the power of choices”. Early retirement itself is a ‘Legacy Award’ for people who made the most of their situation while they were working.
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!
Image Credit: RD.com