Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

071: Making Magic is Less Complicated Than You Think: Interview with Lee Cockerell [Podcast]

Disney theme parks are filled with magic. You can see it in the faces of every kid and kid at heart. But the secret to making Disney magic is not as mysterious as you might think.

071: Making Magic is Less Complicated Than You Think: Interview with Lee Cockerell

It all comes down to people. By hiring the right people, Disney establishes a strong foundation of talented, passionate people who deliver a signature experience for their visitors. But a slow, intentional hiring process is only the beginning. There’s still training, culture creation, and taking risks.

Our guest today was the mastermind behind all of that for many, many years.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Lee Cockerell and I talk about his journey from working as a banquet waiter to ending his career as the Head of Operations for Disney theme parks in the U.S. Listen in as we talk about how Lee used a positive attitude and self-discipline to move forward in life.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you are reading this via email, please click here).


You can also listen via iTunes or on Stitcher.

Clarity is everything

Any parent knows the frustration of repeating yourself to your kids. Everything from cleaning their room, to remembering to flush the toilet, to keeping their elbows off the table. Retention requires repetition.

However, if your communication isn’t clear it doesn’t matter how often you repeat yourself. The same thing applies to our work.

At Disney theme parks you rarely see a confused guest. There are maps, signs, and cast members everywhere. Each attraction is clearly marked and guests know where to find food and fun. Clarity is key.

BONUS: Get the full interview transcript here.

Show highlights

In this episode, Lee and I discuss:

  • Starting a new job with zero experience
  • Launching a Disney Park in Paris without speaking French
  • The immeasurable benefits of traveling and living abroad
  • How changing your environment leads to person growth
  • Two essential characteristics of versatility
  • The detrimental impact of a bad attitude
  • Cultivating discipline as a competitive advantage
  • Creating a legacy of character
  • The positive correlation between hard work and satisfaction
  • Avoiding survival mode and the fear of getting stuck
  • An integral key to forging a successful career path
  • The courage to step up and take the risks
  • Intentionally spending time on activities that provide value
  • Three truths to unlocking time management magic
  • Big struggles of time management for teams
  • Clarity as the secret sauce

Quotes and Takeaways

  • Do the hard things. It will make life easier for you.” —Lee Cockerell
  • You don’t realize how much you don’t know until you get into a new situation” —Lee Cockerell
  • If you have a good attitude and you’re organized, you can get by for a long time” —Lee Cockerell
  • Learn to have resilience, be organized, and keep your promises.” —Lee Cockerell
  • A life without risks is a shame. The fun is out there on the edge.” —Lee Cockerell
  • Be a person who doesn’t have to know everything.” —Lee Cockerell
  • Manage like a mother. They’re tough, but they’re looking out for you.” —Lee Cockerell


BONUS: Get the full interview transcript here.
What risks do you need to take? What hard work do you need to stick with to become better? Share in the comments

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Clara Meierdierks

    Thanks Jeff ! Lee Cockerell is saying The same Thing like In your ” Art of Writing ” But in a different voice. It is Motivating , encouraging . I have Said a lot i Think , But have still not
    Trusted myself to present it out. Lee is quiet right with The idea of seeking for Community, because they afterall are The audience we are Seeking for. I will need to muster my confidence and Go out There with my voice. Thanks to you Guys.

  • Wonderful episode, Jeff. I interview Lee Cockerell often for Creating Disney Magic and I still learned new information in your interview with him. I appreciate your perspective and the questions you asked him.

  • This was my favorite podcast! Amazing!
    Too many great parts to mention but especially love this…“So, it’s kind of three things, I think: Hiring the right people, making sure you’re educate and train people, and creating a culture of safety where they feel good about who they work for just like I tell people, ‘Manage like a mother. Your mother, you know, she’s tough. But she’s looking out for you.’ And that’s what a good leader does.”

    Sums it up perfectly!

  • Stanley Revis

    Disney theme parks! an Amazing story. As you said intentional hiring process is only the beginning. There’s still training, culture creation, and taking risks.The role model you gave is very good.Professional resume writing service helps to make a good resume that helps for hiring process.

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