3 Essential Areas which Highly Successful People Consistently Question : Part 1

Walt was born on December 5, 1901, and by the early age of 4 he had already developed his profound love for drawing. In 1911, he met Walter Pfeiffer who had introduced him to the magical world of vaudeville and motion picture. It wasn’t long before Walt was spending most of his time at the Pfeiffer’s home than his own. During his freshman year he took night classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and became the cartoonist for the school newspaper.

In 1919, Walt moved back to Kansas City to fuel his artistic ambition. He started his career by drawing political caricatures and comic strips for a newspaper, in which he was shortly fired.

Walt’s brother Roy helped Walt get a temporary job at Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he created advertisements for newspapers, magazines and movie theatres. This was where he was introduced to the cartoonist Ubbe Ierks. Later that year, he was fired once again from his job.

Following this event, Walt and Iwerks decided to start a company together known as the “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists”. After yet another rough start, he had to go on to the Kansas City Film Ad Company to earn money for a living. This was what introduced him to his passion for animation, and decided he would become an animator. His new-found passion was what would eventually lead Walt to start his own animation business Laugh-O-Grams.

Walt screened his cartoons at a local theatre which belonged to a highly popular showman in Kansas City, Frank Newman. Because of this, Walt’s cartoons were on the rise and grew quickly with popularity. Despite Laugh-O-Grams growing popularity, the company had problems making ends meet. By the end of 1922, Disney was living in his office and taking baths once a week at Union Station. In a short time, he was loaded with debt, and had to file for bankruptcy.

But Walt did not give up despite his reoccurring failures. So he decided to move to the movie industry of the world, Hollywood, California. Walt and his brother Roy combined all of their money and started a cartoon studio known as the Disney Brothers’ Studio. The studio would go on to create many series and characters such as: Alice in Wonderland, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse and many more. This was just the start for Walt Disney and his creative ambition in life.

He went through failure, poverty, and being told no too many times. The businesses didn’t last too long and either ended with bankruptcy or failure. He was fired by a newspaper editor because he was told “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”  But that didn’t stop Walt because he kept pushing through; Walt had to dig deep in his life, and answer those painful questions of – how, why, if, when? He asked himself those essential questions to uncover what he really wanted in life. Today, Disney is one of the world’s leaders in animation, and rakes in billions from merchandise, movies, and theme parks from all around the world. [1]

The more you complain, the worse your problems become

Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make. – Eckhart Tolle

You’re always given a choice.

You’ll either make it happen, or come up with an excuse.

And once you’ve told yourself that you can’t do it, that’s it, it’s already too late.

The seed has been planted.

You can’t expect success to grow when you’re planting for failure.

The moment we tell ourselves we can’t do it is when we stop looking for any sort of possibilities.

Instead we look to excuses and complaints to justify our thinking.

This trap that most of us fall into is known as a coping mechanism. Specifically, an appraisal-focused coping strategy.

  • Appraisal-focused: Directed towards challenging one’s own assumptions, adaptive cognitive [2]

In other words, there will be a process of denial, focusing on other areas in life, and blaming other factors which create distance between you and the problem.

Appraisal-focused strategies occur when the person modifies the way they think, for example: employing denial, or distancing oneself from the problem. People may alter the way they think about a problem by altering their goals and values, such as by seeing the humor in a situation. [2]

For example, when a certain event happens and we respond, normally, we feel that we are responding to what the reality really is.

Unfortunately, that’s almost rarely true.

The truth is we are responding to our subjective interpretation of how we are experiencing what is presently happening.

Ever wonder how two people who shared the same experience describe completely different scenarios? Or if you ask about certain events, they sometimes find themselves in disagreement?

It’s essential to challenge our own interpretations, and to never hold a concrete perspective on anything.

Is your perception reality? Or is your reality your perception?

An appraisal focused strategy is appropriate when the situation you’re dealing with offers no direct or clear answer.

In cases like these, the solutions possible can vary depending on the perception one holds of reality.

In other words, if you change the way you approach your problems, it can either eliminate the problem or provide you with an alternative method.

And highly successful people do this all the time. They investigate into the problems they face and turn it upside down.

They analyze thoroughly, question their position, judge external factors, and oppose the norm.

This screening process allows their filters on perception to be constantly fluctuating, giving different perspectives and allowing for thorough problem solving and discovery. And if needed, they will bring in 3rd parties to challenge their claims which can lead into further investigation.

We accept only what we like to hear

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. [3]

In other words, when we visit information that resonates with our beliefs we will easily accept it.

Psychologist Daniel Gilbert puts it really well.

In the New York Times, he said:

When our bathroom scale delivers bad news, we hop off and then on again, just to make sure we didn’t misread the display or put too much pressure on one foot. When our scale delivers good news, we smile and head for the shower. By uncritically accepting evidence when it pleases us, and insisting on more when it doesn’t, we subtly tip the scales in our favor. [4]

In contrast, when we find information that will force us to reconsider and question our beliefs, we hesitate to accept such information.

We begin to question the accuracy of what is being said, and usually come to the conclusion that we are looking at invalid information, or fall back to searching for information that will agree with our own beliefs.

The creativity behind your curiosity

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. – Walt Disney

If you want to fix anything, you have to be curious.

You have to inquire into your problems, ask the right questions, and answer truthfully. (Otherwise, how else are you going to figure out the problem if you lie to yourself?)

The problem with problems is their severity. Most of us deal with surface problems. These are the problems that are visible, in sight, and don’t require much investigation, and usually easy to deal with.

On the other hand, a root problem is the actual reason to your problem.

Think of root problems like a weed. Once the root is pulled out, the weeds can no longer grow.

Just remember, getting to the root of your problems won’t be easy.

Don’t give temporary problems constant attention

A surface problem is usually a short term issue that lacks in severity. Usually in the morning you will have forgotten about them.

Examples include: Why did he cut me off in traffic, why does it have to rain today, why does this always happen to me?

This form of thinking develops an unconscious habit of complaining. Something you shouldn’t deliberately expand your energy on.

To add, when something does not agree with your reality, you will fall back into your habitual process of complaining, instead of inquiring into the problem.

This habit will slowly deteriorate your curious mind and dull curious thinking.

The importance of your baseline

In most scientific studies, a baseline is established to create a minimum or starting point that is later used for comparisons.

Regardless of the situation you’re in, establishing a baseline for yourself can allow you to determine where your progress and allow for future analysis (whether you progress or stagnate)

This proactive process invites you to dig deeper into your why.

If the why is determined, this creates a snowball effect into other areas of your life and allows for a clear baseline to be established.

The deeper you dig, the clearer you’ll see

When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves. – Anthony J. D’Angelo

The more questions you ask the more you’ll discover. This will subtly change the role you play in your day to day life.

Let me explain, by asking questions you stop victimizing yourself and are no longer subjected to complaining about your short term problems.

Instead, you work towards a successful solution, thus affecting the framework of your reality – you become the solution to your own problems.

If you lie to yourself, you will only end up cheating yourself

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When was the last time you heard of successful people constantly complaining or relying on others to fix their own problems?

By asking yourself the right questions you will reframe your self-image. This makes it critical to answer, honestly.

Lying to yourself about what you want, your desires, your why, and everything in between will only create confusion that you will have to clear up later.

Being honest will allow you to create a truthful baseline which can be used as indication for any progress made.

Set your expectations and you’ll hit your mark

If you want, I mean really want change in your life it will happen. Otherwise, you can forget about it.

The Pygmalion Effect is a well-documented psychological effect that has been scientifically proven, it states, if you set high expectations for yourself, you will be more likely to perform better. [5]

If you really want to make a necessary change in your life, you need to set high expectations for yourself and your desires.

You have to be willing to go through all the struggles and pains associated with what you want, while holding a clear vision and knowing that it will be worth it.

Successful people have known this for ages.

They’ve gone through failures, regrets, missed opportunities, and constant downfalls in their lives. But they get up and they keep going.


Because they continually uphold a clear vision of what they want in life.

They understand the concept of “failure” is temporary.

Change will happen when you’re ready to push through and make a personal commitment to yourself.

Your Action Plan

I recommend before starting that you have pen and paper for your answers. (This way you’ll have something tangible for yourself in the future)

These questions will give you an estimate on where you stand. Remember you can answer all these questions at once. But I would advise against it. Answer what you can honestly and take your time getting to the core of these questions.

Take time to see how you respond to these questions, and investigate your behaviors. Be aware of yourself, and notice any restrictions that may come to answering these questions honestly. Experiment with what may work for you and seek a practical strategy to these questions.

Just remember, there’s no right or wrong way to answer these questions – just honestly.

Here are 3 essential areas to help you get started:

1. Your reality

  • How do you see your reality?
  • In what regards do you hold yourself in? Are you often in charge of what you want, or do you find yourself seeking the approval?
  • What is the one change you want to see in your life?
  • Is there anything you are lying to yourself about, or are you honest with your progress? Have you been making progress in a specific area or role in your life, and if so, are satisfied with it? If you’re not, what is it that you find yourself lacking? What is holding you back, and not allowing you to progress?

2. Your situation

  • Can you accept your current situation?
  • If not, will taking action in some area help you accept your current situation?
  • Is the situation you are in permanent or temporary? Are you willing to do something to change your situation? If so, what is the one thing holding you in your situation?
  • If you’re not looking for a radical change, what small but actionable step can you take so you can begin to make progress?

3. Your baseline

  • Establish what you want for yourself. This can either be a short term or long term goal. In any case, your goal should be easily defined and understood. It should be clear to you. In the case that I would ask you what your goals are, would you hesitate, or could you clearly outline your goals?
  • Are your future goals vague, and something you hope to do in the future?
  • Are you willing to make necessary sacrifices for your goals?
  • Who will you need to help you in order to achieve your goals?
  • Are there certain classes, workshops, or skills needed to help progress your goals?
  • There are two questions left towards your goals.
  • Is it your goal, or are the goals influenced by others (ie. parents, friends, security or external influence)?
  • What have you done yesterday to help make your goal come to life? (for this question, you will have to look at how you manage your time, and how you prioritize your goals).

Now all that is left needed is to start. Just don’t start right away. Set a date for when to start, and make it soon.

Prepare all the steps you have to take in advance.

Create a “what-if” safety net that will pick you up in case you fail, and give you a procedure to follow in the case that things go wrong.

Also waiting adds the anticipation and excitement for a new change in your life which can create momentum to your start.

To live a passionate life, you’re going to have to take action.

And you’re going to struggle.

There’s no way around that.

But don’t let that discourage you.

Take Walt for example. He put up with rejection, failed jobs, bankruptcy and constant hardship for years on end.

But in the end, through all his mishaps and failures, he continued his process.

He found what made him happy, and went through the pain of discovering how he could make his fantasy a reality.

And now he has multiple kingdoms across the world, countless award winning movies and shows, and a multibillion empire to show for his work.

The moral of this story is, so long as you are willing, you’ll find a way.

Just remember, pain is only an indication that you’re making progress.


This will be a two part article. The second part will contain more areas that require further investigation. I decided to split it up as this article is almost 3000 words, and didn’t want to overwhlem.

Over to you: What other questions have you found that challenged your reality? How did you respond? Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments below.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coping_(psychology)#Types_of_coping_strategies
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias
  4. https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~bmayes/pdf/ImOK_YoureBiased_NYT.pdf
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect

Thank You to Holly for looking this over for me and giving me tips along the way.



  1. says

    The story of Walk Disney is a powerful one of perseverance and determination. I’ve learned the value of reacting in a positive or good way no matter what happens to me or around me. The attitude and actions we have during life’s seasons really define us and shapes our future. Great post, can’t wait for part 2.

    • says

      Hey Dan,

      Awesome insight as always. Glad to see you around.

      I’m definitely working on part two. That part will be more focused on the question side of things, to allow the readers to inquire within.

      – Dragos

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