A Cup of Hot Chocolate

Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work. -H. L. Hunt

I had just spoken at a Disney Leadership Conference when a young manager walked up to me. He introduced himself and said, "I don't expect that you remember me, but I worked at Epcot. I am a manager today because you gave me a cup of hot chocolate." My puzzled look encouraged him to continue with his story. "It was Christmas Eve, and I had completed my night shift as the park closed. You were in the Cast hallway handing out cookies and cups of hot chocolate to the Cast Members as they were leaving. I knew you had young children, and that you had given up Christmas Eve with your kids to serve your Cast Members that night. I decided then that if that is what Disney leaders do, I wanted to be a Disney leader."

If you want to be a successful leader, you better be prepared to sacrifice. Oftentimes, your day will start when others are going home. As much as you might try to manage "work/life balance," you will face prolonged periods of imbalance when work is all consuming.

There are a couple of steps you can take as a leader to confront the issue of sacrifice:


  • You need to recognize and commit to the sacrifice involved to attain great leadership. Professional athletes and Olympic champions know that the work is intense and long, while glory is fleeting. They commit to excel in their sport, knowing that many other areas of life will have a lower priority. Their families—parents, spouses, children—understand and accept the requirements and also commit to support them in their efforts.


  • There should also be open discussions with family about limits. For the first thirteen years of my career, my wife and I moved eleven times. Shortly after I started to work for Disney in Orlando, I was asked if I would move to California, for our twelfth move in 14 years. With a three-year-old son and twin one-year-old daughters, my wife (justifiably) said no, and I agreed. During my 12 years at Disney, I was asked to move to France, California (several times), Tokyo and Hong Kong. The timing was not right from either a family standpoint or due to community activities that I was leading. As I look back, it is clear that my career would have benefited from some of these moves. However, my family would have been impacted negatively. Leaders who don't set limits often make decisions they later regret, especially with regard to their spouses and families.


Leadership is a noble calling, with high rewards, but also high demands. If you aspire to lead, be prepared to sacrifice.

Action Points
• Recognize that leadership requires sacrifice, and the higher you wish to lead, the more you will have to sacrifice.
• Ensure you are committed to make leadership a priority, and that your family will support you.
• Be willing to set limits, especially as they relate to your family.

A full commitment to excel as a leader, open communication, and no regrets later in life

Excerpted from Chapter 40, A Cup of Hot Chocolate, of The Surpassing Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence, thesurpassinglife.com.

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