Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Creating Magic


W.E. “Bill” Russell President & CEO Lake Norman Chamber

Perhaps no American in my lifetime has stimulated our imagination more than Walt Disney. As a child I went to the local Cinema along with the other kids in the neighborhood to see the new Disney films: Mary Poppins, The Love Bug, and The Jungle Book. Fifty years later, the studio is still cranking out hits like Beauty and the Beast and A Wrinkle in Time.

I still marvel at my first trip to Disney World. As a small boy I looked on in wide eyed wonder at the world that Walt built. A world he reminded folks that began with a little mouse. Walt’s ultimate dream was to create an amusement park bigger than Disney Land. A park which we now know as “The Magic Kingdom”, opening a year after his death in 1967. It was indeed “Magic.”

Disney’s brother Roy once told a story about a much younger Walt. When Disney was in fifth grade, his teacher told the students their assignment that day was to draw and color a flower garden. The teacher walked down the aisles looking over the student’s shoulders as they busied themselves in their task.

She stopped dead in her tracks as she stared down at Disney’s desk.  Walt’s drawings were quite unusual. “Walt,” she began, “Flowers don’t have faces on them.”

He looked up and said confidently, “Mine do!” And they still do.  Any trip to Disney Land or Disney World you will encounter flowers and they all have faces.

Lee Cockerell, an Executive Vice President for Walt Disney World Resort led a team which carried out Disney’s charge of creating magic for the millions of children and adults who visit the parks and resorts each year.  Cockerell told his staff, “It’s not the magic that makes it work, but the way we work that makes it magic.”


Joe Douglas, Founding Partner of Captiva Restaurant Group receives the McIntosh Law Firm Passion to Succeed Award as the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year.

Last month, the Lake Norman Chamber recognized Joe Douglas, founding partner of Captiva Restaurant Group (CRG) as the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year.  Captiva developed 131 Main in 2004 and Cowboy in 2017. Joe’s company now has five restaurants employing 400 people serving 60,000 diners a month.  In 2009, CRG developed the Tenders / PDQ concept which has grown into a national chain with 70 units nationwide.

It was inspiring as he stood in front of 200 Lake Norman business leaders singled out as The McIntosh Law Firm’s Passion to Succeed recipient.

Quite often an entrepreneur’s idea starts at the kitchen table with a checkbook or credit card. An entrepreneur reaches for the stars and even if they fall short, they clear the tree tops, leaving the ground far below.  Douglas, much like Disney himself, started with a vision of what could be if you used your imagination and perhaps added a little magic.

Sam Ewing, former Major League Baseball Player once said, “Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said could not be done.”

That is the spirit of entrepreneurship.  Being told you can’t do something and you go out and do it anyway.  Simply, not allowing others to place limitations on what you can accomplish.

Entrepreneurs know they cannot really rely on magic to make their ideas work. It takes vision, hard work, and perseverance. Sometimes like the Major Leaguer, you swing and you miss… but when they succeed, they create a little magic of their own.

Bill Russell

March 1, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking Risks – Lessons from a Traveler

There’s a story about a traveler who was passing through a small rural town.  As he entered the town he saw a billboard.  On the white portion someone had drawn a target and right through the middle of the target was a shot through the bullseye.  He went down the road a bit and there was a wide magnolia tree with a target on it, and right through the middle of the target, he saw another arrow in the bullseye.  All over town…bullseyes. He thought to himself, “Somewhere in this town is one heck of a marksman and I’m going to find him.” 

By asking questions he finally did find him but it turns out the marksman was the village idiot.  The traveler said, “Sir you have a great gift.   No matter what they say about you…you have developed a unique skill.  Tell me, how did you get to be such a proficient marksman with the bow?”  The man answered, “Nothing to it.  First you shoot and then you draw the target!”

 That certainly takes out all the risk.  We are a nation that is sometimes scared to take the risk. Even though this country was founded upon the principle of taking risks.  We agree our health care, education system, and social security all needs to be reformed.  Yet, each election cycle we hear all the promises and each congress ends their term with little having been done.  On a more personal note, sometimes we’re all afraid of going out on the limb…reaching outside our own comfort zones.  Many of us equate taking risks to failures.  Failure will indeed confront all of us at some time or the other, particularly if we take risks.  I’m not talking about foolish or silly risks with dire consequences, but rather calculated risk – risks that are worth taking.

I remember the first time I ran for president of my local Jaycee Chapter in Rock Hill.  I lost.  Imagine if I had never ran again.  I would not have become state or national president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and perhaps would not be in my vocation today.

1992 Campaign for National Jaycee President

1992 Campaign for National Jaycee President



Did you know Thomas Edison was thrown out of school in the early grades when teachers assumed he couldn’t do the work?  When Bob Dylan performed at a high school talent show, he was booed off the stage by his classmates.  Henry Ford forgot to put a reverse in the first car he manufactured.  A newspaper owner told Walt Disney to pursue another line of work, “You don’t have any creative, original ideas.”  All of these are instances where people took a risk, failed, and tried again.


Are we willing to take a risk for something we believe in?  Many would rather draw the target after they shoot and play it safe.  Personally, I’ll take a swing at it every time.  I say reach for the stars and even if you just clear the tree tops- you’ve left the ground and touched the sky!  It’s worth the risk.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , | Leave a comment