Last month, Niki and I took our boys to Epcot for their first visit. They have been to Walt Disney World before, but we saved the Epcot experience until they were old enough to enjoy the more adult-oriented adventure.
They loved it.
Taking them to Test Track was especially fun. Logan and Wesley were out of school for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, so they were a bit leery, at first, of an attraction with the word “test” in it. But once I explained the ride’s concept—you design your own concept car and test it on both an indoor and outdoor track—their interest went from zero to 100 in a few short seconds.
Our slot car hit 69.5 MPH that morning. This is easily the fastest I have ever gone on Test Track. Our boys paid special attention to the design aspects of the attraction, something Niki and I always ignore, and their attention paid off with a thrilling ride experience. Niki and I have ridden Test Track since, but we can’t come close to hitting 69.5 MPH. Why is it that kids always come at life like a Chevrolet Corvette, while parents putz around as Prius people?
The only disappointment that day was missing our Fastpass for Spaceship Earth. We scheduled it for noon knowing that we wanted to spend the afternoon and evening wandering around World Showcase. At 11:45 AM, the headline attraction went down and stayed down…for the rest of the day.
Spaceship Earth is Niki’s favorite Epcot attraction, and Spaceship Earth was the Epcot attraction she most looked forward to experiencing with her boys. No matter how many times she checked the app on her phone, her beloved attraction remained closed. When we received a replacement Fastpass for any other Epcot attraction, Niki refused to use it. Why? Because she never gave up hope. “It’s going to open Jeff, I just know it. And when it does we will still have a Fastpass while everyone else will be waiting in the standby queue.”
Our Epcot evening ended with the nighttime spectacle, Illuminations. But instead of “reflecting on Earth,” we reflected on how sad we were to miss Spaceship Earth. The park was closing, and so too were our hopes.
Spaceship Earth is a unique attraction, starting with the fact that it is a park icon that sits at the entrance and exit of Epcot instead of at the center like a Magic Kingdom castle. On our way out, we passed Spaceship Earth and were shocked to discover that Cast Members were opening the attraction. Operating hours were officially over but Disney was making a different decision.
Guests exiting the park were given an extra opportunity to experience Epcot’s timeless, time machine attraction. Disney turned our disappointment into delight. Now, Niki will never forget us all getting to ride not Spaceship Earth, but “Lateship” Earth.
There is a lesson here. Stuff happens. People make mistakes. Attractions, even Disney attractions, breakdown. In life and in business, it is never about what happens. It is always about how you respond to what happens.
Instead of calling it a day, Disney decided to make magic. The park was closed. Guests were exiting. They had finally repaired the ride, but at that late hour cast members could have easily kept Spaceship Earth shuttered until the next sunrise. After all, Epcot’s day end spiel was already echoing in our ears, “We hope that your visit to the Walt Disney World Resort has been a truly magical experience for you and yours. We wish you a pleasant evening and a safe journey home. Thank you, and goodnight!”
The next time things go wrong in your world and your patience is tested, I want to encourage you to take a different track. Don’t race to a reaction. Slow down and take the time to design a reasonable response. Life’s most difficult moments give us the greatest opportunities to make the most magic.
It’s not a new concept. My late-night ride on a trivial theme park attraction that holiday weekend managed to remind me of Martin Luther King Jr., the importance of keeping hope alive, and how it is never too late to do the right thing.