Power Players

Disney executive chairman Bob Iger: 'Nearly every successful person that I know has struggled or failed'

The Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger
Kimberly White | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Bob Iger, executive chairman and former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, delivered the commencement address at The University of Texas at Austin on Saturday.

In his speech, Iger urged graduates to dream big and brush off naysayers early.

"[T]here just is no such thing as having dreams that are too big. Your possibilities are enormous," Iger said.

He also encouraged graduates to embrace failure and setbacks along the way.

"Nearly every successful person that I know has struggled or failed at some point," Iger said.

Iger pointed to Steve Jobs getting fired from Apple (the company he founded) and Walt Disney getting fired from one of his first jobs as a newspaper artist because "he lacked imagination."

"Walt failed a number of times over the years. However, always the optimist, he never stopped dreaming big and being bold," he added.

And if your first dream doesn't come true, Iger said, "find another one and pursue it with equal conviction."

"I failed as a weatherman and then the guy I worked for told me I wasn't good enough to ever get the next job. Now, fortunately, he was wrong. I did get another job, a promotion, and the rest is history," Iger said.

Iger advised graduates to speak up and speak the truth even when it is difficult for others to hear and to use technology "to heal not to harm."

"Be a force for good in our world because there is so much that needs fixing and along the way be sure to embrace life," he said.

Iger served as CEO at Disney for 15 years before stepping down in February of 2020. During his tenure, Iger was instrumental in turning Disney into a media powerhouse with several key acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel and 21st Century Fox.

Despite amassing a fortune (that Forbes estimates is worth about $690 million) Iger, 70, wasn't always part of the 1%; he had to start at the bottom, according to his book, "The Ride of a Lifetime."

Iger last visited The University of Texas when he spoke at the university's VIP Distinguished Speaker Series in 2018, the release said.

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Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect Iger's title is executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company and updated to include remarks from Iger's commencement speech.