It wasn’t until I was in college that I found out one of our family secrets that both my Grandfather and Great Grandfather were on the initial construction crew for Disneyland.

It’s one of those things that when you tell someone you get one of two responses: “Yeah, Right!” or “Wow, Neat!”, though the first response is usually silently spoken behind a polite smile.

My grandpa would come home from work and try to describe what they were building and the details that went into it. Nobody at the time could understand what he was talking about “Your building a … castle? For real? You built a … tree? Why not just plant one?” He and Disney actually had a personal relationship as well. Disney would sit on one of the docks for lunch. None of the other construction workers felt comfortable enough, but my grandpa would sit right next to him and have lunch together talking about families and dreams.

Disneyland has far more educational value than half the school slums in our country, but you have to dig for it. Try reading a few books on how Disney performed his work before the next time you visit… or just to learn a few tips and pointers to improve your own personal business and achievements. Our family favorite is the “One-Up”.

When Disney walked into a room to see the story boards (a concept he invented and everyone uses today) he would listen to people’s ideas and envision something fantastic. When it came down to building the parts, whether it was a ride in an amusement park or a frame still for a movie, he would look at it and say to the engineers and artists … “That’s great. Now one-up it.” One-up means to overachieve… to excel.

When we build something we get stuck in the forest and can’t see it through the trees. When we step back we can see areas of improvement. “One-Up” means changing how we see things for a minute… to step out of our mind, or to step into a fresh mind depending on how you view it … and making the experience better.

With the common proverb (by Julius Caesar) that “experience is the greatest teacher”, it makes sense that walking through one of the greatest creations of the greatest teacher of details, magic and experience (speaking of Disneyland and Disney) would lend to teaching a thing or two.

Giving A Piece Of Myself

30 months ago I started growing out my hair. The first few months it was because a few of the guys in the office had the wild notion of growing out their hair to thwart the middle age that had come upon them. But at that point I realized this could become much more.

For some reason I thought hair could grow an inch a month, and having a good employment from a company that seeks out ways to help the community, there was support from them as well as my family to continue after this goal.

The truth is that my hair grew out only a third to a quarter of an inch a month, making it a 30 month run before I could cut my hair without shaving myself bald.

I chose Wigs for Kids for several reasons. First and foremost, they ask no money from those who receive the wigs. Secondly, they focus their attention on children. I remember being constantly picked on and abused by my peers throughout the schooling years so this was a personal goal to help at least one child not suffer the humiliation I went through. Finally, because they have such strict requirements, very few of the donations are thrown away or sold. People who participate in Wigs for Kids don’t do it on a whim and are careful to make sure the hair gets to them in a qualified manner.

As an adult with a full head of hair I was criticized by those around me. Although it’s certain the judgmental behavior came from people of all ages, it was children who out of natural lack of verbal constraint audibly expressed condemnation. I felt a need to excuse my choices and told people at random why I was growing out my hair; it was often because of my fear of attention rather than my desire for it that people were told my motives.

Children usually don’t get that chance with their peers from whom biting harsh words are thrown. When dignity and support is torn from a child it ripples into the rest of their lives. Likewise, when support is given in the face of indignant situations, it can make a child stronger – possibly even a Tour de force that positively impacts other lives.

As it turned out, last weekend I reached my goal! To make the finish line even more emotional, the barber who cut my hair has a niece with leukemia. Even in rough economic times we can help. If you’re not growing out your hair, raise awareness. Tweet it. Get people involved in hair clubs where, instead of trying to grow hair for themselves people are growing their hair for others.


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I’m a pushover for kids. Especially if the child has some type of disease or disorder that puts him or her at a higher risk for being teased and abused by peers. This sympathy probably stems from personal experience, but admittedly, I choke back tears when watching Hallmark commercials.

Twenty months ago when visiting friends at the corporate office, there were some jokes and remarks about the owner, the VP of production and some other guys growing out their hair long. I took up the challenge for vain purposes at first, to fit in as one of the guys.

A few months later an opportunity to help others through this silly endeavor became evident. Children undergoing chemo treatment or suffering Alopecia could use a wig or hair extensions. Ironically, one of the younger stars on Flickr that I’ve come to admire (for her willingness to humble herself and her professional, yet fanciful style) has Alopecia and uses hair extensions.

So it was decided to grow out my hair the required length for donation. It hasn’t been without it’s sacrifices. And as I’ve come to even like having long hair it will be another sacrifice to cut it back. Still, there’s good with each season in life and the satisfaction of knowing how the past 20 months of minimal effort will bring peace to a child or young-adult’s life brings a great satisfaction.

What I’ve learned over these past 20 months:

  1. Hair doesn’t grow out at the rate of an inch per month. It’s more like 3/8 of an inch permonth.
  2. As a long haired man, I’ve “frightened” many grown-ups… until I started looking more like a smiling Jesus hippy.
  3. The younger the child, the less affected they are to seeing long hair on a man.
  4. Each inch of long hair from the forehead causes another annoyance until it reaches about 7 inches long.
    • First it gets in the eyes
    • Six weeks later it’s into the nose
    • another six weeks and it curls into the mouth
    • Yet another six weeks it tickles the chin

    This is probably why so many long-haired women have short bangs.

  5. Nearly all shampoo has lauryl sulfate in it. This chemical weakens the hair and over-strips the protective oils from it. (Great site about shampoo ingredients.)
  6. When doing any type of physical labor that requires you look down, any hair that isn’t tied back obstructs your view.
  7. It’s difficult to pull back all your long hair and the one strand that isn’t bound with the rest will find its way into your face when you roll down the car window to let in the outside breeze.
  8. Long braided pig-tails and a bandanna doesn’t make me look as cool as it does for Willie Nelson.
  9. Long haired men that walk with confidence are stereotyped as successful photographer/musician/artist.
  10. Women who brandish well-kept natural long hair have garnered my respect.