Walt Disney: How to Make Money Without “Selling Out”

There’s a famous quote by Walt Disney, on the subject of money:

“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”

There’s a myth we like to tell about artists.

The only real artists, we say, are the ones that are poor and starving. As soon as an artist “makes it” and is rewarded with cash, they’ve now “sold out” and forsaken their craft.

Sure, this happens sometimes.

But assuming this is true for everyone is a classic case of the fallacy of composition — just because some artists sell out once they start making money does not mean all artists do.

There’s something romantic about the poor, starving artist. But not earning money is disrespectful to your work, says Walt Disney:

We think our work here at Disney is fantastic, and if we ignored the fact that this world’s currency of exchange is money and went about charging nothing for our work, not only would it devalue and disrespect the work we’ve done, and the blood, sweat, and tears that we put into that work, but we’d also have no way of surviving off our work. We would treat our passion of movie-making as a hobby because we’d have full-time jobs elsewhere which we work at trying to make money to feed ourselves and our families.
If we didn’t make money, we wouldn’t be able to do what we love full-time. And that’s it, that’s all of it. We don’t do what we love to make money, nope, not at all. We just choose to not hide from the fact that money is a necessity for living.

That’s exactly how I feel about my writing.

If I didn’t make money from writing, I’d still want to spend all day reading books and sharing ideas with others. But I’d have a lot less time to actually do it.

The solution is not to reject all money and live a frugal life. Rather, the answer lies in making a living while not selling out.

How to Not Sell Out

This platform — Medium — is filled with internet marketers who only care about cashing out.

But that’s not everyone.

There are plenty of people here with something to say.

I can’t guarantee I’ll never “sell out,” but here are some steps I’m taking to protect myself:

  • Keep a strong vision. I know enough about human nature to understand that nothing comes from the obsessive pursuit of riches. Helping others through writing is where I get my sense of meaning, and I know I lose that once I prioritize money.
  • I only write about what interests me. If an idea seems appealing only because it might be popular, I ignore it. The only ideas worth writing about are the ones that pass through my interest filter — if it doesn’t make me shiver with excitement, it’s a no-go.
  • I minimize money decisions. I try to set up my system so that, with the least amount of decision-making on my part, my writing generates enough income for me to make a comfortable living. The worst thing you can do, I find, is to worry where every penny comes from.

In an ideal world, all artists would get paid by sponsors with bottomless pockets.

Well, while everyone else is waiting for that ideal to come around, I tip my hat to those of us who work with what we got.


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