A gasp and then silence fell across the room. Jenna, a young and wide-eyed girl behind me said with a soft and nervous voice, “Mommy, are they okay?” Boom! The environment exploded with electrifying sound and brilliant flashes of light. Silhouettes of nearby friends illuminated all around us, projecting living shadows across the room. A melody of “oohs” and “aahs” rose from the crowd. All eyes were fixed on the glowing white screen in front of us. It was grabbing us and pulling us toward an irresistible climax. A rising sound, then a chorus of anticipation filled our ears. Then sweeping notes of joy flooded many of our eyes with tears. The protagonist on the screen had stepped into our souls. We feel how she felt. We see what she saw. We heard what she heard. The moment had stitched us into the story. We had arrived. And yes, Jenna, things are going to be okay. 

Movies tell stories. But they also connect us. They walk us through our own emotions, our own dreams, and our own fears. They scare us. They inspire us. They take us on a fanciful journey. They stir our imagination, transport us to new realities and ultimately entertain, delight, and stir our souls. The art of storytelling through the medium of cinema is an amazing experience. It is needed. Through it we can step outside of our own troubles and into new possibilities. Our human souls yearn for those stories and imagination to take us on journeys we would never venture alone. They can be healing, providing relief and therapeutic inspiration. They can be fun.

As filmmakers, we have the incredible privilege of helping bring this experience to the world. Directors, producers, actors, cinematographers, designers, composers, editors, artists, and other cast members all assemble to bring these stories and experiences to life through visual and auditory means. It is an art-form and craft that ministers the magic of storytelling, delight, and joy to our planet.

This Friday, Inside Out 2 shows up in theaters. Be sure to take your friends and family to see it and encourage others to do the same. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see it, hear it, and of course… feel it too.

A Feast of Words

“Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to the words of knowledge.”– Proverbs

I love coffee. Before sitting down to write this, I had to get up and get a fresh cup. They say, “You are what you eat and drink.” Now, I must confess, my “coffee” is as much milk as it is caffeine. It is like a bolt of energy swimming in a caramel pool of cream. If I am what I eat and drink, I guess I would say I’m a venti iced caffe latte. I’m one cool guy, slightly frothy.

All joking aside, it is true. What you take in becomes part of you. It gets metabolized, converted to energy. When we eat or drink, the nutrients are absorbed by our bloodstream and transported to our cells to fuel us, build our bodies, and repair tissue. We are literally becoming what we consume.

Just as coffee is fuel for the body, so are words to the mind. Words. Those tiny chunks of thought and concepts stream together to form knowledge, wisdom, and instruction. As we consume them, they metabolize into the neural fabric of our mind. New connections are formed in the brain. Electrical impulses dance across the mesmerizing network of living cells, attuning to the cascade of meaning and intelligence, absorbing the nutrients and literally growing new thoughts, concepts, and perceptions. We are becoming what we hear and read.

What are you becoming? What new words are you feeding on today? Did you sip on some tweets, snack on a podcast or feast on a novel? What words are shaping you? Is it a good diet? I confess, it is often easier to go with handy pre-processed words. They taste good and take less time. But they don’t cause you to think deeply or leave a lasting impact. They can even come with unhealthy side effects like misconceptions, biases, and fabrications. I find a healthy diet includes novels, scientific reviews, research papers, and well-informed articles. Be careful what you read.

Words are fuel. They power our life, our worldviews, our capacities to solve problems and our ability to make an impact. Go grab some prose. Stock up on paragraphs and phrases. Chow down on a satisfying dish of poetry. Feast on a nourishing buffet of knowledge and become what you eat. Oh, and feel free to enjoy some coffee while you are at it.

Thanks for reading my words today.

Richard Sherman

I was running late. The previous session had run over. I needed to run! I jogged across the campus to make it to my next meeting. It was in the presentation room at Imagineering HQ. After a quick sprint down the John Hench Graffiti Hallway, I quietly ducked into the venue. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. I followed in a few other late arrivals. The person in front of me and I took a seat on one of the couches in the back. The meeting hadn’t yet started. I let out a sigh of relief and the person next to me smiled and nodded a sympathetic, “Well, at least we made it.” We managed to find some water bottles, a nice treat after a mad dash between meetings. We chitchatted about the water, the sprawling creative campus and the new modernized presentation room.

The meeting finally got underway. The emcee stood at the front of the room on a small riser and addressed the crowd. They had wheeled in a digital piano and a stand mic. The host welcomed everyone and informed us that we were in for a special treat. A renowned guest had joined us today and would be talking to us about their career at Disney as a songwriter and musician. This special guest, he informed us, was a Disney legend and had worked directly with Walt Disney himself. There were some oohs and ahhs across the room as the announcer concluded, “Please join me in welcoming Richard Sherman to the stage.”

We began to clap. My new friend next to me stood up and started walking toward the front of the room. I was stunned! He turned around and looked at me and grinned. I’m pretty sure my face was red. All this time I hadn’t recognized that the friendly soul sitting next to me was none another than one of the most prolific composer-lyricists in the history of family entertainment, Richard Sherman. 

Richard took his seat at the keyboard and began telling us his story. He talked about his time working with Walt Disney. He told how he and his brother, Robert, had composed songs like “Chim Chim Cheree”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “I Wanna Be Like You,” “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room”, “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds”, “Winnie the Pooh,” and of course, “It’s A Small World (After All).” He used the keyboard to tell the stories and punctuate each stage of his career with melody and rhyme. He sang to us. He taught us. He inspired us. He entertained us. Richard was simply amazing.

This past weekend, Richard composed his final outro. The narrative of his 95 years had reached its end. While his story may have ended, his songs never will. His words, his choruses and his melodies will live on forever. Like him, they sing to our souls. They teach us to smile, optimistically and cheerfully embrace the future, our work and each other. They entertain and delight us. Richard tickled the keys of the human spirit. He will be missed, but his words will continue across the planet for years to come. 

And finally, just a reminder, don’t hesitate to greet those you sit next to, even if you are late to the meeting. You never know who you might accidentally meet. But then again, I guess it does make sense, it is A Small World, after all.

“No matter what you do, give it everything you’ve got.” – Richard M. Sherman

Watch “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story” on Disney Plus:

The Best Pottery

It was the first day of the pottery class. The instructor welcomed the students and began to orient them on the material. He announced that the final grade would be determined by one of two measures. For half the class, he said that their final grade would be determined by the “quality” of their pottery. Their goal was to work on a single high quality product. For the other half of the class, he said that their final grade would be determined by “quantity”. Their goal was the sheer amount of pottery produced. Fifty pounds of pots would be rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. The class began and the students began their work.

The last day of class finally came and a curious fact emerged. The works of highest quality were not produced by the group focused on quality. Instead, the highest quality works were all produced by the group graded for quantity! It seemed that the “quantity” group got busy producing piles of work and learning from their mistakes as they went along. In contrast, the “quality” group sat around theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little to show for their work than some theory of perfection and a lump of dead clay.[1]

The key to becoming a great artist, writer, musician, etc., is to keep creating! Keep drawing, keep writing, keep playing! Quality emerges from the quantity. It strikes me that the same thing applies to software and systems we run. When we focus purely on the quality, we actually miss the mark. The way to improve quality is to keep creating, testing and learning. In the software sense, we want to keep releasing our code as often and as fast as possible. By doing that, we build operational expertise, knowledge and automation. We develop fast feedback loops that nudge the digital clay into a better shape. We tune processes to provide faster feedback loops, remove toil through automation, and minimize human error and mistakes. We optimize for a high throughput of working products and reap the prize of high quality outcomes.

But does this hold true? In my career, I have seen this to be true time and time again. Areas where we remove friction and optimize for faster release cycles (even multiple times a day), with automated integration, testing and delivery, ultimately result in higher quality products. I see the same thing looking out to the industry. The highest performing teams optimize for highest flow. The prize of perfection comes by delivering and learning. In the book, “Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations,” Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim ran a multi-year research project looking at practices and capabilities of high-performing technology organizations. Their conclusion was that the highest performing organizations embraced the notion of continuous delivery, the ability to deliver changes frequently, reliably and with minimal manual effort.[2]

We ship! As technologist, software engineers and SREs, our teams help design, build and run the digital trains that deliver amazing products and experiences to our customers and fellow employees every single day. Our goal is to make these experiences shine! And, as the pottery class learned, it is quantity of our practice and continuous learning that makes them more perfect.

Keep shipping. Keep improving. Keep delivering!


  1. The pottery parable is a true story as captured by David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book, Art & Fear. There is a similar story about photography in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.
  2. Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim also identifies other key traits of high performing organizations, including having loosely coupled architecture, embracing a learning culture of experimentation, adopting lean principles to optimize flow, and creating a high-trust and empowering environment.

  • Forsgren, N., Humble, J., & Kim, G. (2018). Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations. IT Revolution Press.
  • Bayles, D., & Orland, T. (1993). Art & Fear. The Image Continuum.
  • Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Avery.

The Day – A Poem

The Day

by Jason A. Cox

The day is new. A flaming spark ignites the horizon. It arcs across the sky and warms the earth beneath. The oceans of wind crash upon the trees and grass, dancing wildly in the summer’s song. Billows of white punctuate the clear blue canopy and birds surf the invisible streams of life. Joy dances across the table, feasting upon flowers and fields of green. Onward the blaze marches until its apex erases the shadows below and floods the palace with its glory. Ebbing and flowing the wind and light shimmer, washing and painting all who live below. The day is full and the chime has come. The conductor faces the heavens and takes a bow. Slowly the shadows grow and paint the floor with cool whispers of melancholy. Deeper now the notes begin to ring as the day pulls its dark navy sheet across the sky. Memories glisten their burning specs of light in the nocturnal blanket above. Rays of the dying day stretch the shadows to their length. They gently caress the mountains and the fields. The cool tide of night rises and crashes it soft glow upon the sleepy inhabitants below. The end has come. The last glimmer bids the watcher adieu with a farewell kiss and gently folds its arms in rest.