30 Days of Disneyland – Day 14

We finished two weeks at Disneyland so far. I certainly feel it in my body with some stiffness due to all the walking and rides, although stretching helps a lot with that. In the past week, we walked more than 75 miles, so we averaged a little more than 10.5 miles per day.

We’re still doing intermittent fasting, although not every day. Most days we don’t have our first meal till the afternoon, but on a couple of days we went to Whole Foods for breakfast, partly just to have some healthier, non-Disney meals. I still haven’t spotted the word organic at Disneyland yet.

Rides have been breaking down a lot lately. We’ve seen about five breakdowns in the past two days. We’d show up for a ride with a Fastpass and couldn’t get on it because the ride wasn’t working. Fortunately Disneyland still honors those Fastpasses later when this happens. I’ve also been noticing many smaller malfunctions where some elements of rides aren’t working as they should.

The giant Christmas tree is up at the California Adventure park now, and a similar one should be added to Disneyland soon.

Optimizing the Experience

Sometimes I think about how to optimize small parts of this experience to make it more interesting, like using the Fastpass system to go on a bunch of rides in a short period of time.

I’ve gotten really good at Astro Blasters, finally breaking 300,000 points and then yesterday hitting 407,800. Two weeks ago I was barely breaking 100,000. I improved my score mainly by studying and learning how the scoring system works. I learned that the target values range from 100 to 10,000 points, so I began favoring the higher value targets and largely ignoring the 100-point ones.

However, favoring the 10,000-point targets wasn’t optimal because those targets are triangles, and they’re much harder to hit. I also think that at least one of those targets isn’t properly configured since it seems to give only 100 points when Rachelle and I hit it. I actually get better scores when I favor the 5000-point diamond shaped targets. They’re relatively easy to hit, and they’re more abundant than the triangles. I can often hit a diamond target multiple times in a row in the same amount of time it would take more to score one precise hit on a triangular target.

Moreover, the guns themselves are usually misaligned to some extent, so the gun sights don’t line up with where the light beam will actually register. These are plastic toy guns, not precision military instruments, and I’m sure they suffer some abuse when people drop them too. If I observe that I’m pummeling a target and the hits aren’t registering consistently, I’ll try aiming slightly to the left, right, up, and down to get a feel for the gun’s misalignment, so I can adapt to it. I see no point in stubbornly aiming for the center of a target if the hits aren’t registering, although in the past I used to blame the gun for being broken and feel annoyed afterwards.

This last step of accepting and adapting to the misalignment was the key to breaking 300K and then 400K. I wouldn’t have broken those scores if I’d assumed that the gun sights were properly aligned with the actual beams. I achieved those higher scores with guns that were poorly aligned, but I figured out the misalignment within the first minute of the ride and then went with it. In both cases I had to aim a few inches to the right of center for each target if I wanted to hit it consistently. Once I got a feel for the targeting sweet spots, I could hit some targets up to 10 times in a row.

I suppose this is a good reminder that I can’t argue with reality and expect to win, but I can intelligently adapt to whatever reality dishes out.

Keeping the Experience Interesting

I can continue to enjoy these opportunities to optimize small parts of the experience, but on a macro level, most of the attractions are getting pretty boring because they’re too predictable, especially the non-interactive ones where there’s nothing to do but sit, watch, and listen.

My enthusiasm for continuing this experiment isn’t coming from Disneyland itself much anymore. I feel like I’m past the point where I can rely on the external environment to provide much stimulation, except in small doses here and there such as trying to achieve new personal bests on Astro Blasters or ensuring that our teacup spins faster than anyone else’s. For the most part, I have to generate my own enthusiasm for the experience. Otherwise I’m going to be very bored.

Fortunately Rachelle and I are very good at creating fun together. We do silly poses for the ride cameras, which often makes the tourists laugh. She delivers an over-the-top performance when she’s in the driver’s seat for Indiana Jones, even though the steering wheel has no effect. She sings on some of the rides in an operatic voice. Occasionally we’ll make out when sit in the back of Pirates. We also counted all the skeletons on that ride (11 of them – just the full skeletons though, not the skulls). Sometimes we’ll splash each other and have a short water fight while going under the waterfall on Thunder Mountain. I act like Curly from The Three Stooges whenever I see an octopus (or anything close to one, like Ursula), and I make up my own names for Disney characters and act overly excited when I see them, like referring to Scuttle as Pooter.

I also got a piratey T-shirt that says, “The beatings will continue until morale improves,” which is kind of fun to wear around the place. Whenever Rachelle starts commenting that I seem a bit moody, I just point to the shirt.

This sort of thing definitely helps, and if that’s all we do, I think we’ll make it through the remaining 16 days without dying of boredom. But it would be better if we found even more ways to make the experience uniquely our own.

Before we began this experience, I had thought it might be interesting to connect with some of the employees that we’ll see day after day. But that turned out to be unrealistic because Disneyland has so many employees that we hardly ever see the same people there on different days. Maybe they shift people around a lot, so the employees don’t get bored.

I like to playfully interact with people when I can, but so far these opportunities have been limited to one-time interactions. The crowds and noise also make deeper conversations more difficult. It’s a good place to have lots of inch-deep interactions though.

Mental Stimulation

Disneyland provides lots of sensory stimulation, but if I just go with the flow of that each day, I feel like I’m not getting enough mental exercise. In its movies and parks, Disney promotes a lot of big hearted but mentally retarded characters (like Olaf, Lefou, Mater, and Dory), so I think it would be easy to feel dumber with each passing week in this reality unless I bring in some outside mental stimulation.

Last month I enrolled in Jeff Walker’s LaunchClub to learn more about doing online launches, which includes weekly group coaching calls. I love to learn, and I need a strong flow of quality mental input to keep my mind sharp, so I’ve been listening to the call recordings while standing in line or walking around the park. I’ve also been reading some transcripts of previous calls, viewing PowerPoint presentations, and reading some ebooks and PDFs. Just consuming an hour of intelligent material per day in bits and pieces is enough to keep my mind feeling sharp.

It’s fun to act like a kid sometimes, and Rachelle and I can be shameless about indulging in that. But if I don’t stimulate the adult part of my brain each day as well, I begin to feel agitated and annoyed by the unbalanced input. I enjoy the experience more when I have some interesting ideas to chew on – more interesting than analyzing Astro Blasters to improve my score.

Becoming the Rebel Spy

Some Disney rides have a randomness element that makes them slightly more fun. For instance, on the Star Tours ride, one person from the group is selected to be the rebel spy each time. Darth Vader or an Imperial probe will appear to demand the return of the spy, whose photo is shown on the screen for all to see. Disney even sells T-shirts in the shops that say, “I am the rebel spy.”

Rachelle and I must have ridden Star Tours about a dozen times in the past two weeks, but neither of us have been the rebel spy yet. This made me consider the odds that one of us might be selected as the rebel spy at least once during our 30 days here.

I counted the seats on the ride. There are 5 rows, with 8, 8, 7, 8, and 9 seats in each row from front to back, so that’s 40 seats total. Usually all the seats are filled, but sometimes there are empty seats. But if we assume that each flight is full, then there’s a 5% chance that either of us will be picked as the spy on a single flight (2 out of 40).

The odds that at least one of us will be picked as the rebel spy at least once after N number of flights would be 1 – 0.95^N. On each flight there’s a 95% chance that neither Rachelle nor I will get picked as the rebel spy (38 out of 40), and so for N repetitions, the odds that neither of us will be picked is 0.95 to the Nth power. Hence the odds that at least one of us will get picked at least once is equal to 1 minus that.

So if we ride Star Tours 10 more times, there’s a 40% chance that at least one of us will be picked as the rebel spy. If we ride 14 more times, it’s 51%, so basically a coin toss. If we ride 20 more times, this increases to 64%. So if we go on this ride at least once a day for the remainder of our stay, one of us will probably get picked as the rebel spy, but this is far from guaranteed.

Of course there may be other factors that affect the odds, and the selection may not be random. We suspect that a human operator is choosing the spy each time, especially since we’ve seen someone inside a control booth for the ride. But with today’s technology, the pics could be chosen by a computer algorithm too (although given what we’ve seen of Disney tech elsewhere, I’d lean toward the human as my guess). We’ve seen men, women, and kids chosen for the rebel spies on previous rides, so if there is a pattern here, I haven’t discerned it yet.

Distorting Reality

Disneyland creates an interesting reality distortion field. It can be fun to dive into that field and experience the childlike nature of it, but I wouldn’t want to live there for too long. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent too much time in this reality already, which makes me feel impatient to get back to working on creative projects.

Having spent two weeks in Disney’s distortion field, Rachelle and I see plenty of evidence of what it would be like to get sucked into it for the long run. Some people wear lots of Disney garb, including necklaces full of Disney pins and $20+ mouse ears. Some people spend a long time waiting in line to snap a photo with a Disney character like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, or Goofy, and these are just people in costumes. Last night we were driving behind a car with the license plate YENSID, which made sense when I read it backwards. A number of people have big Disney tattoos too. I think you’d have to be really into Disney to want it permanently inked into your skin.

On the one hand, seeing how far some people will go into their Disneyness makes me wonder about humanity’s overall intelligence. On the other hand, it’s interesting to see how many people enjoy this level of superfandom. Disney seems to leverage this deliberately, such as by selling collectible merchandise that clearly has a high markup, like $10-15 for a small Disney pin.

The fact that Disney has been able to create such a weird distortion field got me thinking about how I could do a better job of creating my own reality. I’m happy with the reality I’ve created for myself, such as by not having a regular job and enjoying lots of freedom to learn, grow, and explore. The reality of having this kind of lifestyle is even better than I imagined. For many of my readers, the biggest personal limitation is fear, especially fear of failure and fear of being judged by others. Those used to be major stumbling blocks for me too, but I’d say my biggest personal limitation these days is my imagination. I could surely do a better job of dreaming up new possibilities and making them real.

I like doing deep dives into pre-existing realities such as this 30-day Disneyland experience, but I also wonder what I could do to create a more immersive reality that other people would enjoy. There must be some people who’d be interested in exploring a fun, growth-oriented reality distortion field together.

I remind myself that some people have even gotten tattoos based on my work, including the actress Lindsay Lohan (she blogged about it), so at the very least, maybe I should have some decent tattoo designs created for those who want them. 😉

As I’ve been walking around Disneyland, I’ve been thinking about what kind of reality I could create if I had my own Disneyland-sized pocket of it to sculpt as I saw fit. It’s an interesting thought experiment. What would my own version of Disneyland look like?

For starters it would be 100% vegan, so this pocket of reality would have the utmost respect and love for animals. Animals would not be productized for consumption. The food would be healthy, delicious, and organic, with lots of it grown on location in mineral rich soil. There wouldn’t be a scrap of leather in the place. That would take a lot of design care.

It would be an openly affectionate reality and abundant in hugs, especially when people first arrive. There would lots of cozy places for people to hang out and cuddle. If people wanted to go somewhere and make love, there would be places for that as well.

There would also be quiet places where people could go to reflect, meditate, journal, do some creative work, or just take a nap. We’d have fast WiFi everywhere.

The core of the place, however, would be its learning and growth experiences. There would be lessons to learn all over the place. You’d have the freedom to do everything in a self-directed way, or you could take pre-planned courses too. You get to choose. The courses would not be shallow or fluffy. They’d be deep dives into intense, immersive experiences, especially skill-based ones. People who are just casually into personal growth like want to visit for a short time, but only the hardcore growth enthusiasts could handle living in this type of reality.

There would be an abundant flow of creative output, so it wouldn’t merely be a retreat center. You’d go there to experience the flow of learning, growing, and creating, and you’d be expected to create a lot. Most of the time it would be pretty fast paced, but you could take breaks whenever you needed one.

This would not be a place you go to find yourself. It’s not a retreat center since the focus would be on deep engagement, not retreat. It would be a place you would go to fully express yourself, while still sculpting your character into something greater. People would learn fast, work hard, and play hard.

To some extent this place already exists. It’s how I live my own life, and so my home is like this as well. This Disneyland experience is making me think about how I could extend and expand upon my small pocket of reality to make it a bigger pocket that other people might enjoy too. I already do this on a limited basis, such as when we do 3-day workshops, but what if this could become ongoing pocket of reality for those who could handle it?

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