By John Gonzales

A few years back, I was blessed enough to take my family to Disney World. At that time our kids were 13, 10, and 6. And it was an absolute blast! We were able to spend a full day at each of the parks, and there was just so much to do. Of course, our kids all had different priorities for what to see and ride, so my wife and I decided to divide and conquer.

One afternoon we joined forces and took all three of our kids to the Haunted Mansion. We thought, well, it might be a bit scary for our youngest, but it’s more kitschy-spooky and not really all that frightening . . . right?

The Ominous Haunted Mansion

As we approached the Mansion, we all grew excited as the music and environment began to immerse us in the macabre — kitschy as it was. We entered the Mansion and were welcomed by ominous warnings spoken in whispered voices by the ghostly hotel bellhops and surrounded by spiderweb-laden bric-a-brac. I began to worry about our six-year-old boy. Time and again, as we inched forward, I’d asked him, “Are you sure?” Each time he proudly maintained that he was 100% certain. He was confident that he’d be able to handle whatever hobgoblins “Mr. Disney” could throw at him. Unfortunately, the artisans at Disney had replicated a nightmarish environment and atmosphere that would best my boy’s machismo.

My son’s anxiety level began to rise on the haunted elevator taking us down to the actual ride. I heard small whimpers of, “Mommy, I don’t like this.” My wife and I made eye-contact as we exited the elevator and were suspiciously welcomed to board at our peril and ultimate demise. I knew I had to act! I turned to one of the pale-faced, ghastly ride operators who must have seen this scene hundreds of times; the expression on my face screaming, “what-the-heck-have-I-done-by-bringing-my-child-into-this-hellish-place-I’m-a-bad-parent-and-can’t-afford-the-therapy-sessions-this-is-going-to-cost.”

The Chicken Door

The staff member quickly broke character and whispered to me that we could take the “Chicken Door.” Umm . . . excuse me? Yes, a Chicken Door. A discreet last-minute exit route that allowed guests losing their nerve before getting on many of the park’s rides to bail. This feature was thoughtfully designed to allow guests to change their mind, without going through the humiliation and embarrassment of walking past the throngs of people in line behind them. Brilliant! Thank you, Walt!

My wife and crestfallen, therapy-bound son were discreetly guided to a portal leading to the outside, while my daughters and I completed the mission. I only screamed like a 10-year-old schoolgirl twice – no offense to 10-year-old schoolgirls.

The Chicken Door, what a brilliant idea. If only real life had them.

My Sure Thing

Fast forward 8 years and several hundred-of-dollars later in therapy sessions for my son. 

Being tenured in the senior living industry, I reached a decision in my career to leave my current VP position and seek greener pastures.  

I was interviewing for a C-level position with a rapidly growing company whose mission and values were closely aligned with my own. So I flew in for an in-person interview and had dinner that night with the CEO. Later, after trading experience and visions, I was told that the job was mine and that the group interview scheduled for the next morning was a mere formality and more of a meet-and-greet with the team, to secure “buy-in.”

No problem. I was as confident as my son had been eight years prior.

I was surprised at the number of “interviewers” at the table – no less than fifteen. No problem.  

I took a seat at the enormous conference room table and began answering the questions being rapidly fired at me with deft, witty, and impressive skill. I began to run through the relocation process, how to tell my wife – she’s going to be so excited – and other details of this new chapter in our lives.

But Then . . .

Let me jump to the end of the story. No, I didn’t get the job after all. 

After the interview, they couldn’t get me onto an outbound flight any faster if the airport runway had been directly outside their offices. I was boarding my connecting flight home before the ink on my new business cards had a chance to dry.

I had it! I had it in the bag.

Except . . . for that one last question . . . and my answer.

Literally, the last question I fielded – just before being coronated, congratulated, and welcomed into the fold – someone asked what I had been doing for the past few months since leaving my previous employer. I proudly set about explaining that I’d begun my own consulting company and that I was having surprisingly good success.

Then it happened. I continued to explain just how exciting and frightening it was to have started my own company. To board this crazy entrepreneurial train to a destination unknown. So many peaks and valleys already! The thrills and chills! Well, it’s much like being on a ride at Disney World.

Wait for It . . .

“So why do you want to take this position with us, when things are going so well for your company?’

“Well, I found out years ago, that Disney has these Chicken Doors, for their most thrilling rides.  And, well . . . not that your company is a chicken door, but . . . but the analogy is kind of . . . umm . . .”  

I saw the owner look down at his notepad and start to write.

“I mean, I love the ride so far, but . . . I guess . . .” 

Silence.

“Can someone please give me a ride to the airport?”