May 21, 2017 marked the final performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. For 23 years, I have work alongside these world-class athletes, creative minds and over-the-top talented performers, and they never failed to inspire me.
From stories of challenge and triumph, to making visions come to life, to making the impossible possible, every single person I met through the years was passionate about the work they did.
As I reflect on more than two decades with the Greatest Show on Earth, I thought it would be fitting to share the lessons this incredible traveling show taught me.
Ringling has been touring across the U.S. for 146 years. Many say that P.T. Barnum was the original promoter and set the stage for modern day PR. This show even taught our armed forces in WWII about logistics.
Today, even after its last performance, this icon of Americana continues to teach us valuable lessons, whether you are soaring through the air or sitting behind a desk.
1. Things Can and Will Go Wrong
The performers at Ringling Bros. hailed from every corner of the globe. They twisted, flipped, trained, sang, danced and flew. They always seemed superhuman to me.
And when they performed, they made it look oh so easy. What audiences didn’t see were the hours upon hours of practice and preparation. They made us forget that every performance was an attempt. It was live and it was dangerous. We have seen jaw-dropping success and devastating defeat in the three rings.
We should always remember that no matter how well we prepare – for the boardroom or center ring – things will go wrong. Technology will fail, we will forget the words, uncontrollable outside forces will interfere. How we deal with this adversity defines who are and how we will continue our journey to success.
When you trip over the giant clown shoes of life, remember to pick yourself back up and know you will do it better next time.
2. Take your Craft Seriously, But Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Ringling performers are a serious bunch, and that includes the talented performers in Clown Alley. Their antics are carefully choreographed and perfectly timed. They watch what they eat and they work out.
Often, the expectation of outsiders was to see them clowning around all the time. Instead, they collaborated, they rehearsed and they perfected every gag to bring the biggest laughs possible.
But they also made time for fun. They loved to make children of all ages smile and this passion was evident in every performance. No matter how serious our jobs are, there is always room to connect and laugh together.
We spend a lot of time together in our office, and I strongly believe that the light-hearted moments help us know more about each other and help us work better together when the deadlines and stress come calling.
3. Dream. Attempt. Repeat.
Even after years of performing, Ringling Bros.’ talented singers, dancers and athletes continued to practice for hours every day. I watched new tricks get created, new notes reached and new skills achieved. Every show was an evolution, pushing the boundaries even further than the year before, or even the day before.
We should always be working on our craft. Even when we think we have reached the pinnacle, there is still further to go. There are new ceilings to break and there are new dreams to dream.
Never stop learning, share your ideas and don’t be afraid to try something new. I have always felt that the biggest risks bring the biggest rewards, so go for it!
Goodbye Ringling Bros.
While Ringling Bros. has come to a close, this show will always be a part of me. I thank every producer, performer and crew member for including me in this journey and teaching me lifelong lessons I will cherish. Let’s all keep dreaming, laughing and working to make our jobs the greatest on Earth.
I would love to hear about what make your job great – email me at [email protected] to share.