A Night at the Circus

Here's my video recap from the circus- I hope you enjoy!

elephant in monte carloThe last time I went to the circus, I was about 4 years old. I remember riding on an elephant, juggling clowns, a lion, and the feeling of delight.

I did not think it possible to feel that same delight more than 20 years later, but I stand corrected! I just got back from a quick weekend outing to Monte Carlo, where the International Cirque (the Olympics for circus artists worldwide) is taking place. This time around, it was a little different from what I'd remembered- these were the best of the best circus performers in the world… not to mention there was a certain royal family in the audience as honored guests.

Among my favorite acts were a couple balancing and contorting their bodies in seemingly impossible and agonizing poses (note: must do more yoga); a lion-tamer who stood in the ring with 15 lions at once, and had them all snarling in a perfect line-up; a guy who balanced a spinning figure-8 cage on his head inside of which 2 girls were doing suspension acts; a man who did acrobatics on a narrow pipe while swinging across the entire ring from about 50' in the air without a safety net; a team of more than 20 acrobats who did crazy jumps on stilts and giant pogo-sticks; a group of 12 girls who did these impossible backbends while balancing their entire body-weight on their chins and stacking up on top of each other; and an incredible clown who immediately engaged the audience and showed that a fairly simple act can become the most popular one just by making a personal connection (unfortunately, I was too mesmerized to capture him on film).Cirque International Monte Carlo

After sitting captivated in the audience for more than 4 hours, watching +150 performers do their thing with ropes, knives, stilts, wild animals, humor, incredible concentration and - most of all - sheer determination, I must say that I walked away with a sense of inspiration and clarity! I can completely understand why it is not just exciting but also important for kids to go to the circus. You learn that, through determination and hard work, any dream can be made a reality. This is not a lesson only for the kids, though- perhaps it's even more important for us as adults, especially today.

I also thought about these performers in a new light, as organizational geniuses. There is barely a moment between acts, and lives are on the line if a mistake is made. Each person knows their role, knows where to be and when, and performs their tasks impeccably, as though setting up and dismantling the sets was practiced as much as each act. (Even the extensive lion cage was dismantled in under a minute.) Everyone seemed to share a sense that they were a part of something greater, and so they were really supportive of one another, even in competition. After their acts, individual groups of performers came out and sat in the seats next to ours, and I noticed they were among the first to give standing ovations. You won't see THAT in most industries! I would love to be with them as a fly on the wall (or blogger in the stands) for the mere 2 days they had all-together before the opening circus, just to understand how they can organize like that! I mean, most of them had never met before the events, and they were speaking about 15 different languages.

Finally, a note on that clown... he spoke in little sound-effects, no language. His act began by directing the audience to raise and lower our applause, which he pretended to put in a box and had trained us to "sound the applause" based on how wide he opened the box - within about 2 seconds. He threw his hat into the audience and got people to throw it back onto his head, and would not let them give up, thus inspiring a sense of tenacity. Afterward, he juggled unsuccessfully and had us all rooting for him to get it right until, at last, he did. …And the crowd went wild. It went on like this, so simply, and everyone from the little kids to the Princess were in hysterics, captivated and hopeful. At that point, I thought, he had really shown us something wonderful.

Like a true nerd, of course I thought about the symbolic lesson for brands and social media, marketing and customer experience... in regards to the clown (yeah, I know). When you involve your audience, you can still run the show (contrary to what many companies, especially in luxury , believe). When you focus on making them successful within your scope of interest, you automatically gain a sense of reciprocity. But only through involving the audience and being a little honest about the challenges you face can you build the kind of adoration and support that makes people want to see you succeed, instead of mere indifference. They feel a personal stake in the success. Of course, that strategy doesn't work with some jerks out there, but hopefully those guys are few and far between.

Well, Monte Carlo is certainly a place of dreams. I am now a reformed circus-cynic, and will be a staunch supporter from here on. Anything is possible!

PS- I need this hat!!!!

Mongolian hat