The Greatest Showman — How Are You Running YOUR Circus?

How many have seen the movie the Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman? I’ve seen it a few times — my kids used to be obsessed with it. And I’ve even enjoyed listening to (and singing) songs from its very moving soundtrack.

For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a dramatized tale of the real story of PT Barnum and how he went after *his* dream by inspiring the fantastical dreams of others. He began by creating the first “freak show,” which he then developed into the original circus.

There’s a lot here. But for today, I want to touch on a few important pieces: Dreams, Leveraging the Dreams of Others, Not Getting Stopped by What Some People Think, and Finding a Guide or Hero. And in case you want to see it — and you should, with or without kids — I’ll do my best to not give anything pivotal away.

Part I – Dreams

So here’s a guy, working in an office — a cog in a very large machine. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except he feels like he’s meant for something else. Upon life throwing him a curve ball, he had a choice. He could have left and found a different machine, but he didn’t. He trusted himself, his heart, and his inner knowing, and he stepped toward his dream. What is that for you? What has you get up in the morning? No matter how grand or how small, what is your purpose? *Your* dream? Keep it close and it will drive you. Lose sight of it and struggle will follow.

Part II – Leveraging the Dreams of Others

PT Barnum got a sense for what would sell. He looked around and realized that people wanted something. And he gave it to them. Look through the lens of your future clients. What do they want? Is it a better product? Faster service? Easier access? Find out what it is and leverage it. People will part with their money if they believe it’s worth it. What value are you providing? How can it be improved?

Part III – Not Getting Stopped By What Others Think

Look, not everyone is going to like your ideas. Some aren’t even going to believe in you or your potential. (I always will.) So what? We can’t please all of the people all of the time. That sounds exhausting.

All we can do is our best — to do the right thing, to follow our authentic inner voice, and if we’re lucky our passion. Find the part that you can fall in love with. Trust yourself and go after it. And swing big! That’s why one day Jeannie is going to meet Oprah, and Amy is going to hang with Snoop, and maybe Conrad will even get to play a set against Nadal. Make big asks in here. And out there. And in here.

Part IV – Find a Guide or Hero

Though the various sideshow acts were off putting on the outside, they had big hearts and big dreams. They were so scared that they would hide and barely leave the house. But then Barnum showed up and lead them. And they became more than they ever thought they could be. On this climb of life, and business, we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

Find a mentor or a coach, or someone you admire and learn from them. Send them an email, maybe offer to buy them lunch so you can connect and pick their brain. And if they’re a big celebrity and it’s harder to arrange a meeting, get your hands on their biography and study up!

And hey, possibility for growth, progress, anything new, lies outside our comfort zones. You want to fulfill on your goals and dreams? So maybe it’s time to get a little messy. The creative kind.

In the end, this was a movie but the lessons it teaches hold up. Think about what really matters, what you really want. Map out the actions you can take to get there. Don’t be deterred by the fear of others. Remember, “Those who discourage your dreams have likely abandoned their own.” Leverage motivational support structures. And whatever you do, don’t stop.

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