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 twice now – my kids are a bit obsessed, it’s on their short list. And I’ve been listening to songs from it’s 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 so much here. But for today, I want to break this down into five pieces: Dreams, leveraging the dreams of others, not getting stopped by what others think, finding a guide or hero, and doing whatever it takes. 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 being handed some circumstances that were beyond his control, he had a choice to make. He could have found another machine but he didn’t. He trusted himself, his heart, his inner knowing and he stepped toward his dream. What is the thing for you? Why are you getting 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. On some level this is obvious – but it bears repeating. Because how often throughout a busy day/week/month/quarter/year are you actually in that conversation? Of what they want? People will part with their money if they believe it’s worth it. What value are you providing? How can that be improved and leveraged?

Part III – Not Getting Stopped By What Others Think

This shows up a few ways in this film. There’s PT Barnum’s mission – which gets rejected by his in laws and the upper crust of society. And there’s the judgment of the people in the freak show, as well as the freak show itself.

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 just sounds exhausting. All we can do is our best – our best to do the right thing, to follow our authentic inner voice, and if we’re lucky our passion. Find the part of what you do that you can fall in love with. Trust yourself and go after it. Swing big! That’s why Jeannie is going to meet Oprah, and Amy is going to hang with Snoop, and maybe one day Conrad will 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 that Barnum gathered to create his “freak show,” were off putting on the outside, they had big hearts and big dreams. But they were so scared that they would hide and barely leave the house. But then he 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 – and there’s no shame in that.

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!

Part V – Doing Whatever It Takes

In this tale, there were a lot of circumstances in Barnum’s way – money, social status, pressure from those around him. It didn’t matter. He had a goal and he took sufficient action to accomplish it. Are you in sufficient action to accomplish your goals? Where are you stopping? Where are you uncomfortable?

Consider that everything that makes you comfortable is something you already know. Possibility – for growth, progress, anything new, lies to varying degrees outside our comfort zones. Get a little messy – do whatever it takes to fulfill on what you want.

In the end, this was a movie – a true story, but with plenty of creative license. And at the same time, the lessons it teaches hold up. Think about what really matters, what you really want. Map out the actions you can take to move forward. Don’t be deterred by the fear of others. Remember, “Those who discourage your dreams have likely abandoned their own.” Find motivational support structures. And whatever you do, don’t stop.

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