https://www.connectionmediaco.com/post/shake-it-off-and-step-up-resiliencyI watched one of my favorite movies last night. The Greatest Showman. It hits home on so many fronts for me. Likely not the things that most people are drawn to with that movie because the parts that I relate to are the entrepreneurial exploits of P.T. Barnum. My wife loves the love story, and we both enjoy the music. But the parts that I connect with the most are the dreamer and entrepreneur aspects portrayed by Hugh Jackman playing P.T. Barnum.
I have always looked up to business owners, but I come from a family that rarely walked the traditional career paths. My ancestors were mostly business owners. Both my grandfathers were hard workers who became successful businessmen, and I have admired them for that feat. For some reason, I have always enjoyed learning about business people and their stories. Seeing them make the attempt to follow a dream, to accomplish something, to build something from nothing, inspires me. While some love following sports heroes, I love following entrepreneurs and watching them achieve.
Even though I wanted my own business as early as high school, I didn’t start my own company until I was 40. I tried many side gigs before it was a common thing, but I didn’t actually throw myself behind something until much later in life when Melissa and I started Connection Publishing, which has now become Connection Media Company.
Watching P.T. Barnum's struggle to embrace the understanding that he had everything a man could ever want and a desire—yet still wanting to be more than he is—is incredibly relatable for me. Watching as all of his dreams seemed to come together and then appear to be crumbling all around him all at once, is also very relatable.
His wife’s undying support and desire to help him accomplish his dreams while also keeping him grounded and realizing that he needs nothing more than what he already has is incredibly close to home for me as well. My wife has so often been willing to follow me to the “Great Unknown (Tightrope”) just like Barnum's wife. She has also warned me that I don’t need everyone to love me, only a few good people. Barnum admits his wife was correct when he found himself apologizing to her for losing his way. Then he says; “I just wanted to be more than I was!” All of this is so close to my story in fact, that I cry every time I watch the show.
The beach scene when Barnum sings, “From Now On” to his wife, is a song that I could have written and sung to my wife on so many occasions, except I don’t have a Broadway-quality singing voice like Jackman. I also loved it when his team and his people rallied around him when all seemed lost. Again, I can relate to these scenes on a personal and professional level. Even the chip on his shoulder that drives him, that tells him he isn't enough and that he hasn’t accomplished enough, and that ironically, it is “Never Enough.”
I take four powerful lessons from this show; lessons I aspire to, and hope for.
Barnum overcame many struggles to achieve great things.
I played disc golf with my 12-year-old son yesterday. We stepped up to the second hole at The Fort, a disc golf course that shoots across the Weber River. It is about 200 ft. He watched as my friend Joseph and I stepped up and threw our discs. He said, “Dad, do you think I should do it?” I told him it was up to him and he could cross the river and try from over there if he wanted. He decided to try. When he threw, I could tell his confidence was waning. He released early and his favorite disc went straight into the river. He said, “No! I knew that was going to happen!” It appeared that his disc was lost and he started to break down as he struggled with that familiar stage of life between being a boy and a man when you can’t decide if it is still okay to cry when something bad happens. I felt for him, he was frustrated and angry. It stinks losing a favorite disc.
Luckily, we were able to retrieve his disc with some effort, and he recovered quickly, which is something I have always encouraged him to do. You can read about how to do this in this quick story: “Shake it Off and Step Up.”
As my son and I talked about the experience, we talked about how there were three lessons we could learn from the experience:
Listen to your gut. When you are feeling like you should or shouldn’t do something, you should listen. Most of the time listening will be the best option. He wasn’t feeling the cross-the-river option, but he tried to be tough and do it anyway, which caused him pain because he didn’t listen to his gut.
All is not lost, even in the darkest times. We crossed the river to where we were able to see the disc in the river. With an extendable retrieve tool and some wet toes, I was able to retrieve the disc and bring it back to him. He was so happy to have not lost his disc. There is hope even when things go badly.
Confidence. I think many of us step into things and our lack of confidence affects our ability to achieve what we want or to perform well. I told him that if he is going to throw across the river, he should step up with confidence and execute what he knows he can do.
I love that P.T. Barnum is portrayed in the movie as an imperfect man. He sometimes pushed the envelope too far. He made people who were outside the norm feel accepted and strong, only to later exclude them when he didn’t feel they met the standards of those whose favor he sought. He realizes his errors and later sings of his realization, but he is imperfect in his leadership.
“I saw the sun begin to dim and felt that winter wind blow cold. A man learns who is there for him when the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold. Cause from the rubble one remains, can only be what’s true.”
In leadership, we are often our own worst enemy. I know my mistakes are many. I am sure I have both inspired and discouraged my team on many occasions. I love my team and want them to reach their full potential, but I am also a man. I have also caused problems and had employees become frustrated with me. Sometimes, the glitter fades, even from someone you trust and respect. It doesn’t mean they don’t deserve that trust, it just means they are human.
A leader must accept their own weaknesses and rely on their team to help them fight through to new horizons. Watching this movie helped me to have patience with myself in my own leadership shortcomings.
I am also inspired by Barnum’s avalanche of endless ideas and innovations. He is constantly seeking to better himself and his enterprise and his teams love him for that. I believe that the major role of a leader is to say, “We are going to climb that mountain! Follow me.” Teams need coaches to light the way and set an example, even an imperfect one.
I have to throw this one in there because Barnum had a special pazazz for getting attention. He believed that publicity, good or bad, was a big driver in his business. He never shied away from the spotlight, which is how he was able to draw huge crowds with the interesting stunts he created. Towards the end of the show, I loved how he arrived at his daughter's ballet performance on an elephant. I said to my wife, “Now that is marketing!” The hugely out-of-place elephant dropping him off at the ballet was definitely an attention grabber.
I don’t think that businesses have to be quite as attention-seeking as P.T. Barnum’s Circus, but if you’re not getting attention somewhere, you will be an obscure business that no one knows about. We specialize in helping businesses Get and Keep Attention. You can even read about it in my book.
Recognizing Your Blessings
The final lesson I learned while watching “The Greatest Showman” is to recognize what you are blessed with. I remember speaking with a man one time around my dinner table. He was in a hard spot. He was recently divorced, struggling with a custody battle and job troubles because his attendance had been spotty due to the stress of the divorce. I felt really bad for him. He suddenly said, “I did everything right. I served God for a mission for my church, married in the Temple (LDS traditional marriage), and had a child, just like I was always told to do. Why don’t I have any blessings!?” I invited him to remember that even though he was struggling, he had a beautiful daughter who loved him, and he was in good health. Those are two incredible blessings.
Sometimes in our darkest hours, we just have to look around and see what good we have in our life and anchor there. This article is another way to turn things around, so you can spiral up instead of spiraling down. I have set a high bar for myself in life. I want to be more than I am. It drives me, and it haunts me. However, I also realize that we have accomplished so much. I have an incredible family, and even after 25 years, I am still in love with my wife and her with me. It is amazing and wonderful!
In summary, my profound connection to “The Greatest Showman” reflects key aspects of my entrepreneurial journey and personal life. This movie resonates deeply with my aspiration to exceed my own expectations, while also mirroring my ambition in business and marketing. As an entrepreneur and marketer, I recognize the power of persistence, leadership, innovative marketing strategies, and acknowledging one's blessings—all themes vividly portrayed in the film.
Just like P.T. Barnum, I continuously strive for excellence in all of my professional endeavors, from local advertising and SEO to SEM and video marketing. At Connection Media Company (formerly Connection Publishing), we're committed to helping businesses stand out, much like Barnum's unique flair in show business. Moreover, this film underscores the importance of family support and gratitude in life's journey, themes that are personal to me. As I embrace my path, filled with challenges and triumphs, I remain driven to put on my greatest show, both in business and in life, always aiming to inspire and be more than I am today.