No more human cannon balls. No more trapeze artists. No more clowns to send in. No Dumbo. No parade into town with wagons and marching bands. The Greatest Show On Earth is ending. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that after 146 years of performances, it is folding up the big tent.
And for many of us, the fantasy is gone. What can ever replace running away to join the circus? Becoming a roadie for Bruce Springsteen? Becoming a beach or ski bum? Writing a book while cloistered in a Paris loft? Not much comes to mind that can compare to the circus. But maybe it was just time. That is, the time for the circus to end.
Kenneth Feld, of Feld Entertainment, the circus’ owner, said, “There isn’t any one thing. We looked at the performance in 2016 and advance tickets sales in 2017, and we decided it was not a viable business model,” he said. The difficult decision was made in spite of the fact that an estimated 10 million people go to a Ringling circus each year.
Transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers’ children — are throwbacks to another era. “It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price.”
“The circus isn’t relevant to people in the same way it was.” Said Mr. Feld.
The lesson from the closing of the circus is clear. Things run their course. What was once a great idea evolves over time. What was once a talent can erode over time. What was once a brilliant idea has been replaced by a new brilliant idea. The trick is to know when things do run their course and to make changes.
Careers and jobs run their course too. What was once an important job is no longer. Skills that were once highly sought after are not any more. If you are in a spot where you can identify with the circus closing, because you know things have run their course, it’s time to make a change before they fold up your tent.
A fib is not a lie. But it’s not quite the truth either. And we all are sometimes guilty – fibbing has taken over the work world. Millions of little white lies bounce around cubicles and office spaces every day. No, I am not talking about criminal activity or any kind of fraud. I am talking about fibs that might make you less successful – or not.
At a time when fact checking and fake news has entered the parlance, fibbing seems to be at an all-time high.
Think not? Here are a few fibbing test questions: Have you ever put a few “extra” words in your resume? Is the number of followers on LinkedIn that you claim more than what your page actually displays? Have you ever been on a project team that was a total disaster but you told everyone the team was on time and on budget? Have you ever tried to sell something for the company that you knew was a piece of junk but you didn’t say anything?
These are just a few examples of the fibs that can fly around the workplace and make for days of worry that you will get caught. And you don’t need to see an employee manual or business book to see that fibbing is generally not okay.
Why do we do it?
- The deadline schedule and your personal schedule are not quite in sync, but you can get it done over the weekend. FIB: “We are right on schedule but if we wait until next week, we can get more people in the room.”
- Others need to be protected and you want to do them a favor. FIB: “He/she worked their ass off on this project.”
- You missed something, didn’t do something or just didn’t want to do something and now you need to cover your ass. FIB: “That request must have gone into my Spam folder, you will have it tomorrow.”
- The truth of the situation is worse than the fib, like when no one is buying a junk product. FIB: “The customers are slow to adapt.”
- Others don’t recognize the real value you created and you crave the recognition. FIB: “The degree of difficulty on this was a ten and I doubt any one else could have done it.”
- Pretending to be something we are not in order to impress. FIB: “I provided a solution to the talent problems using a proprietary derivative method through Black-Scholes and flux capacitors.”
- Saying “No” would just cause more problems so we say yes even though we don’t mean it. FIB: “No problem, I will put it on the list and get to it”.
- The job isn’t done and we need to share the blame with others. FIB: “It’s been in procurement (IT, HR) for months.
Okay, I fibbed, there are not 10 reasons, there are only eight that I can think of, but there are actually millions of reasons why fibs happen in the workplace. I am sure you have a few to add. Go ahead.
But I hope you don’t add too many. Fibbing is neither good for you or the organization. A culture of fibbing is terrible for morale and will have everyone wondering what is true and what is not. For your career, being known as a fibber will have people avoiding you and will eventually impact your career progression and reputation. You will get caught. Lastly, it is a miserable feeling to be wondering who knows the truth and can sniff out a fib.
In short, DON’T FIB. Just remember stories like “Pinocchio”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” because those fibs can add up.
I know a university president who wears green socks every day. Whether he is in a meeting or playing on the faculty basketball team, he wears those green socks. He says the socks are his brand and, indeed, they may be, but so what? How are green socks as a personal brand helping him or his institution?
In another situation a young woman was dressed for an interview wearing a bright scarf around her neck. It was a nice scarf but it was hot and not quite right for an interview. She believed that the scarf would ensure that she stood out in the eyes of the interviewer. She said she wears a colorful scarf every day and it is her personal brand. I am sure the scarf did make her stand out, but in what direction? Good or bad? Did the scarf help her “nail” the interview?
Which is it? Are socks and scarves a personal brand or do they make you stand out in a weird way? The answer is both.
The green socks are the trademark of the university president but he needs to have happy faculty, thriving students and so many other things hanging on his brand. The woman in the scarf better have more things to discuss with the interviewer than her scarf.
Cool socks and colorful scarves are fine and can make you stand out and be memorable. But standing out based on socks and scarves is not enough.
A personal brand is about you, not your socks. A brand needs content. Steve Jobs wore a black mock turtleneck as part of his brand but he had a lot of other accomplishments to back up his brand. James Bond has a cool Aston Martin as part of his brand but there are other skills and abilities he can show. Lady Gaga’s brand includes wild hair and outfits but she can sing too!
Content doesn’t have to be in the form of music or business acumen to build a brand. Personal brands can be built through an online presence through blogs, websites, tweets, and any social media outlet. A successful brand is consistent – photos, messages and content that help you create perceptions about you.
Sometimes you need to spell it out. One of my favorite brand builders is venture capitalist Stewart Alsop. He describes himself and lives up to it in everything he does.
Stewart Alsop: Venture capital investor looking for hard-technology companies. Fisherman. Foodie. Art & craft junkie.
When you are considering building a personal brand, green socks or a scarf may be a good start but there better be something more than that. A successful brand, once built, should help you achieve your goals in a fun way. A brand should also let you be yourself.