The Eye of the Needle

The past few months have been (and continues to be) like being put through a mincer  or like being squeezed through the eye of a needle.

Over the last few months I’ve taken on several new projects. I spoke about some of them in my previous post at the beginning of this year, Completion and Creation. In that post I declared that 2011 was going to be focused around 7 different things, the first of which is Airborne Circus, my new youth circus company.

Not only have I been working on getting Airborne up and running (off the ground, anyone?) but I’ve been looking at what I want Airborne to be, what I want Airborne to do, and how I want to accomplish that. 

Fortune Favours the Bold

My first instinct was to set up a full-time circus school focused on youth circus, teaching early years circus classes right on up to young adults. But almost everyone I’ve spoken to – including a business advisor, accountant, and some of my friends and family – recommended that, instead of trying to set up a circus school, I set up some local private circus classes or after-school clubs initially to ‘build a customer base’ and to ‘create some brand-awareness’. This was a good idea. Create some local classes, get some kids in, start teaching them and make people aware of Airborne Circus. After that then I could look to turn the classes into a circus school. I’d already have a customer base, I’d already have kids to teach, and I’d be set up and ready to move into permanent premises! Except that it doesn’t work.

The more I focused on getting some classes going, finding a hall to run them in, the less I wanted to do anything about it. I’ve been spinning my wheels, being busy and accomplishing nothing. I’ve known why but I’ve kept on plugging away, trying to ignore the splinter in my mind.

Then a couple of days ago I was reading Tim Ferris’ blog (an interesting post about how he created the online trailer for his book the 4-Hour Body). The blog finished like this:

It’s lonely at the top. 99% of the world is convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre middle-ground. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming. It is often easier to raise $10,000,000 than it is $1,000,000. It is easier to pick up the one perfect 10 in the bar than the five 8s.

If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.

Unreasonable and unrealistic goals are easier to achieve for yet another reason.

Having an unusually large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal. Realistic goals, goals restricted to the average ambition level, are uninspiring and will only fuel you through the first or second problem, at which point you throw in the towel. If the potential payoff is mediocre or average, so is your effort. I’ll run through walls to get a catamaran trip through the Greek islands, but I might not change my brand of cereal for a weekend trip through Columbus, Ohio. If I choose the latter because it is “realistic,” I won’t have the enthusiasm to jump even the smallest hurdle to accomplish it. With beautiful, crystal-clear Greek waters and delicious wine on the brain, I’m prepared to do battle for a dream that is worth dreaming. Even though their difficulty of achievement on a scale of 1-10 appears to be a 2 and a 10 respectively, Columbus is more likely to fall through.

The fishing is best where the fewest go. There is just less competition for bigger goals.

As the Romans (or at least Turnus) would say: “Fortes fortuna adiuvat!”

Fortune favors the bold. Have fun with it.

Fortune favours the bold. So what now?

Now is a difficult time for the arts. With the economy in a bad state and cuts being made left, right and centre it is a difficult time to try and start a circus school. Except last week I heard people saying that in the 1980s, under the Tory government, when cuts were made and the recession was on, people became amazingly creative, finding new opportunities to seize and new ways to succeed. Perhaps the same will happen now. Perhaps now is in fact the perfect time? I don’t know the answer but until I do, I’m going to keep plugging away at the question until the answer becomes clearer.

Meanwhile across town…

I’ve also spent a large part of this first quarter of 2011 learning more and more about property, and the more I’ve learnt the more I’ve realised that I couldn’t buy a house. Except fortune favours the bold and I’m not willing to get stopped at the first hurdle. So now I’m looking at other ways that I could finance buying a house. I’ve read about four or five books on personal finance, property investing, renovating, renting, etc. If I’m going to by a house this year then I want to know what I’m doing, understand the process and, at the end of it all, have bought something. There’s not a lot more for me to tell you about this at the moment so I’ll just say I’ll keep you posted.

In taking on these and other projects, and setting out to accomplish these results, I’ve had to deal with some things about myself that I wasn’t expecting to deal with. When facing the prospect of making money – either from Airborne, property, or any other projects I’m working on – I can’t help but feel like I shouldn’t make money, or am undeserving. I feel guilty and embarrassed if I have money. There are certain insecurities and beliefs about my self that I’m having to face – like what will my friends think of me if I start a business? It’s hard for me to imagine myself as a business owner, employing other people. It’s hard for me to see myself as a property owner and landlord. And it’s very hard for me to see myself as an entrepreneur or even someone who makes money! It’s easier to stay where I am and keep doing what I’m doing. If I set up a circus school, owned a property (or three) and made some money, I’d be a whole other person. And that’s a scary prospect. In order for any of my projects – and ultimately me – to be successful, I’m going to have to start by transforming who I am for myself.

Someone once said “if you keep doing what you’re already doing, and if you keep being who you’re already being, you’re always going to get what you always got.”

How I Got Here

As well as the personal concerns that I’m facing and beginning to deal with, in starting to move forward with Airborne and my other projects, I’ve begun to bump up against other breakdowns. I’ve noticed that in my haste to do things and create a new future I’ve disconnected myself from where I am and how I got to be here.

I’ve been teaching circus skills for over 10 years now, and I’m proud to be able to say that I’m a good teacher and love what I do.

But I didn’t get here on my own. In fact, there were a few people who saw in me my potential and offered me my first few opportunities. The first two people are my parents. Little did they know that letting  me walk around on cylinders in the living room at 6 years old, climb anything and everything, and teaching me to catch at a very early age would actually form the basis of my career! To them I owe the biggest debt.

In late 1999 I met Johnny Tenn. One conversation with Johnny in the spring of 2000 changed who I was forever and for that conversation I am truly grateful. I would not be who I am today if it was not for Johnny and that one ruthless and compassionate conversation.

Sometime around 2000 or 2001 I started teaching at Circus SpaceRob Colbert, who at the time managed both the Adult and Corporate Programmes at Circus Space, offered me my first teaching work there. Over the years Circus Space has been a huge support to me and there are many people there past and present who have helped make me who I am today. I worked with Rob for many years, and although he has moved on to his next adventure, I and am very thankful to him for those early opportunities.

Lila Lifely has been a good friend and colleague of mine for many years now. Lila was another of the people who gave me some of my first proper teaching jobs both with her own company, CircArts, and on the Cirque du Monde programme, an international Social Circus programme run by Cirque du Soleil. Lila has continued to offer me work over the years and we have worked together on dozens of projects. I owe Lila an enormous debt and am massively grateful for all of her support.

Without these people I would not be where I am today. I owe them all a great debt, a debt that I will probably never be able to repay. Wherever I go and whatever I do, know that it is because of you.

1 thought on “The Eye of the Needle

  1. Pingback: Getting My Ducks In A Row | Adam Cohen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s