Passing the rigorous physical and mental assault course to run away with Cirque du Soleil was no easy task for a humble kid who grew up in London as a statistic doomed for failure. The journey is the same for all who desire to live a dream. You will bleed, cry and be tempted to give up along the way.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL boot camp: The process scared us, sometimes embarrassed us, but it made us discover talents and abilities we didn’t even know we had. It set us free. Made us better.
The humid Montreal summer days became long andphysically demanding. We battled through the five days a week of nine-to-five physicality. Training and formation did not offer the option to hide behind the mask of shyness and fear. When we hid too long behind our masks, they were pried from our faces, stamped on, chewed, swallowed, and thrown-up. If we sought refuge in our shells, Franco Dragone, the director, huffed and puffed and blew our pride in. We were temporarily stripped of decorum, oftentimes humiliated, other times enthused, but most times left clueless. Then, Franco took us even further out of our comfort zone until we lost our balance and fell. Franco said that if we lived on the edge, we were still taking up too much space.
We were becoming Cirque du Soleil one courageous step at a time. That seems to mirror life. Baby steps transform us into our 2.0 version.
They pushed and poked, inviting us to plunge into the darkest unchartered depths of the ocean. They reinforced repeatedly that we needed to fall off the edge. That’s where greatness is discovered. That’s where commonplace becomes extraordinary. We witnessed their process transform decent into good, and good into amazing.
Franco treated the show as a baby with a pulse that needed to be nurtured and challenged in order to grow. A baby that would live and not simply exist in space and time. Beyond his source of inspiration and virtuoso, he instilled fear into all of us. We felt intimidation on many levels. He regularly bullied us into submission, sometimes reminding me of my father.
Franco is a short, dark-haired Italian man from Belgium with intense eyes and an overpowering ego. He spoke witha viscous French accent, often fishing for words in English. His linguistic limitations didn’t hold back his passion. Besides, there are many ways to communicate one’s message beyond words. Anglophone curses came easily when boiling frustration and creative appetite gushed from his mouth, in particular a classic tongue-tied sentence that has gone down in Mystère folklore.
“I will take ‘ammer and stick inside your assle.”
We understood he meant asshole, and laughed and cringed at the visual of him hammering away.
There were times we didn’t understand what he wanted, but that had nothing to do with language. We were convinced he didn’t know what he was looking for and had lost his marbles. That’s the price of an innovative mindset that sees more than most. Stay committed to your vision.
To most of us, a perfect ten was the ultimate acrobatic achievement. To him, it was meaningless and boring without the expression to ignite a profound emotional and cerebral reaction. He desired to expose the heartbeat to our flips and our twists, giving dexterities a pulse, a personality, and a face.
“Your little minkey tricks and tumbles must be breathing, feeling and ‘aving sense of purpose,” he said. “Uzzerwise, don’t waste my time... go ‘ome to your banality and masturbate.”
He forced us to open up and reveal the very thing that made us who we were and prevented us from becoming who we weren’t. It was the ultimate lesson in vulnerability and the shedding of inhibitions for a greater cause—to achieve greatness and touch the soul of humanity with our hearts, our pain, our triumphs, excellence, and our shadows.
“Why you are ‘ere on zis earth?” he asked. “What is it you ‘ave to say and share wiz the world after your physical skill, which is flat and shallow and repeated a million times around the planet?”
For some of us, it was easy to step out of our frames and dig deep into our untapped resources, but for others, it was like building the Great Wall of China out of tea leaves and delicate silk.
The tall and shy, six-foot-six strongman from Poland morphed into a delicate ballerina to everybody’s surprise with endless coaxing. He had begun the journey is a rigid mass of stoicism incapable of mustering expression. He now possessed an uninhibited and enriched emotional vocabulary that expanded his horizons, options, and stage personage. He became much better than his initial limitations had suggested.
The dancers abandoned their training, lost their standard postures, and became primitive and un-choreographed creatures that questioned existence and evolution.
Franco’s approach wasn’t always poetic. It sounds like torture, but it’s what it took to make it. The strong survived and thrived. The weak stumbled. Some were unfortunately fired and forgotten.
I feared, loved, hated and admired this authoritarian genius. The fear and hate mirrored the emotions my father stimulated. In this environment, however, fear and hate were powerful motivators. With my father they triggered off numbness, paralysis and spite.
The director’s lens captured the unseen and not yet conceived to sculpt imagery from another dimension.
We did indeed discover through risk-taking and experimentation. We were given an insatiable sense of challenge and purpose within the framework of a team all committed to distinction. The process and approach provided the perfect launching pad for success.
Encouragement and support was plentiful, despite the excess of egos, fighting for dominance and attention. With the safety net of trust, collaboration, diversity of extreme skill and a common goal, we achieved the greatness they demanded and inspired. We brimmed with fulfillment and personal growth and a belief in our own ability to be better than we once imagined.
I have carried these invaluable lessons ever since in pursuit of ongoing improvement and development. The journey to success is never-ending and dependent on alliance and healthy relationships with those who help you, but also those you help.
Even in childhood without Mom and Dad, there wereinfluential people who inspired me to better myself. Nonetheless, the inner flame must be fanned from within. There must also be a core hunger to overcome and become regardless of circumstance.
Thank you for reading an excerpt from the top-selling book, FLYING WITHOUT A NET - It’s a personal development book about the power of attitude. Our attitude determines what we are able to overcome and achieve in any aspect of life: if we develop courage in our personal lives, it transcends into our work ethic as employees and leaders.
It’s been called:
Best read of the year
Couldn’t put it down
PRESIDENT of ENGAGEteams360
Vital Germaine is Las Vegas’ most dynamic keynote speaker and employee engagement trainer.
PURPOSE: To build happier, richer lives at home and at work be creating and sharing meaningful content that inspires and evokes action.
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