by Ali Valdez
Everyone has something they do really well. Think of yours. Imagine being highly regarded for excellence at something, truly world class, standing far beyond your peers, cited as the example of mastery.
Now admit it: at times it isn’t hard to get a little complacent because no one is eclipsing the steadiness and quality of your work. You continue but without others to challenge you to evolve, you stay as you are, and maybe even slide a bit.
Then imagine one day coming in and there are handily a dozen people able to do what you do, only ten times better.
That’s sort of what happened to me this past month when Cirque du Soleil rolled into town.
Every year the circus comes to Marymoor park, setting up its tents across the freeway from one of my businesses, a brick and mortar yoga studio– if you’re here now, I think you know the one! This year many of the star performers and musicians began attending classes the weeks leading up to the opening of the show. Word of mouth spread, and even more of them began practicing. What makes this roaming band of contortionists, aerialists, dancers and skaters so unique is that they don’t have to come to yoga for physical conditioning or concentration. These are some of the most physically conditioned (with strength and flexibility) human beings in the world.
So I began to ask myself, what has happened as a result of having best of class in my class, and found three reasons this experience has upped my game and revitalized my focus. They are transferable to any business owner, too.
1) Can you Scale & Keep Quality? As a yoga teacher, and studio owner, when Cirque performers walk in, your class better be brilliant. Not only does the core product have to deliver (if you want them to come back), but you have to give something they cannot get elsewhere, e.g. with their own world-class training and conditioning team. Now is not the time to pretend to be something you’re not, but if you thought you could just keep dialing it in, this is a defining moment where everything must be at its best, because it’s a balancing act of stepping up to meet their needs, and not forgetting everyone else. The complexity and physicality, not the mention the ability to manage a class to five different skill levels concurrently, is not for the amateur. One person in the room is standing folding forward trying to bring his hands to his knees; the other one is grabbing his ankles bending backward and everyone else balancing between. Assessing how your services can directly serve each individual in a bespoke way brings people back- every single person. Every experience needs to meet them where they are at, even if their “at” is better than your own.
2). It’s a Family Affair. Getting to know them, the team has come to see how much like a family they are. They are relatively isolated, limited three month stints before caravanning off to another city. They rely on each other emotionally, and on stage, they rely on one another for survival. If you have experienced a show, you know there can be little room for error. The stunts are high risk, some of the acts are extremely dangerous, at times, sadly tragic.
Every year, we take the team as a group to see the show. It is a wonderful team bonding experience that everyone looks forward to. They remind us that it’s the team that makes it all work. When we work together like a family, our studio flows, and everyone in our community comes together to care and support one another. It’s pretty magical, just like it is when they are performing on stage.
Years back, I utilized Blue Ocean Strategy as part of my team-building events at Microsoft and Openwave Systems. So much to consider and appreciate about the fundamental disruptor this entertainment juggernaut has become and $300m outlet for the performing, musical and visual arts.
3). Keep Going; Never Stop Pushing your Edge. Last week, I led a class that was about half performers. I took the class through a progressively rigorous practice. It was pushing new limits for me in my teaching and my personal practice, as we did some pretty radical and mathematically complicated sequences. I truly felt like I grew from that class, and the buzz in the lobby afterward was electric. Everyone rose to new heights together. We all pushed, everyone gave that little something extra. If you’ve ever been in sales or built a product, you know how vital that incremental reach can be, for the company and for morale.
They have since inspired me to return back to a more rigorous practice and reminded me of why I keep the studio open and continue doing what I do there even though my professional trajectory has shifted. When I teach, I grow. When I practice, I change. It benefits my students, my employees, my clients and my companies. It also benefits me.
There is a expanded definition of what my A-game means to me; I am feel stronger, smarter and better for it.
If you haven’t yet experienced a Cirque du Soleil show, treat yourself to a sensory feast suitable for your family, friends, and teams. Volta is currently playing in Seattle and the show is amazing!