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 What was once a brilliant idea has been replaced by a new brilliant idea.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.
Richard is the author of the new book The Thing About Work: Showing Up and Other Important Matters [A Worker’s Manual]. You can follow his writing on Twitter, Facebook, or at his website at richardmoran.com.
Richard is President of Menlo College in Atherton, CA. He is a noted San Francisco based business leader, best-selling author, speaker, and venture capitalist.