sharing struggles, and not falling into fakery
Transcript of this video:
When I was a kid, my parents took me to the Blackpool Tower Circus, which was a big thing back in the day.
And towards the end, one of the acts was a bunch of acrobats, and their piéce de resistance was for one of them at the end to walk backwards down a staircase on his hands, balancing a ball on his feet.
He got about halfway down the stairs when he fell off much to the horror of the crowd and he picked himself up and went over to the stairs and inspected the step from which he’d fallen and pulled up a little piece of fluff to the astonishment of the audience.
Oh, there was a little bit of fluff that had caused him to fall.
Oh, we went, he took the fluff away, got on the steps, did it again, and this time he succeeded. And the crowd, of course, was ecstatic and I was very impressed.. until that Christmas when I watched a BBC show where they’d filmed a different performance of th same circus.
And I watched him go down the steps and I thought he was bound to get it right first time this time.
And he fell off at exactly the same point and did exactly the same thing o going over and finding this imaginary bit of fluff before doing it again successfully.
I think I lost a little of my childhood innocence that Christmas, and I suppose you can draw a whole series of morals from this story. One is, I suppose what the acrobats understood is that a little bit of struggle and failure is often a great way of encouraging greater engagement with your audience.
I also think that if you fake vulnerability, you may miss something that a therapist pointed out to me very wisely 30 years ago, which he said, when you try to manipulate other people, you have to recognise that you first have to manipulate yourself.
That there is a little psychological price to be paid for pretending something that deep down, you know, isn’t true.
And in these days of social media, I think we’ve all become a little attuned to wondering when we see things there, is that real? Is that struggle you’re showing me real?
Or is it something you’ve slightly contrived? Or is it your party piece, something that you are used to doing and that you think that you are creating spontaneous connection, but actually underneath your behaviour is subtly undermining it.