Last month my husband and I enjoyed a vacation through the South West. I'd wanted to see a landscape I'd never seen before and boy, did we see it: the dry, hot 115 degree desert of a Phoenix suburb (Surprise, AZ - yup, there was sage brush, cactus and Home Depot), the whimsically-named Red Rocks of Sedona (Snoopy, Coffee Pot are among them), the nearly 1.5 billion years of earth history revealed in the constantly changing scenery of Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam holding back the Colorado River and transforming it into Lake Mead.
And then we went to Las Vegas where we saw a force of nature unlike any of the prior sights.
Now, I've been to Las Vegas before and I love it (it's not the gambling, even though my $3 investment in electronic "21" gave back $6). The free entertainment factor is staggering: the gondoliers navigating passengers along the indoor canals of the Venetian Hotel, under its painted 'sky' ceiling, changing throughout the day with the passing of the 'sun'; the Paris hotel with a shopping arcade designed to look like cobble-stoned streets of a small French village (also - with its own painted 'sky' and quaint street lamps to light the way by evening); the MGM Grand with lion cubs cavorting in the lobby; the fountains of Bellagio, timed to swoop water to music, the Luxor hotel, shaped as an ancient pyramid and the new Wynn hotel with eye-popping detailed decor. And then we saw Danny Gans perform.
Have you ever even heard of Danny Gans? I hadn't. Yet in Vegas, he's a very big deal with the biggest billboard of all. A 10-consecutive-year winner of "Las Vegas Performer of the Year", for the last 11 years he's earned many millions per year, 7 years in his own theater in the Mirage Hotel where he performs 4 shows per week. (small business owners: are you listening?) Intrigued and with front row seats, we went to find out what generates this kind of consistent, over-the-top success.
To be sure: the man is remarkably talented with voice, wit, style, timing and humor. For nearly 2 hours these two New Yorkers, who have enjoyed our local cultural diversity for decades, choked on our constant laughter and occasionally, amazement at Gans' uncanny ability to resemble other performers. Yet, with all that, there was something else going on that was evident and added to the value of his performance, even before he briefly told his story near the show's end.
It's abundantly clear watching him perform: this is a very happy man, doing exactly what he loves to do, having found both a receptive audience for his skill, a performance home designed around his strengths, the ability to fund a variety of ongoing charitable commitments and (this is his pay-off) able to go home and enjoy his family at the end of each evening.
That was his dream: work/life balance!
Like many who start out employed and end up responsible for the whole business, Gans thought his life's dream (baseball) would take him in a completely different direction than he's gone (although there's no way to assess how that prior dream helped lead to his current reality). And, like many of us, life intervened and he needed to reinvent himself, outside of a securely employed situation. Over time, as professional recognition and financial success found him he realized, that something was still missing, that his on-the-road life as an entertainer precluded the warmth, support and love of those he valued most - his family.
He set about crafting the ideal scenario: one which would both celebrate his strengths and honor his values. A scenario that, in its planned composition would allow him to grow, explore the range of what he can do and set the guidelines that would be responsive to acknowledged priorities.
For all of us who turn pages of a calendar, Autumn and the 'back-to-business' sensibility arrived recently. The shift occurred during the autumnal equinox, that perfect balance of day and night. As we shift away from long summer weekends and change the closets (it's a woman thing), my wish for us all is that we take advantage of a symbolic change to make a real change: to find that perfect blend of work/life balance, each contributing to the other segment, and both contributing to us, in a way that allows us to explore the range of what we can do, set the guidelines that are responsive to acknowledged priorities and find true work/life balance. Become a force of (your own) nature!