Performance Art

Lessons from the ice arena about coaching skills and pacing yourself.

I’ve come to realize over the years that some of life’s best lessons are learned in some rather strange locations. One of the oddest places at which I’ve “gone to school” has to be the ice show at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL. The teacher was a performer named Albert Lucas. With the encouragement of his father, Albert began juggling at age 3 and performing at age 4 in comedy clubs, small circuses, and nightclubs. From age 8 to 11, he toured with Liberace and then performed in Las Vegas. From age 12 to 22, he traveled the world, performing his juggling act on ice with the Ice Capades. Albert spent several years performing in the Around the World on Ice show at Busch Gardens Theme Park, which is where I met him. Albert has performed at both the NBA Finals and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

During the course of the show—while on ice skates, mind you—Albert juggled. He juggled five tennis racquets. He juggled six balls at once and caught them in baskets on his hips and in the middle of his back. He juggled Frisbees that soared 40 feet into the air and 20 feet out into the audience. He juggled everything that wasn’t nailed down and then some.

I met Albert after the show (courtesy of Michele Hayes in Busch Operations Training) and learned that he holds five world records for juggling, including juggling 10 balls at once! I was further impressed to discover that he has never failed to teach anyone to juggle in less than 10 minutes. It took me, armed with a book on juggling, six months to be able to do a simple three-ball cascade!

I was impressed with his proficiency at teaching, but even more impressed by his willingness to teach. Almost every “master performer” in business today is called upon, at some point, to wear the hat of coach. Albert, as a master juggler, sees it as his responsibility to pass that skill on to others. He actively looks for opportunities to coach and encourage other people. This gifted performer provides a vivid reminder why, as trainers, it is so important for us to encourage and enable—with training and support—the masters in our organizations as they might be able to help accomplish training goals in minutes what otherwise might take much longer.

I also learned from Albert why it doesn’t pay in the long run to go all out every day. He doesn’t perform at “world-record level” in his act because he says he can’t operate at his absolute peak when he’s performing five times a day, six or seven days a week. So he takes his daily show down several notches and does things well within his capacity so he doesn’t burn himself out.

Maybe we trainers don’t “perform” as often as Albert, but in the overall scheme of our jobs and lives, we, too, have to pace ourselves or we’ll eventually burn out, leaving no one to benefit from our talents.

I’m not advocating slacking. I’m simply suggesting we take care of ourselves—to seek and understand our capacities and limits—so that when our absolute, world-record best is needed in the classroom, we have sufficient reserves to perform at that peak level for the time required. Our individual answers may not be found in ice shows around the country, but they do need to be found. Otherwise, we may be skating on thin ice.

As a side note, I hope you are planning to join me at Training 2015 in Atlanta, GA ( I’ll be presenting a powerful preconference training, along with two other training masters: Sharon Bowman and Thiaggi.

Until next time, continue to add value and make a difference.

Bob Pike, CSP, CPAE, CPLP Fellow, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.