Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

May 12, 2018


Guy always knew that he wasn’t going to take the traditional approach to life.

When he finished school at 16, he made it clear to his family that higher education was not at the top of his list.

It wasn’t even at the bottom. There was only one thing he cared about.


He wanted to leave his home of Quebec and see the world.

It was a nice dream — but hardly possible. 

He had no money. And he had no job. He had no plan.

What he did have was an accordion — and a pretty positive attitude. He was going to work his way around the world.

So he started busking on the streets of Canada, playing the accordion for tips from those passing by.

A little music. A little dancing. He was personable. He was entertaining. And eventually, he earned the $50 he needed for a one-way ticket out of town.

He repeated that in cities all over Canada — until he was able to earn enough to make it to Europe.

In England, he quickly learned that he and his accordion were no longer the star of the show.

He had competition. Good competition. There were street performers everywhere he looked. He needed to step up his game.

But Guy wasn’t afraid of hard work. He relished it.

He learned how to walk on stilts and how to breathe and eat fire. He was obsessed about it.

He practiced until his body was broken and bruised and burned. When he fell, he would get back up. When he didn’t think he could take one more step, he took one more step. When he was tired, he practiced for five more minutes.

He learned from the best and became the best.

His act was a show people loved to watch.

After traveling and training for a few years, Guy decided to go back to Canada. And in typical artist fashion, he found a whole group of street performers in Quebec — and quickly fell in friendship with them.

They started performing together and had big dreams of taking their show of acrobats, stilt walkers, dancers, flamethrowers and trapeze artists on the road.

It was magical. But maddening.

Day after day, they would practice and perform for loose change and single dollar bills.

Night after night they would wander the streets dreaming about where they would like to travel next.

But it was all just a dream.

Until they decided to take a bold move. Led by Guy, they applied for a contract with the city of Quebec to perform in the 450th anniversary of Canada’s discovery.

They won the contract and got to perform to the tune of $1 million. It was more money than busking had ever made them. Their show was an amazing success. They were booked to travel all over Canada that year.  

They called it Cirque Du Soleil.

Cirque became well known in Canada. They had several shows after their big debut, but none as well paying as the first.

And between the costumes and the traveling, the troop of twenty young men and women were still struggling. They were still hungry. They still dreamed of leaving Canada. They still dreamed of traveling the world.  

Three years after their debut, the Cirque troop decided to gamble on their show. To gamble on themselves.

They packed up everything they had and bought tickets to Los Angeles to perform in the 1987 Arts Festival. They carried with themselves a deadly secret

They only had enough money to get there. But that was it. They called the trip “Live or Die in L.A.” 

They didn’t have enough money for a return flight. Or a return bus ticket. Or dinner.

The show had to be amazing. Everything was on the line.

And it was.

Cirque Du Soleil mesmerized its audience. People couldn’t get enough of it. It was as if they were wildly successful overnight.

Guy had to grow his circus. He started adding more and more artists to it. And then more shows. More locations. 

Over the next 3 decades, his little circus of 20 performers grew to be a team of 4,000 people working in various roles.

And Guy got to live his dream of traveling.

The show is a permanent fixture in Vegas and has been seen in over 50 countries over the last 30 years.

Guy says he never set out to create a circus of mythical proportions. He says he never set out to create a business enterprise. He just wanted to travel.

Cirque Du Soleil was an accidental success that allowed him to see the world.

He and his team used to dream of hitting the $100 million in ticket sales. It wasn’t a dream they thought would ever come true. They have blown past $2 billion already.

So besides working hard and being willing to gamble on his own success — what made Guy Laliberte such a success story?

It’s really two important things.

He would tell you that it is the creative genius of his team and that he only picks the best in their field.

He might be an accidental billionaire, but he was purposeful in what he did that got him to that level in his life. 


That same mindset is what drives Guy in everything that he does — like his One Drop foundation. An organization dedicated to providing clean water to impoverished countries. 

And with a bit of intention, they have provided permanent safe water to over 340,000 people.

You can change the world. And you should. 

What you won’t do much of anything of value without clear intention.

You have to know exactly what you want. No ambiguity. No doubt. No shapeshifting from thing to thing.

Your hard work and sacrifice are wasted when they aren’t channeled by strong intention. That’s a lesson worth remembering.

Do you find yourself stopping and starting way too often? That’s a sign you might be missing some intention. Some purpose. A direction. A mission. A cause worth digging in your heels and fighting for.

You’re going to have setbacks. You are going to experience problems. Life is going to come at you hard.

You might find yourself broke, out of work, and out on the streets, like Guy.


Your intention to change things. To improve things. To be better. To work harder. To find a way out. To grind and fight and pursue what matters most for you. 

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.