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From Busker To Billionaire: How Guy Laliberté Achieved Success

Until 2010, Laliberté will have his hands full with the opening of three new shows and a special Christmas production. “Our biggest goal is to continue to force ourselves to always start our creative work on a white page and not take advantage of past successes and challenging ourselves,” he says. Just how did this one time street performer turn a group of young buskers into a performing troupe that has become a global phenomenon and a billion-dollar enterprise?

Creativity: “I believe there are so many other disciplines and themes that we still haven't explored yet,” says Laliberté. “It’s infinite what we can apply our creativity to.” At Cirque du Soleil, their working space is considered a fantastical playground, where a few rules guide the overall direction, but where curiosity, creativity, and excitement are allowed to roam free. It is by fostering creativity and remaining only as hands-on as need be that Laliberté has created a company that continues to be inspiring both on stage and off.

People: At Cirque du Soleil, recruiters use the analogy of Michaelangelo, when he replied that his great sculpture David was already inside the stone; he just needed to find him and chip away all the pieces that were not David. The people and performers at Cirque are recruited for their passion, their abilities, and the potential for what they could become. Laliberté encourages an open working environment where people are free to work together in cooperation and push their limits.

Risk: When Laliberté decided to book Cirque as the opening act for the Los Angeles art festival, he was taking a huge gamble. “I bet everything on that one night,” he recalls. “If we failed, there was no cash for gas to come home.” From opening in Los Angeles, to building permanent theatres in Las Vegas, to reinventing the circus itself, Laliberté’s career is defined by his willingness to go for broke.

Awareness: Laliberté’s vision for his circus is not just about providing entertainment. His is a vision that embraces the world in its entirety, from its cultures to its major issues. He has created a production that is not only representative of its audience, but also relevant to them. He has tailored his shows to speak to important social problems, hoping to be a catalyst for change.

Poker: Now a CEO by day and a professional poker player by night, Laliberté is proving that the skills it takes to run a business are little different from those it takes to win a poker game. From reading his opponents to bluffing to knowing when to play and when to fold, Laliberté plays both the game of poker and the game of life strategically and to win.

“I am blessed for what I have, but I believed in it from the beginning,” says Laliberté. “Today, the dream is the same: I still want to travel, I still want to entertain, and I most certainly still want to have fun.”

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