Your Undiminished Value

Holding a crisp $100 bill high in the air a wise man asked a crowd of people, “Who would like this $100?  Hands rose throughout the room.  He said, “I’m going to give this money to someone in the room, but first let me do this.  He crumpled the bill into a little wad and asked, “Who still wants the money?”  The hands remained aloft.  ‘What if I do this?”  He dropped the money to the floor and ground it into the floor with his shoe.  He picked up the soiled and smashed bill and asked, “Now, who wants the money?” Every hand was still raised.

The wise man looked across the room and said, “This is a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. After all I did to the bill it was still worth $100.”

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the floor by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.  We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen to you, your value never diminishes. You are valued and, unlike a $100 bill, your crumpled, soiled and stomped self is more valuable for the experience.

Frogs of Freedom (b)Do you ever sense you’re in water over your head?  When starting a new job, relationship, or task, we often feel that there is too much to know, too much to learn and not enough time to do it all.  When I’m faced with such a feeling I remember an African folk tale of the frogs that fell into a milk pail.

The rising sun creased the morning sky and it was time for the day to begin. A farmer arose from his bed and went to milk his cows.  Finishing the milking, the farmer left the bucket of milk and went inside to make his breakfast.

Two passing frogs jumped—like all frogs jump—and they jumped into the milk bucket. They splashed into the milk.  “Oh no!” cried one. “We’re in a pond of milk. How do we get out?”

“Keep swimming,” said the other. “We will get out somehow.” The frogs kicked in the milk again and again. But they couldn’t reach the top of the bucket.

The first frog said, “I’m tired.”

“Keep kicking,” panted the second. “Don’t give up.”

But the first frog had already given up. “I’m going to die anyway,” he said and stop swimming. As soon as he stopped moving, he sunk in the bucket of milk and died.

The other frog wouldn’t give up. He paddled and kicked even when he was exhausted. Slowly, all that swimming turned the milk to butter.  The frog realized he could now jump out. He pushed his legs on the solidified butter and jumped to his freedom. He was alive because he wouldn’t give up.

When you feel in over your head and that you’ll drown in all the details, keep paddling and kicking and soon the ground will rise to meet you.  If you keep moving, the confusion will clear and you’ll find a new level of comfort that will set you free.


Have you ever felt in over your head?  Let me know how you kept swimming until you succeeded.


Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization. To contact Tim, email

Reshape Pic (a)

On May 4, 1970 soldiers from the Ohio National Guard encountered Kent State University students protesting against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.  The Guardsmen opened fire on the unarmed students killing four and wounding nine others.

The day after the shooting, students from Southern Illinois University marched into the McDonald’s restaurant in Carbondale, Illinois demanding that the U.S. flag flying outside the restaurant be lowered to half-staff to honor the Kent State students.  The McDonald’s manager complied.

A neighbor, who happened to know McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, phoned Kroc to complain about the lowered flag.   Kroc called the Carbondale manager and insisted that the flag be raised again to the top of the pole.  The flag was raised.

The angry students returned to the McDonald’s and threatened to burn the restaurant unless the flag was again lowered.  The McDonald’s manager called the President of McDonald’s, Fred Turner, and pled his case.  Turner thought a moment and said, “Tell you what you do.  The next delivery truck that arrives, have the driver back into the flag pole and knock it down.”  The next delivery truck backed into the pole and knocked it down.1

Caught in a crisis?  The next time you feel stuck, look for the flagpole and ask yourself, “How do I knock it down?”  Reshape the crisis for success.


1  An early version of this story appeared in Ray Kroc by J. Anthony Lukas, 1971, New York Times


Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization. To contact Tim, email

Flea PPT (a) 2016-02-18









Flea circuses fascinate me. They originated in the 16th Century and continue today. It seems a scam, but fleas can be taught to perform. Professor Oddnaught with The National Geographic Society posted a YouTube video providing information on fleas and their astounding strength.

Fleas are conditioned to fulfill different roles in the circus.. Pulling fleas are trained to pull 100x their body weight. Kicking fleas propel objects through the air. Jumping fleas leap up to 80x their height.

Jumping fleas are trained by putting them in a cardboard box with a top on it. The fleas will jump up and hit the top of the cardboard box again and again. Then a change occurs. The fleas continue to jump, but they no longer jump high enough to hit the box top. Apparently, they learn the limit of the box and calibrate their jump accordingly. When the box lid is removed the fleas continue to jump, but no higher than where the lid used to be.

Many times, we condition ourselves by the limits we feel. We restrict ourselves and never stretch new heights. Just like the fleas, we fail to jump higher, thinking our current strength is our outer limit.

On my desktop I keep a 2011 Harvard Business Review article titled “Stop Holding Yourself Back.” I open the article from time to time and rededicate myself to the discipline of “jumping a little higher.” Concluding the article, Anne Morriss, Robin J. Ely, and Frances X. Frei write, “We’re quite selfishly invested in having you get out of your own way. We want to live in a world—we want our children to grow up in a world—in which your talents are fully unleashed on the issues that matter most. You should learn to recognize and overcome the self-imposed obstacles to your impact. The rest of us need you on the front lines, building better organizations.”


Click Here to view an interview with the Harvard author of “Stop Holding Yourself Back.”

Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization. To contact Tim, email

You're Going To Drop Phone (b) smaller


The easiest people to teach to juggle are Twelve-year-old athletes. They have a dexterity that gives them a small advantage and they know they will need to practice. Their biggest advantage is that they are fearless in failure. Young athletes willingly undergo small failures to achieve a higher goal.

You’re going to drop. All jugglers drop. Our instructors at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College were world champion jugglers. They dropped—rarely—but they dropped. And these master jugglers taught us that dropping was part of the learning and growing process. Our instructors never chided us for dropping, but encouraged us to try again.

Since you know you’re going to drop; how do you prepare for failure and limit its damage? Below are six effective strategies for dealing with drops.

  1. Don’t juggle heirlooms. Make sure you don’t risk something irreplaceable. My friends Marty and Betty have a family business. They never risk their family because they know that a family is like a glass ball; once you drop it you can never put it back together. What in your life is too fragile to drop? Don’t juggle what you can’t afford to break.
  2. Limit the fall of the ball. Practice juggling over a bed or sofa. This will keep you from chasing your mistakes all over the place. And since you don’t have to chase your mistakes you have more time to practice and improve. Make sure your risks have a safety net so that when you drop you can quickly gather up the pieces and try again.
  3. Keep juggling! Because you dropped doesn’t mean you can’t juggle. Keep juggling and you’ll get the hang of it. Then juggle more so you’ll become proficient and can learn more tricks.
  4. When you consistently drop the same trick—seek help. Never in human history have we had more ways of getting help. The internet, seminars, coaches, bosses, colleagues and strangers are all eager and able to help. Asking for help demonstrates your humility and eagerness to learn. A learning partner might see a way to improve your technique or offer you a different stance that makes the trick easier.
  5. This trick might not be your trick. Sometimes we’re trying to learn a trick that won’t be our trick. I never mastered the art of juggling while on a ladder. That doesn’t mean I can’t juggle. I can. I just won’t juggle while on a freestanding ladder. If you simply can’t get the hang of one trick, move onto another. You may find you’re happier in another job, career or relationship.
  6. Restart with a flourish! Learn to restart your juggle by rolling the ball atop your foot and kick it into your hands. Turn your drop into part of your act. Since you’re going to fail; do it in such a way that others will witness and celebrate your recovery.

Please write me and let me know how you juggle life and leadership.