What can we learn from the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth

The third week of July is probably the quietest one in the city of Calgary. Why you ask?

Well, the Calgary Stampede has wrapped up for another year, and The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth has left the grandstands. This event started way back in 1912 and has been going strong ever since. Well, there was that one year that it didn’t happen. But, we like to forget 2020 whenever possible.

Even though I don’t attend many of the festivities, there is a lot to be said about something that has happened 109 times in 110 years. This year, the Stampede was no exception to the fun that was had. Over 1.2 million people walked through those gates, over 200,000 free pancakes are served all over the city during Pancake breakfasts, and over $1.5 million in prize money is given to those cowgirls and cowboys that rise to the top of their respective events.

So what is it about the Calgary Stampede that keeps people coming back again and again? Because you can get a cold Bud or Molson Canadian anywhere in Alberta in July, so why Calgary? 

I actually think we can learn a lot when we look at a few of the ways that the Calgary Stampede keeps the audience engaged and coming back each year.

Take Risks.
This is something that the Calgary Stampede does very well. There are always new rides, new food vendors, new events, and most of it for the enjoyment of the crowd. This year, one of the big risks was 3 chuckwagons instead of 4 during the races every evening. There are a lot of pros and cons to this decision, and yet, it’s still a risk. Whether it pans out or not doesn’t really matter. They made a decision and stuck by it.
Think of that in your business. Do you take risks, and if you do, do you worry about the backlash and does that play a role in your decision making? 

There is something to be said for taking risks on new opportunities, they don’t always work out – and that’s just part of doing business. It’s less about the risk itself, and more about your willingness to take it.

Find your Tribe.
I know this one is cliche, and probably overused in everyday content. But, if you can find your people among the crowd, they will stick by you, and help you grow. The first Stampede in 1912 had 75,000 people attend. This year, in 2022 there were just over 1.2 million entering those gates. I’d say that the CS (Calgary Stampede) is pretty good at finding their people. They know what rides to bring in, what food vendors will draw a crowd, and what events to promote. In your business, find your people. Find the person that will brave the sweltering heat, massive crowds, and $28.00 liquid watermelon to enjoy 1 day at your event. Those people are your tribe.

Stay Consistent
Other than the hiccup of 2020, the CS has gone on every year. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth didn’t even stop for the World Wars. Heck, it was called the 1919 Victory Stampede. And during WWII, they used soldiers as Parade Marshalls. The CS is extremely consistent. It is literally a show that lives on, no matter what. (Except for 2020). As the show grew, and the Stampede become bigger and bigger, it was even more important to stay consistent with those original events. Even though the chucks have changed a bit over the years, and there are a few years that they just couldn’t happen, they have been at the Calgary Stampede for 90+ years. That is consistency.

For your business, what does consistency look like?
For me, consistency is showing up when I don’t want to or when I don’t really know how to. Consistency is looking for new ways to do old things, and keep the show alive, as the saying goes. Don’t look for easy, look for consistency. Just stay consistent, it’s never going to be easy. 

Ask for help and accept it
Here’s a little fun fact for you. The CS has 2500 volunteers. As in, not paid. The show could not go on without them. Think of that. 2500 people show up each day and ask ‘what can they do to help’. I’m sure that isn’t exactly how it’s played out, but you get the idea.

In your business, or journey of life, where are you hesitant to ask for help? Where could you use support, but just don’t want to make the call? I’m not saying to enlist 2500 people, but if someone offers, take it at their word that they want to help you. And accept it. It’s a feel good situation on both sides. Eventually we are all going to need a little support. And as it was said in the Young Guns movie from 1988, “we could all use a few more pals”. 

Define Success
This one needs a lot of attention in any business, or life. Know what success looks like. The CS knows that they are able to bring in 3500 seasonal jobs, and that boost in the economy is predicted year after year. Success is defined by these seasonal jobs, hotels and restaurants at capacity. And the CS is a very big event for the city of Calgary, with big scale numbers. And it happens every year, so those numbers are factored in and reported year after year. They know what success looks like, and even though the path changes, they know what they are looking for.

In your business, do you define success? If so, what does it look like? Is it just financial? Or is it holiday time for your staff? Or maybe it’s the perks you can give your clients? As all of this happens, make sure you are tracking it. And most importantly, enjoy those markers of success. Maybe treat yourself next year, and enjoy a few days down at the grounds during the Calgary Stampede. 

I know that it can be hard to compare a $280+ billion dollar event to your business or life. But I think the principles are the same. I don’t think it matters the size of the dollar value in the organization, I think it matters the people that care in that organization. And all of those things above, that keep the Calgary Stampede successful can work for you as well.

Take risks.
Find your tribe.
Stay consistent.
Ask for help and accept it.
And define success.

If you can do this, you will show up at a much different level for your business, family, friends and yourself. You might not be the greatest outdoor show on earth, but you will be the greatest version of yourself in business and in life.   

Donita Fowler

Coach + Creator
Manage your emotions and you can navigate challenges with a balanced perspective.