I am a professional entertainer. I market and perform a one-man physical stunt show I call Comedy in Action, based on my childhood passion of juggling. Juggling! Pretty random, right? When you see the word “juggling” you probably think of clowns and circuses. I tell a joke in my show—“I didn’t want to embarrass my parents by telling them I’m a professional juggler…they think I’m in jail.”
My point is that juggling is not a skill you would normally consider to be of any practical value for “the real world.” Not so. In this article I am putting aside the fact that juggling has given me an amazingly fulfilling career traveling the world as a performer. Here I am focusing on the skill purely as a tool for personal development.
Juggling very quickly gave me real practical knowledge of 3 life skills: overcoming fear, setting goals, and maintaining focus.
1) Overcoming Fear: If you’re reading this, there is a very good chance you do NOT know how to juggle. There is also a very good chance you do not think you ever COULD learn how to juggle. Most people are afraid to try something as unusual as juggling. Maybe they don’t want to look foolish in front of others. Maybe they just aren’t comfortable with the awkwardness that naturally exists with any new skill. Anytime you learn something new it feels awkward. Remember trying to ride a bike as a kid? Or learning to drive? As a professional juggler, I am constantly learning new skills, constantly trying to stretch myself and make my body create what my mind can visualize. I am very seldom afraid to try new things anymore because I am used to the inevitable learning curve. I understand it is merely part of the process of development and stretching oneself further. I am comfortable feeling out of my comfort zone. I am comfortable “dropping the ball,” picking up, and trying again. I have felt this confidence spill over into all areas of my life.
2) Goal-setting: With juggling, any pattern created requires the mastery of a series of individual moves first. The obvious example of this idea is “numbers juggling.” Although technically you could learn to juggle 4 balls before 3, there is not really much point in that. Juggling is cumulative by nature, so the skills you develop learning 3 will significantly help you in learning 4. This same thought process can be applied to the development of any new skill. Juggling is systematic. It requires you to break down your goal into smaller steps. Think of each spot in the air as a “mini-target.” If you’re not hitting each mini-target with every throw, there is no way you will ever hit your bigger target of an entire pattern. When you drop an object, you must analyze what went wrong and correct that for the next attempt. Which mini-target was off, and why?
3) Maintaining Focus: Juggling is extremely frustrating. It’s like golf—one day you are amazing, and the next day you stink! Becoming consistent requires daily practice over many years. You cannot cram to learn a juggling trick. You cannot buy it in a store. There is an unspoken code of respect among professional jugglers because we understand the amount of hard work that has gone into cultivating the skill. And to be honest, most other people do not! When people see a professional pianist they think, “wow I can’t imagine the hours of practice and the dedication that went into developing that skill!” When people see a professional juggler they think, “wow he must not have many friends!” For some reason the perception of difficulty for juggling is just not there. I can assure you, however, that to juggle on a professional level requires that same work ethic and daily focus.
I feel I have given a lot to the art of juggling, both on stage and off. I am thankful juggling has given me so much in return– from the travel and the stages, to the life skills I will have forever. I encourage you to pick up some tennis balls and give it a shot. You will learn some immensely practical life lessons, and you will have a lot of fun in the process!