What Kind of Juggler Are You?

We all know what it’s like when you have too many balls in the air. You drop a ball here, forget an appointment there. You make dumb mistakes. And then? You feel embarrassed. Maybe you get apologetic or defensive. And, of course, you try to pick up the dropped ball.

Often, even if you succeed in picking up the ball without dropping another, you end up scrambling. You try to get back into flow by working harder, which makes you edgier. And you drop another ball.

When juggling goes right

In contrast, a really good juggler is the picture of grace. Balls, pins, handkerchiefs, oranges fly through the air in perfect arcs. The juggler catches each item at just the right time so that the others remain in fluid motion.

But think about it: rarely do you see a perfect performance. Even the best jugglers drop the occasional ball or fumble a toss. Yet somehow they get away with it. They keep going, and we don’t get tired of watching them. We don’t ask for our money back.

What’s up with that?

Great jugglers practice success and failure

The best jugglers practice over and over again, creating the neural pathways and muscle memory that lead to expertise. In the beginning, they’re not very good. (They might even be very bad.) But they persist.

The keep practicing until those pathways and the resultant muscle memory virtually guarantee success. But a really good juggler knows that that guarantee is not absolute. So she practices failing gracefully as well as success.

How? Read on.

Failure and two kinds of juggling

There are two very different ways to juggle. The one you choose directly affects how you embody failure. And the way you embody failure determines your success as a juggler. You get to choose the vicious or the virtuous circle.

The first kind of juggler is self-centric. You’re preoccupied with what you are doing and how you look. When you drop a ball, you take it personally. Your self-esteem rises and falls with the caliber of your performance.

When you’re a self-centric juggler, failure feels awful. It’s all about you, what you’re doing, how you look, what other people think about you. So when you drop a ball, the natural response is to tense up. To hunch your shoulders or duck your head.

It really messes with your juggling.

The second kind of juggler is other-centric. When you drop a ball, you’re less concerned with how you look than you are with the overall flow of things.

As an other-centric juggler, you adapt to dropped balls. You might simply let the ball go. You might stop altogether for a bit before starting over, adding back balls one at a time until you’re in sync again. Whatever you decide to do, as an other-centric juggler, your style is open and relaxed. You learn from your mistakes. They make you a better and better juggler.

The self-centric juggler isolates. The other-centric juggler integrates.

It’s a matter of style 

The difference between a really great juggler and a poor juggler is that the great one integrates failure into her performance. No apology. No scrambling to recover. Just a fluid, flexible adjustment to the new reality.

And when things really go catawampus? Instead of freaking out, they take a bow.

Image credit: photogreuphies
About Molly Gordon

Molly Gordon is the owner of Shaboom Inc., a company devoted to helping Accidental Entrepreneurs who are allergic to business develop the skills they need to prosper. She’s an artist, writer, marketing consultant, and coach -- as well as a paddle-boarder, cyclist, singer, and grandmother. She lives in Suquamish, Washington with her husband, two hens, and Bolivia the Wonder Cat. Molly blogs at http://www.shaboominc.com/blog, where you can also sign up for her weekly ezine, Authentic Promotion.

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