One year for Christmas someone in my house got a copy of this book:
It came with three bean bags and featured some silly cartoons of characters learning to juggle. I must have been in grade six… maybe grade seven.
Over the Christmas break I had plenty of free time and so I read the book which broke down the skills into manageable pieces.
I was terrible.
I don’t suppose that anyone would expect a kid with less than 10% vision to be able to juggle. This is one of the side-effects of being Legally Blind. I have absolutely no depth perception so catching things is not exactly my best skill.
I dropped the bean-bags so many times that they split open and my Mom had to sew them up to keep the little beans from choking our pet rabbit, Thumper.
Like I said, no one expected me to be able to do this thing. And, being a bit stubborn I kept at it. There is something incredibly satisfying about catching a ball. And, even though I didn’t do it consistently, when I did it was thrilling.
One day my oldest brother, Dave remarked that learning to juggle was not about catching the bean bags, it was about throwing them. Good throws mean easy catches. So - work on your throws.
This little flip on the idea completely changed my approach.
I learned to throw the little bean-bags so consistently that I could do it with my eyes closed. Literally. And, the catches became easier. Adding the second and third bean-bags was simply a matter of going back to the initial skill. Building confidence. Getting it into the muscle-memory.
Oh - and a lot of practice.
While rehearsing for "Zorro: Family Code" at ATP over the last month we often ran into members of Theatre Calgary's "Christmas Carol" cast in the hallway. I bumped into Anna Cummer one afternoon who was facing a wall by the elevator and throwing some bean bags around. She asked if I knew how to juggle and if I had any advice. I quickly gave her the ol' "It's about throwing, not catching" riff… but am pretty sure that I only succeeded in sowing more confusion.
My friend, Jason Bryden sent me an episode of a podcast yesterday which is FAR MORE succinct and eloquent that I could ever be. The show is called “Akimbo” and it’s hosted by Seth Godin. The episode is called Juggling and Bicycles.
Here's a link. It's a quick listen and it's really good.
Keep them throws easy and the catches will land.