Sometimes the key to learning is figuring out how to get out of your own way.
In honor of World Juggling Day, this week’s blog is about, what else! – juggling. When I learned to juggle, I took to it quite easily – for two reasons.: 1) I had grown up playing all sorts of games that involved throwing and catching a ball, so my eye-hand coordination was pretty good. And 2) I had never really attempted or even thought about juggling up to that point, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions as to how it was done. Since then, I have taught hundreds of people to juggle and I can say with some assuredness that the biggest hurdle to learning juggling, and probably many other skills, is overcoming any previously held ideas or fears about it.
Learning to juggle can be difficult because the process is actually upside down from what a person’s intuition about learning the skill would be. It’s natural to think that throwing one ball is easy, two balls is harder, and three is the hardest. But the reverse is true. (I love when the reverse is true!) Learning to throw and catch the first ball in a cascade juggling pattern is the most difficult and ultimately the most important part. It is the foundation upon which you build your cascade. Once you’ve mastered it, adding the second ball is challenging, but not terribly difficult. And once you’ve mastered two-ball move, adding the third is a piece of cake. This is because you are just doing the two-ball move, but now you don’t have to stop throwing and catching.
When I teach juggling, I make a announcement - “I will teach you how to juggle in 5 minutes, or I will pay you $10!” I have NEVER had to pay that $10. Once I explain the “upside-down process” to the student, and help them release their preconceptions and fears about juggling, they quickly understand how it all works. Now, I CAN’T teach someone how to catch a ball. That is a function of prior experience and practice. But I can teach them how to throw, and how to understand the cascade pattern, so they can go and practice on their own.
And juggling is really great for you. Juggling enhances your brainpower. A new study published in the journal “Nature” finds that learning to juggle may cause certain areas of your brain to grow. It’s also great for stress relief, focus retention, and it boosts your coordination. It can also be used as a form of meditation.