Juggling Teaches Success

Guest post: Dr. Mike of UpbeatBrain.com is my first guest writer here at this blog. I think you will very much appreciate the clarity of this post.  Thanks Mike

Decades ago, during a summer job as a hotel desk clerk, I came across three practice golf balls — the plastic, wiffle-ball kind. That job got a little slow toward the end of my 3-to-11PM shift, and I wondered if I could learn to juggle those golf balls. I didn’t know it then, but that challenge showed me that juggling teaches success in life.

With no idea how to juggle, I started with two balls in one hand and one in the other, and quickly threw balls in every direction. Okay, I said to myself, this demands a simplified approach.

LESSON 1: Break down a challenge into manageable steps.

So I started with a single golf ball, just tossing it back and forth from one hand to the other. That sounds easy enough, but I knew that I needed to get comfortable tossing the ball accurately but in an arc from hand to hand, so that I could do the same thing with more balls.

LESSON 2: Practice like it counts.

Once I could repeatedly toss one ball from one hand and then to the other, I added a second ball — one in each hand. I’d toss the ball in my right hand into an arc, and just as it reached the top of its journey to my left hand, I’d toss the ball in my left hand to my right. That might sound easy, but it took lots of practice. Getting the timing right takes practice. Getting the throws right with another ball in the air takes practice. Hardest of all, I needed to be able to make these tosses over and over and accurately. As you can see, this step proved much more difficult than the first, but it’s the entire basis of juggling. And it just took lots of practice to get comfortable with it.

LESSON 3: Practice, practice and practice.

Once I got the two-ball passing down, adding the third ball came along fairly quickly. I could juggle! I didn’t know it then, but that juggling pattern is called a cascade. Even better, with the basic three-ball juggling under control, I learned new patterns, like the shower, which is tossing the balls in a circle. Other little tweaks that created more tricks came along fairly easy, too.

LESSON 4: Knowing the basics leads to advanced possibilities.

The learning process behind juggling followed me long after learning to toss balls in particular patterns. For example, people often use the term juggling these days when they mean multitasking, as in: “I’m juggling lots of tasks.” Actual juggling, though, taught me the value of focus. By focusing on one thing at a time, like learning to juggle, I progress faster. For me, multitasking just means that I’m a little bit distracted with anything that I try to do, and the results come slower, if at all.

LESSON 5: Success arises from focus.

Best of all, the lessons learned from juggling apply to virtually any new challenge in life. So on your next challenge: break it down into manageable steps; practice like it counts; and practice, practice and practice. Then, remind yourself that: knowing the basics leads to advanced possibilities; and success arises from focus. These lessons can take you a long way in every aspect of your life.


After earning a Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell University, Dr. Mike pursued science journalism. With more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor, he started UpbeatBrain.com, which encourages every reader to: Drive your own destiny! Follow Dr. Mike on Twitter (@UpbeatBrain) and on Facebook