I can juggle. Before you send me a Cirque Du Soleil job posting (ooh, I could be a clown for Cirque? More realistically, I could do IT for Cirque???), know that my juggling to-date has been of the three ball level. I learned how in college – I had three softballs, a dorm room, and a roommate who didn’t do anything more violent than complain as the softballs went past her head. If I’m standing up and have three objects of a reasonable size and shape, I’m likely to start tossing them up in the air and mostly catching them.
What I hadn’t done till recently is have any success with adding a fourth ball. I’ve been able to juggle two per hand, but only one hand at a time. (Think: two in right hand, two in left hand – while one’s up, one’s down per hand.) Whenever I added the second hand, the balls would collide in the middle somehow. But I’d been told that that’s how to juggle four, so I kept trying.
Last week, I had a breakthrough. Rather than try to juggle four, two per hand, I treated it as three, where one hand just happened to be holding an extra ball. That worked – I was juggling three, and had this extra one in my hand. Not quite juggling four, but a step forward. My hand had to move and deal with this extra ball. Then I just tried every so often switching which ball I was holding – e.g., if I threw ball A the first time and held ball B, I might every so often toss ball B and hold ball A. It’s still not quite as smooth as I’d otherwise like, but it doesn’t screw with my brain the way juggling two per time per hand did. I’m finally unblocked and making real progress to juggling four.
It struck me that this approach of finding the smallest change that’ll work might suit me in other areas, as well… instead of crafting a large-scale vision for a software project that takes weeks to go over in my brain, start with a small potentially throw-away step to help me learn more. Instead of working on a big vision for a technical conference talk, pitch a vision at either a local Toastmasters’ club (to see how the story carries) or at a local tech talk (to see how the tech approach sounds) before investing effort. Or heck, write the vision or pitch up here and post a link to Twitter. Get something small down and see whether it seems like it’s moving forward. Then take the next small step. For my juggling four, instead of intermittently throwing the ball up, try alternating every 3rd or 4th toss, etc.
For my next circus trick, I’d like to learn to ride the unicycle. I have a unicycle, so that first step is done. If anyone has an idea of a next first step, lemme know!