Posted Feb 8
I’m pretty good a juggling, because I’m awful at tennis. The first time I ever juggled was during a summer tennis camp when I was 13. As I remember it, the tennis instructor more or less gave up on me, and I spent most of the day at camp sitting on the bench waiting for the day to end so I could go back home. While I was on the bench with nothing to do, I picked up a canister of tennis balls and started to play around with them, and accidentally figured out juggling. I was just goofing around, and it clicked.
Juggling isn’t like most activities, where you slowly progress through hard work. In fact, I find that the longer I brute force practice a routine, the worse I get at it. Juggling is something that you learn in a sequence of epiphanies. You can work forever at something, and then it will just click, and you’ll get a feel for how to do it and have no trouble at all. What I have discovered, is that those moments just don’t happen when you’re frustrated. I get the best results if I work to the point where I’m about to get frustrated, then come back to it in a day or two. More often than not, I’m better at whatever I was doing than when I left off. I don’t understand why that is with juggling, but it’s been true for me since I started.
That being said, I think another big part of learning juggling is effort based, and that is achieving consistency in what you’re doing. When I started to juggle, I picked up a bunch of the basics like columns, backcrosses, and tennis at the same time, and then spent a long time working on moving between the tricks without too much difficulty. During college, during graduate school, and after graduation I had similar periods where I learn a ton of new techniques in a short amount of time, then nothing for a while. The nature of juggling is that you can learn something new accidentally or without a lot of effort, but gaining consistency in it is where the effort is spent. Learning to throw at the same height, learning to throw accurately behind your back, these are things that you have to nail down through practice and repetition, but they’re also things that you don’t really get frustrated with, because you can show gradual improvement.
I don’t know everyone else experiences juggling this way; but if you do, I think there’s value in understanding that driving yourself to frustration with a new trick isn’t necessarily the best way for everyone to learn juggling. Learn something new casually, and keep it fun; and once it clicks, drop the hammer and practice it until it’s perfect enough that you’re bored with it, and repeat.