For those of you who don’t know me well, besides being a writer, I am also a professional juggler. For 25 years, my husband and I have performed for audiences large and small, young and old. For the last couple of years. I had been trying to push the juggler me to the back so the publisher me, the professional one, can shine, but I realized I AM the sum of all my experiences.
Juggling speaks to who I am as a person, as an entrepreneur. Trying and failing and trying again is how I built my first career as a juggler and that’s how I’m building my second one as The Happy Self-Publisher. All the things I learned, I’ve taken with me on my new journey.
I also am a professional speaker. The following is an excerpt from a talk I give about lessons from a juggler’s perspective.
My legs were shaking. My palms were sweaty. There were thousands of little drummers in my ears. I couldn’t believe he talked me into it. Everyone was staring.
It was my first performance since starring in Snow White in first grade. “And together we are The Juggling Hoffmans,” we shouted like we had practiced hundreds of times at home. But there in Atlanta, with 100 or more eyes fixated on us, I realized my complete lack of judgment that got me there.
It’s not that I could juggle. I just couldn’t juggle well. I was a backyard juggler, not a performer. Nearly 25 years ago, my husband Michael got an invitation to perform at the Dogwood Festival in Atlanta.
“Let’s do it. It’ll be fun,” he pleaded.
With Michael’s unrelenting charm, I gave in. The flights were booked, and there was no turning back.
When we arrived at the park that day, soothing mantras alternated with paralyzing panic as we started. Just as I had feared, I was terrible. Brief juggling runs were always followed by embarrassing drops. My worst nightmare was coming true.
If that wasn’t bad enough, at the end of each show, we had to beg for money. Sure, it’s technically called busking, but it felt like pitiful begging.
We had several more shows that day, some only slightly better than the first. The terrifying feeling never went away. The embarrassment of dropping in front of all those people never got easier. And my certainty that performing was a terrible idea never waned. When the last show was over, we packed up and headed for home.
I boarded the plane that day with $31.53. It surely wasn’t worth the four hours of torture at the park and the three months of anxiety leading up to the event. It wasn’t worth all the hours spent practicing before that call ever came.
I looked over at Michael. He smiled back at me with sincere pride knowing well what it took to get me there. With nothing left to hold back the tears, I cried.
What I didn’t know then was that I would spend over 20 years of my life juggling as a career, that every child’s smile would fill my heart with joy and all the subsequent drops would just be another chance to make kids laugh.
Let me ask you, what would have happened if I had quit?
Life is full of failure. My decision to perform a second time was more monumental than the first. I didn’t know if I would be any better, any less embarrassed, any more confident. The sting of the first performance still resonated throughout my body when I agreed to try again. That single decision changed the course of my life. Failure was an invitation, and I found the courage to accept.
As writers, we get bad reviews, no reviews, and writer’s block. We battle distraction, doubt, and fear. Once we write it, someone’s going to read it. They’ll have an opinion about our writing and about us. That’s scary.
Do it anyway.
Yes, you might fail. You might feel embarrassed. But trying again after you fail might be the moment that changes your life.
[bctt tweet=”Failing isn’t failure until you stop trying. #success” username=”loishoffmande”]