I’m a juggler.
And most of the time, not a very good one. As an entrepreneur raising both a business and babies people often ask me “How do you do it all?” Well…to be perfectly honest, I am not. I generally feel like I am not doing anything well…I am letting my team down at work, I am letting my family down at home, I am letting my friends down. Most of the time I live in one big feeling of failure.
And that is no way to live. I realized I couldn’t be everything to everybody. I couldn’t keep all of those balls in the air and be the person I wanted to be, and be the mom my kids deserved, and grow the company I wanted to grow. Nowhere is keeping a number of objects ‘in the air’ more prevalent (or necessary) than in running a small business. The further you move in the life cycle of a small business, the more balls you have to learn to juggle. The secret sauce to juggling is practice, persistence, and speed—and you need those same skills to build a company.
Here are 3 tips that real jugglers use that also help master their trade and help me stay on track in my job growing a company and a family:
- Keep your eyes on one spot rather than following the balls
Professionals jugglers train themselves to consistently throw the ball up to the same spot each time so they don’t have to try and follow the balls with their eyes. Good jugglers keep their eyes on that spot. It’s the same as when a dancer spot on one spot when doing a pirouette. This way they don’t get dizzy and fall down…. they won’t get distracted or look around. Effective entrepreneurs have a vision for where they want the company to go. Rather than trying to be everything to every client having a clear vision of who you are and where you are going helps keep only the right balls in the air. Understand exactly which problems they are trying to solve and for which market keeps you laser-focused on your goals. This is what jugglers are trying to accomplish by keeping their eyes on that same eye-level spot, successful entrepreneurs narrowly focus on their target market.
- Wait to throw the next ball only after the first one peaks.
In juggling, you only have two hands to keep multiple balls in the air at once.
There are rhythm and pattern that keeps the balls from hitting each other and dropping. It takes lots of practice to figure this out, but once you have it, you have it. The same can be said with entrepreneurship. Especially as you are just starting out. When an entrepreneur is starting out, we are testing the waters. Resources are limited; sometimes we are going it alone and only have our two hands to keep all of the balls in the air. The timing here is critical. Prioritization is a must. When we try to throw 4, 5 or 6 balls in the air without understanding how to really juggle all those balls efficiently overwhelm is soon to follow. You must prioritize. Decide on an MVP (minimal viable product), decide on an ICA (ideal customer avatar), determine your Core Focus, Niche, and Your WHY. It takes a lot of practice and there are a lot of details in between, but once you get the hang of it, you have the hang of it and then all of the balls start flowing efficiently in the air as long as you wait to throw that next ball once the first one is at its peak.
- Don’t reach for the ball, let it come to you
When a juggler throws a ball straight up to the intended peak it will come down into the intended hand. But if the juggler throws out in front or makes a grab for a ball, the rhythm is broken; the trick falls apart. Entrepreneurs want to make things happen fast. This was (and maybe still is to a degree) definitely me. I wanted things done yesterday…By our nature, we are impatient agents of change. BUT we have to learn to step back and operate from a place of patience and balanced persistence. In the words of Joseph Pilates “Patience and Persistence are vital qualities in any worthwhile endeavor” Only then will things fall into place.
- You have to know when there are too many balls in the air
Probably one of the most important lessons is to realize when you have reached your capacity and can no longer throw any more balls in the air. This is the moment you need to learn to delegate some tasks to others. Too many entrepreneurs, having had to do every single task, every single time, end up not able to break this habit. So, when the priority tasks that need to be done multiply, the small business owner is overwhelmed, trying to do everything alone. This is a dangerous place to be. You will quickly become the bottleneck that stifles the growth of your company and you will drive yourself into the ground. In the words of Gino Wickman – “Let go of the vine.”
It takes years of practice to be a good juggler the same way it takes practice to be a successful entrepreneur. You will drop the balls many, many, many times. You will most likely hit yourself in the face and possibly even break things while learning how to juggle. But the goal is to keep going. You have to keep picking the balls back up and trying again. One day those balls will all stay smoothly in the air.
Christa Gurka, MSPT, PMA®-CPT