How Good is Good Enough
By Brad Weston
Okay, I’ll admit right off the bat, that this is a controversial subject. We are trained as kids to be THE BEST at any cost. Winning is everything. To sit here and write advice that challenges this notion is tantamount to heresy. Especially in the juggling world. The whole system is set up as a competition. Prizes are awarded and status is assigned to the person who can keep the most balls in the air and perform the most technically difficult tricks.
But is this the best way to go? No. No it isn’t, and I’ll explain why. First of all, if I may quote the book Juggling for the Complete Klutz, “On a scale of one to ten, learning to juggle 3 things is a 2. Learning how to juggle with four is a five. learning how to juggle with five is a thirty-four.” Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t all try to better ourselves. In fact, that is one of the greatest joys in life… however, we are up against a steep incline where the harder the skill is to learn, the greater is the amount of time required to master it. You see this in sports all the time. Take running for example. For the Boston Marathon in 2010, 22,540 people finished the race. Only a little over a thousand ran it in under 3 hours. Only 75 people finished in under 2 and a half hours. That is the law of diminishing returns in action.
Likewise, there are jugglers who have spent years and years mastering high level skills and yet are unable to make a living from performing, and are unable to look good and hold the interest of non-jugglers during a competition performance. If you want to actually earn money as a juggler my advice is this: spend a lot of your time getting a general knowledge of many different kinds of juggling and related art-forms.
Then get as much theater training as you can. I recommend mime and dance training as well, even for those who don’t intend on using these skills by themselves, as they can add a sense of awareness of your body on stage as the audience sees it. You may have noticed that many working entertainers are nowhere near as skilled as many hobby jugglers. Often this just means that they have simply spent their time learning other things.
Recently, I read a book called The Dip, by Seth Godin, which I recommend highly. The point that he is trying to make is that in order to succeed in the modern market-place, you should pick a very narrow and under-served niche and simply be the best in it. The dip comes in where the going gets very tough, the competition begins to fall out, so through hard work you can rise above the rest. Which I believe to be true, however, there is more than one single thing involved in any endeavor. That is why you need a solid general base of knowledge to support the one thing that you are truly good at.
When Boeing is building airplanes, they want to make them as tough and solidly built as they can. But they can’t just keep adding steel to reinforce the plane or it would never get off the ground. They have to find a balance between strength and lightness. Think of your own set of skills like that, and find the right balance. Only with a solid foundation and a well balanced set of skills can you become the best.
Brad Weston is a writer, juggler, and variety performance generalist from way back. For more information about him, check out his blog at