Planet Preschool

Juggling Lessons

When I was a juggler in my teens and twenties I noticed that the other jugglers–yes, we all knew each other–fell into two distinct categories: those who performed and those ...
December 1, 2009

When I was a juggler in my teens and twenties I noticed that the other jugglers–yes, we all knew each other–fell into two distinct categories: those who performed and those who practiced. The ones who performed would take even the simplest trick, like juggling three balls, and turn it into a routine. And they would perform that routine whenever they could for friends, at schools or on the streets.

Those who practiced were different.  There was always a reason that they were not yet performing.  They needed to learn to juggle five clubs first, they needed to be able to “flash” seven balls or they needed to write better jokes. But the truth is those who practiced were just afraid to put themselves out there, afraid to perform.

I started out in the category of those who practiced. I had terrible stage fright. But after years of delays and false starts, I forced myself through enough of my fear to start performing. For two summers, I had an act up at a resort in Maine in which I told jokes and juggled tennis rackets. And I performed on the streets of New York. I wasn’t the best performer but I wasn’t the worst. And the important thing to me is that I was finally doing it.

Lately I have been noticing that many of my colleagues in the preschool space fall into these identical categories. Either they are sharing the work they have–their book, their show, the songs–or they are still practicing. The ones who are practicing always seem to need more time. They need to attend another conference, they need to get that celebrity involved, they need an agent. And often they feel they need to be validated, to be told by an authority figure that they are, in fact, ready to share their work. And sometimes they come to me for that.

Well, for those of you chronic practicers out there, please consider this blog your permission to start performing. Finish what you’re working on and go share that bad boy. There is nothing you can do that will make you feel better.

There have never been more opportunities for new work to connect with audiences than there are right now.  And there has never been more of an appetite for new visual styles and ways of telling stories than there are right now. In addition to all the old (and mostly clogged up) broadcast platforms, there are the new wide-open prairies of the Internet, the iPhone and the social networking sites. As Albie Hecht and others have recently pointed out, it is unlikely that the next big hit will come from broadcast TV. It will bubble up from the Internet.  Now, that’s exciting.

And this type of distribution doesn’t require 52 episodes, a complex co-production deal or Clorox to sponsor you. You can put your own pilot up on YouTube tomorrow. If you don’t know how, ask your eight-year-old cousin to help you.

I suspect most of you have practiced enough. If anything is holding you back now, I suspect it’s fear. Which is okay. Which is human. Which is why we need courage.

“Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,

Now I wash the gum from your eyes,

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of

every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,

Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,

To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me,

shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.”

- Walt Whitman

“Song of Myself”

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