I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show again and found another amazing clip... again. This one is from Episode #638: Seth Godin on The Game of Life, The Value of Hacks, and Overcoming Anxiety (Repost). At the 20:00 minute mark of this conversation, Seth shares a teaching strategy on learning how to juggle. I listened and then listened again. It is profound and yet so simple. How do jugglers learn how to juggle multiple balls? Here's that portion of the conversation in transcript form from Tim's website.
"Seth Godin: So I’ve taught more people to juggle than most. I’m not a great juggler, but we’re not talking about figuratively. I’m talking about actually juggling. So let’s talk this through, because I think it’s a useful lesson. If you’ve ever seen a juggler on television or on video or in person, what you notice is that they don’t drop the ball. Not dropping the ball is perhaps the driving force of what makes someone a juggler and, if you are enjoying the show, you are willing and wishing the balls not to drop.
So if someone says, “You want to learn how to juggle?” you might say “Yes.” This is what always happens when I teach people to juggle. They grab three balls. I say, “No, no.” They grab three balls and they throw the first one. This is easy. They throw the second one, and then they go to catch it because they know catching is the key to juggling. By the time they get to the second ball, they have to lunge for it. Once you lunge for the second ball, you’re out of position for the third one, and then you’re done. It’s all on the ground and you give up on juggling because, if juggling is about catching, you’re terrible at it. What’s the alternative?
Well, the way I’ve taught people how to juggle is simple. I give them one ball and we spend between 20 minutes and 30 minutes throwing the ball and letting it hit the ground, no catching. Then we add the second ball. Throw, throw, drop, drop. No catching. Throw, throw, drop, drop. If you do that for 40 minutes total, you’re going to be really good at throwing. If you get really good at throwing, the catching takes care of itself. This is the part about divorce from the outcome because all we care about, if we want to learn to juggle, is to learn to throw. The metaphor I cannot escape which is, getting better at throwing is what we have to do to build resilience, and it’s what we have to do to live in a world that’s changing ever faster."
"If we try to anchor on outcomes and control results, we’re in the catching business and then we’re really in bad trouble."
I see this all the time in cleaning business entrepreneurs. They are anchoring on outcomes and trying to control results. They need x-many new employees and x-many new customers to hit their goals. Watch this. If they need 3 new employees and that's the goal, they will take the first 3 to hit the goal. If they need 5 customers to hit the goal, they will take the first 5 they get. You may say, "Ken, what's wrong with this? They are hitting their goal." I'm so glad you asked because I beg to differ. What if the 3 they hire are bad hires or they quit? Was it just bad luck and they need to re-set the goal and hire 3 more? No. This is focusing on catching the ball and not dropping it. I would shift the thinking and goals to the throwing. How many applicants does it take to find 3 amazing, high-caliber, culture-fitting, ambitious employees. Pull the numbers. You may find it takes 100 applicants to find 1 person like this. To focus on throwing, you would set your goal in this example to 300 applicants. Celebrate hitting the goal when you've attracted 300. Then do the work to properly filter them or chisel the rock to the perfect sculpture of the 3 you want. This hits the same goal of 3 new employees, but you are getting amazing employees because your focus changed. It's the same with customers. Not all customers are good customers for you and your business model. Track your marketing and sales conversions. Let's say you figure out that your last 5 amazing customers required marketing to 200 prospects for 1 year. Focus on throwing by marketing to 200 new prospects or others already on your prospect list for another year. This will generate a number of potential customers and likely 5 amazing ones.
I did a similar episode last year called, "2 Rewards and a Consequence". Seth is not saying that jugglers don't care about catching. They have to. If they throw good and don't catch the balls, they have no juggling career. Seth is saying that the juggler that masters the art of throwing will automatically learn how to catch. They go hand-in-hand... pun intended.
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