Juggling wizardry is a metaphor for multitasking [VIDEO]

You won’t believe what this quartet of jugglers has accomplished in this remarkable video. In their video titled “Carpool Lane,” they miraculously throw and catch 15 pins or rings at the same time. Their spectacular coordination and concentration seems to defy the laws of physics.

It’s obvious that Stefan Brancel, Sean Carney, Ben Hestness and Brenden Ying have each put in his 10,000 hours (and probably double that) learning how to throw and catch objects with such pinpoint precision.

The word “juggling” is often used to describe our everyday lives, where we must coordinate complicated tasks at the same time. I’ve learned that turning juggling from metaphor into an applied skill can improve my performance in any task that requires either precise physical coordination, intellectual focus, or both.

For example, after I had been a TV director for a half a decade, I wanted to improve my concentration skills and multitasking capabilities. That’s crucial when you’re directing a live newscast where you need to pay attention to three cameras and at least a half-dozen other video sources.

One of my colleagues would often mentioned how he had to concentrate on “juggling the three cameras” while directing live newscasts. That made me wonder if learning how to physically juggle three balls would somehow improve my ability to juggle three cameras.

My experiment began. I got Juggling for the Complete Klutz, a book that included three cube-shaped beanbags. The book did an excellent job of showing me how to learn this difficult and unusual skill. I was so determined to learn, I spent a week alone in a mountain cabin throwing those little beanbags around.

I got off to a rough start; I sucked at juggling. First the book urged me to learn the basics of juggling starting with two balls. After about a day, I was ready to juggle with three balls. I dropped and picked up those little square beanbags thousands of times. I was thankful they were square, so they didn’t go rolling all over the place as they hit the ground over and over.

After about three days of constant practice, something clicked and I was able to sustain my juggling for 10 catches, then a day later I could keep juggling for 20 catches without dropping the beanbags. Soon, I was able to juggle indefinitely. When I reached that point, I noticed a profound change had taken place with my vision and concentration capabilities.

By the way, I only learned how to juggle three balls at the same time. To learn how to juggle four balls or objects is exponentially more difficult, and takes months of constant practice to learn. Juggling five pins or rings as these master jugglers do in this video can take years to learn. These four guys have reached a point way beyond that, and they have certainly earned my near-worshipful admiration.

How does it enhance your vision? When juggling, you don’t really look at anything. You use peripheral vision that’s equal for each flying object. I would focus on a point in the background, and it was important at first that I choose a background that was plain and non-distracting.

The other key to successful juggling is accurate throws. If you can learn how to throw a ball or pin exactly the same way with both hands, the catching is much easier, because the ball or pin will always be in precisely the same place when it’s time to catch it.

How does this translate to TV directing? Learning to juggle made me constantly aware of what all three of those newscast cameras were doing, without actually staring at any one of the three monitors. I could keep my eyes focused on the program monitor, which always showed the image that was on the air. I could control precisely where I was looking by using my peripheral vision, and only look directly at one of the camera’s preview monitors when it was absolutely necessary, before the shot was taken, or placed on the air.

My mission was accomplished: Juggling had helped to make me more constantly aware of what all three cameras were doing at any given time.

I learned that juggling can be a powerful way to learn how to increase intellectual focus in every area of my life. It helped me concentrate on three objects or tasks at the same time, and raised my attention to a higher level that can be sustained for a long time. This turned out to be a crucial skill for me that improved my life.

Perhaps this experience might be applicable in your life. The next time you hear someone talking about juggling multiple tasks, see if there’s a way to apply the actual act of juggling to your situation.

Video and image: Carpool Lane/Vimeo