2021 · career · parenting

it’s not about keeping the balls in the air

In business and in life, most of us are juggling a few balls at any given time. Society, our bosses, our parents, and our own inner talk tells us we cannot, must not, drop a ball. Because, of course, dropping a ball is a failure.

But is it?

I was chatting with a colleague just this afternoon about what a farce I thought it was that someone said I somehow keep all the balls in the air. When she replied, “You never drop balls!” I laughed again.

I drop balls, I replied. I just recover quickly.

A mantra I live by is I cannot control what happens today, but I can control how I react and move forward. As a person, perfection is neither attainable nor is it my goal. I’m going to mess up. I’m going to drop the ball. I’ll sleep through an alarm, I’ll forget about hockey practice, I’ll miss a birthday party, I’ll forget to reply to an email. Balls will get dropped. Some days none, other days many. But rest assured: they’ll drop.

I once read an article about dropping balls where the author suggested that some balls are plastic while others are glass, and that the goal should be to ensure none of the glass balls break. While that’s a nice way of saying “don’t sweat the small stuff,” the truth is: I drop my glass balls, too.

Whether the ball falls and smashes or bounces and rolls, what’s important is the recovery.

If the ball you dropped has hurt someone else, say you’re sorry and acknowledge it.

If the ball you dropped has let your team down, take ownership and look for a solution.

If the ball you dropped has negatively impacted you, give yourself a break and move on.

If the ball you dropped can be quickly added back into the fold, pick it up and run.

The key is to never, ever, let a dropped ball cause you to despair and derail.

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