Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Clown Class

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

I taught myself to juggle. Really juggle. Not because I decided it would be fun to frustrate my uncoordinated self by tossing, tracking and catching three beanbags through the air in a continuing circular pattern, but for a circus skills class I was taking. After weeks of what felt like constant failure, not only did I learn how to juggle, but I also learned how to take a fall and to ride a unicycle. Yes, those are all stunts, but the fundamentals of clowning taught me how to keep my cool and be ready for anything in my day-to-day life. Consider:

I’m fine. Totally fine.

I’m fine. Totally fine.

  • Pratfalls. How to get knocked on our keisters and get up again like nothing happened. The big secret is to remain aware: anticipate, relax and keep your knees bent. You get knocked down and you fall into it, and treat it like a bounce. Before you know it, you’re back on your feet. Sometimes you get a little bruised, but it’s nothing you won’t recover from. Real world application: If you anticipate change, you’re more prepared for it when it comes. So you fall into it. You make the necessary adjustments to deal with whatever happens, you “keep your knees bent,” meaning you stay flexible, and a great bounce back makes everyone think maybe you had it planned all along.
Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

Me for the first two weeks of the unicycle unit.

  • Riding a unicycle. It’s all about balance, obviously, but it’s also about knowing the importance of support. Without my fellow clowns, I would never have been able to get on the unicycle in the first place, and without a nice strong wall, I wouldn’t have been able to stay up long enough to find that balance, let alone use it to propel myself down the hall and wobble make my way back up again. Real world application: Finding your balance takes time, patience and support, but it pays off big-time in team morale and personal strength.
I never did get to this level. Few do.

I never did get to this level. Few do.

  • Juggling. You start with one ball. You pop your wrist and send that ball from one hand to the other. Catch, release, catch, release. Add the second ball, repeat. Add the third ball. And fail for weeks while you try to keep all three in a rotation where you are aware – at all times – of where each ball is as you keep them in motion. The first time you get a good rotation going, you feel on top of the world! And before you know it, you drop them and you’re back to square one. This is the danger zone: you want that success again so badly that you get frustrated, push too hard and go too fast. The key? Focus and breathing. Recognize it is a process. You will drop a ball. Pick it up, start over and don’t beat yourself up. Frustration will only slow you down, and you want to get to where you can move from beanbags to hoops, to bowling pins, to steak knives(!). Real world application? Easy: focus, breathe and don’t rush. You’ll get there faster than you think.

No joke – some of the best experiences I’ve had in the professional world had a groundwork laid in clowning. So if you’re feeling frazzled or stuck, why not grab a few beanbags on the way home and teach yourself to juggle? Fine, maybe you already know everything about focus, breathing and patience; maybe you just need new way to de-stress that really works, and juggling does … Especially once you get to those steak knives.