287. His Childhood Up for Grabs, He Juggles His Way into a Creative Career
Barry was five when his parents divorced. Suddenly he and his brothers went from living in a nice place in Los Angeles to facing uncertainty. When his grandmother sent him to summer camp, he faced two choices, and one involved a “hot, smelly box of a room” in San Fernando Valley.
Barry Friedman is a four-time World Juggling Champion, six-time TED Speaker, and a bestselling author. Through his book “I Love Me More Than Sugar,” and companion website at 30DaysSugarFree.com, he has supported thousands of people in kicking the addiction to added sugar and living a life with more energy, better health, and less belly fat. He’s been married 28 years and has a 14-year old son who will unicycle up, over, or off of anything.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
Barry was five or six when his parents divorced. “I went from living in a nice place in Los Angeles to suddenly trying to figure out where things were going to come from next.” As the middle son among three brothers, “We ended up in some bad situations, abusive situations, not supported, not knowing what to do.” At age 15, his grandmother sent him to summer camp, where he was offered a choice of arts and crafts—which was in a hot, smelly box of a room in San Fernando Valley—or juggling by the pool. “I figured we’d be done with the juggling in 10 minutes, then be in the pool.” He took to the juggling immediately. “I was the last one to leave that class. I never put those balls down at the end of that summer camp!” He and another camper did a little show together, just using the basic skills they had learned, and people were laughing and applauding. “I knew in my heart of hearts that life would never be the same again.”
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“I was really one of the last guys in the juggling class to learn it. I remember there were about 10 or 12 of us, and everyone else had gotten it. All I know was that something inside of me had clicked. And I knew I would never be physically abused again, never steal again, and that I would never wonder what I was going to do with my life. It was like the touch on the forehead. I was 15 at that point, and I think it was six years later in 1984 when I won my first world championship.”
The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?
Juggling has been a metaphor for life for Barry. As in life, “When you drop, you pick up. You learn to drop less, and when you win world championships, you learn to not drop at all. For millennia, when people have gotten nervous their hands have shaken, and that’s not a great thing for jugglers. So one of the first big lessons in juggling is when you get nervous, everything channels down into the ground and out the feet.”
At age 26, he had a major test of this principle: a command performance for President Ronald Reagan at Ford’s Theater. “Nervous? I mean, I was in a show with huge names. But my hands never shook. I learned how to get nervous energy going out my feet. That was a huge gift for a juggler!”
Steps to Success from Barry Friedman
1. Find ways to earn your living by following your passion.
2. Learn about your prospective markets and meet a need.
3. Opportunities will emerge as you seek ways of living your passion in your work.
4. Whenever possible, cultivate long-term relationships that reinforce your abilities to serve a market.
5. Pay attention to new interests that might reveal more about your passion. (In my case, it was my interest in living sugar-free.)
On His Bookshelf
I Love Me More Than Sugar: The Why and How of 30 Days Sugar Free, by Barry Friedman
Connecting With Barry Friedman
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