I moved to New York City in 1969 to attend NYU as a mathematics major. It took very little time to realize that a career as a mathematician would be a high road, reserved for the crème de la crème and not for a boy from a small town in Connecticut who fancied himself to be a math whiz. I dabbled in other curricula, and in my third year, disillusioned, I dropped out.
I did various odd jobs, and by 1975, I was very underemployed. And bored. My Siamese cats were bored also. I purchased three small hollow plastic golf balls sold as cat toys. My cats, as they are prone to do, showed no interest in commercial cat toys, preferring to play with anything else, particularly things verboten.
Frustrated with my useless purchase, I decide to try and JUGGLE the three balls, but to no avail, reminiscent of my childhood, when I would occasionally try to juggle batteries taken out of a toy. But I was curious and decided to put closure to this childhood fascination. I purchased the only book in print on juggling at the time. In its pages, I was informed that a juggling ball needed proper size and weight and that, in a pinch, even the clichéd oranges would suffice. A trip to the refrigerator, and voila - my efforts at learning three were met with an immediate improvement.
Soon, I located the only juggler listing himself in the yellow pages: Jay Green, a jewelry engraver and professional juggler. I visited his studio in midtown Manhattan. There, he demonstrated his extraordinary juggling talents. Right there, on that day, my love and romance for the art of juggling began.
Before leaving, he informed about an ongoing workshop in Wall Street. I attended the workshop regularly and discovered that there was a dearth of readily available equipment for juggling. I began making for myself, and soon a business was born. You can read the entire story here.
In a way however, I find that success stories, including my own, can be a bit boring; behind every success, there is always a story, and unless one comes from money, traced back far enough, behind every example of someone with more, there was a time with less, usually much less - Warren Buffett delivering newspapers, or Steve Jobs as an adopted child and college drop out.
In New York City, there are many failures, infinitely more than the successes. The city is built atop business failures. The plethora of retail store closings boggles the mind. Heartbreaking efforts, determination, and stamina against all odds with closures and bankruptcies nonetheless. Millions invested, millions lost. Beautiful retail spaces created, only to be ripped out months later. I see it every day. Often, the road to failure is as interesting and harrowing as that to success. But people need inspiration, not discouragement, and the details behind the failures, unless part of a longer road to success, largely remain untold.
Recently, rummaging through my desk at my office on lower Broadway, I found one of the original cat toy balls, shown in the photo. Sadly, it is the only one remaining of the original set of three, the other two lost or misplaced and not seen in years, a reminder that material success and personal good fortune are fragile and fleeting, as easily lost as gained. Perhaps a metaphor for tenacity and good luck in business, I have been hanging on tight to That Last Ball…
More on my juggling business: Luck of the Irish, Smile by Fire, Not Of Them, Please Rub Off on Me, Just Like Steve Mills, Think Big, On the Road, Really Smart Guys, Fish and Ponds, Kind Words, Signature, Spinning, Juggle This