Juggling Responsibilities: A Conversation with Jen Slaw

Welcome to Bold Steps and Misses, presented by Hot Paper Lantern. In this series, we shine a light on bold ideas that accelerate businesses and misses to avoid. That was Jen Slaw– speaker, entertainer and trainer focused on using juggling to open a dialogue around change, innovation, and work-life integration. Jen sat down with Sara Whitman, Chief People Officer at Hot Paper Lantern, to discuss how her juggling workshops have helped businesses and individuals navigate through change. Jen introduces us to the jugglers mindset, the B.A.L.L. formula, and tells us why we can have it all… just not at the same time.

Juggling? Why juggling?

“Because life is juggling, right? We’re all juggling so many roles and responsibilities. I’ve found that the act of teaching people how to juggle gives us a framework to be more productive and more open to change in our work and life.

I call it The Juggler’s Mindset. It’s about having a clear goal of what you’re trying to accomplish, being open to change, and really embracing small steps towards growth.

Juggling is also one of those activities where you really have to focus on what you’re doing. When you’re juggling, everything else fades away. In that way, it’s a meditative practice, and one that teaches us how to enter this state of complete focus or ‘flow’ when we approach other activities.”

The business world is always evolving. How does juggling support the practice of continuous learning? 

“I’ve created what I call the B.A.L.L. formula, which stands for ‘break it down,’ ‘ask for help,’ ‘learn from the drops,’ and ‘let it go.’ What I’ve found is that these four principles can help us to feel more productive, more fulfilled, more present, and, ultimately, be more nimble.

‘Breaking it down’ allows us to have an action plan– a step-by-step guide for what we’re doing and when we’re doing it.

The ‘ask for help’ component asks us to tap into the power of collaboration and communication. How are we building an environment of trust where everyone feels comfortable contributing their ideas? Because that’s how we get to innovation.

‘Learning from the drops’ is about looking at our mistakes as stepping stones for success and getting analytical about what we have to change for the future to achieve the desired result. Many times, these drops can lead us to creative solutions that we never considered.

Finally, we need to ‘let it go.’ Old patterns don’t always adapt to new circumstances. We need to learn to let go of what we’ve done in the past.”

How have you seen businesses manage through change using The Juggler’s Mindset and the B.A.L.L Formula?

“One example is a healthcare company I worked with a number of years ago. Politically, a lot had changed with healthcare policy. As a result, they had to redo their entire coding system, fundamentally changing how they kept track of procedures. The staff was really overwhelmed. They were almost paralyzed facing this momentous change within their organization.

I did a workshop with them and the physical, collaborative process of learning to juggle really ‘unfroze’ them from this paralysis. It acted as a catalyst for them to start implementing this change. They felt like they could handle the ambiguity, the change and the multi-tasking. They also had this new vocabulary and common bond that they could refer back to. ‘We just need to learn from the drops and let it go.’ ”

What career advice do you have for young professionals? 

“You hear so often that you have to find your one true purpose, your one passion. I think that way of looking at things can be really overwhelming. In reality, I think it’s more about doing things from day-to-day that excite and inspire you and seeing where that takes you. Have a vision, but be flexible and adapt as things change.

The other thing is to be willing to take a risk. You’re never going to have it all figured out. You’re never going to know exactly what you want to be doing. As long as it’s something that looks like it’s going to inspire you, then take that leap.”