'It can change your perception of yourself'

So says the man behind an executive juggling craze.
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
When I met Charlie Fairbairn, he was about to set off for Mexico on a quest for juggling balls. He sells more than 400,000 a year and the company he co-founded, More Balls Than Most, needs more balls. Now this is not just kids' stuff. More than 15,000 business executives, in top-ranking companies such as IBM, ICL and Coopers Lybrand, have attended his company's juggling workshops. The result was that juggling became so popular on City dealing floors that it is now forbidden during office hours.

The workshops aim to instil a fun, can-do business culture. Before long, one suspects, job applicants whose CV does not list the ability to perform at least a three-ball cascade will be regarded as fuddy-duddies, non-participants in the relaxed, effortlessly achieving business environment of the Nineties.

Fairbairn is 32 and a mathematics graduate from Reading University; he wears casual clothes and hair over his collar and has the same laid- back air as Richard Branson. All that juggling seems to have done him good.

"There's been a backlash against the pure capitalist idea of the Eighties that work means hardship," he says. "In those days, juggling would have been seen as pointless. But the workplace is the modern community. It should be enjoyed. Businesses are beginning to recognise that work should be fun."

Juggling balls litter the desks in More Balls's London office, a former warehouse near London Bridge. Juggling by his staff is compulsory. "Many people," he says, "still think that juggling can be performed only by extra-talented circus people. It has never crossed their minds that they could do it themselves. That is the first mental block that our workshops dispel. The speed with which people can learn to throw a ball from hand to hand in a neat arc instead of a messy one.

"One 35-year-old woman burst into tears when she learnt to juggle three balls. She said she had avoided games at school because she had been told she was unco-ordinated. Learning to juggle, she said, had changed her perception of herself.

"Business is a juggling act. You have to keep your eye on so many balls at the same time - sales, staffing, profits. Learning to juggle lends some clarity to the process of business. It teaches how to solve a problem by easy steps."

The easy steps in More Balls's video are virtually identical to the advice in Michael Gelb and Tony Buzan's book Lessons From the Art of Juggling: How To Achieve Your Full Potential In Business, Learning and Life, published last year. Buzan is best known for his books Use Your Head and Make the Most of Your Mind.

Mr Fairbairn, who supplied jugglers for the two authors' Albert Hall rally last year, has a more down-to-earth approach to juggling than Gelb and Buzan's, which seems to promise most things little short of enlightenment - such as the "relaxed concentration" of the seers.

How to juggle? Here is a summary of Gelb and Buzan's learning steps: 1. One ball. Toss it from hand to hand in an arc, just above your head. 2. Two balls, one in each hand. Toss second ball when first ball reaches high point of arc. Let both drop. 3. Repeat, this time catching first toss, letting second drop. 4. Catch both. 5. Three balls, two in one hand, one in the other. Toss front ball of the two. When it reaches high point, throw single ball in the other hand. Let all drop. 6. Repeat. This time, catch first toss. 7. Repeat. Catch first two tosses. Remember to throw the third. Catch it. Your first juggulation - celebrate!

Me? I have their video. I start tomorrow.

More Balls Than Most (0171-357 7707): products are at major retailers. Box of three balls pounds 14.99, video pounds 11.50. Corporate three-ball kits with logo from pounds 10 from More Balls. 'Lessons From The Art of Juggling' by Michael J Gelb and Tony Buzan (Aurum, pounds 9.99).