Always Keep the Glass Balls in the Air

One afternoon I found myself struggling with setting priorities. My personal objectives and professional goals seemed to be so intertwined that they were choking each other. My department head noticed the conflict in my face and pulled me into her office. She shared the visualization below, which I live by to this day. While simple to understand, it is difficult to master:

“We all have things we juggle for our time and attention. Think of them as balls a juggler would juggle. Some are glass—if you drop them they break. Some are rubber—if you drop them they bounce and roll away to be picked up some other day. The secret is to know which balls are glass and which are rubber. Always keep the glass balls in the air.”

My department head was a woman worthy of respect. Her words set the stage for my personal and professional development. She took the time to notice me, and to sit and share in a way that helped me to organize my emotions, time, and goals. She was my first mentor.

Over the years, I have learned to juggle more balls. Some additional glass balls have been added, along with many rubber balls. I have perfected dropping and picking up balls. I have had many mentors through the years who added dimension and color to what I have learned to juggle. They helped me identify and keep my glass balls in the air. They helped me recognize when rubber turned to glass and vice versa. Through mentors, I learned that juggling is an art perfected through practice.

Women mentors are essential in that they bring affirmation and they instill confidence. However, a good mentor is anyone with strong listening skills, discernment, and openness to share (men or women). Communication is the key to a good mentor/mentee relationship.

Early on, my mentors gave me confidence and courage. Mid-career, they grounded me in business principles and helped me find my voice. Now, they help me to be a better mentor.