Weaknesses Into Strengths


I grew up in a quiet family. No shouting, no conflict, everything very gentle. It was lovely.

But I developed a very quiet speaking voice. I naturally mumbled and people were always asking me to repeat myself, often more than once. I found it very frustrating. I instinctively started organising life to avoid free-form conversation in noisy environments.

Whereas my contemporaries went down to the pub as teenagers, I never felt the urge. I favoured a more structured extra-curricular life: music lessons, Scouts, gymnastics.

Unless it was highly organised and disciplined, eg, Scouts, I preferred solo endeavours to team sports. And my hobbies were solo as well – juggling, magic and going for walks with the dog.

Shut Up and Dance

In my mid-teens my love of music and gymnastic training happily coincided with the dawn of breakdancing in the UK. My mates and I went to the local youth club, which was basically a disco. It was too loud to talk, so no conversation-induced stress there. I and a couple of others were regularly coaxed into the middle of a large circle and encouraged to explore our breakdancing potential. 

Along with the breakdancing went body-popping and robotics. Consequently, when I went to university and joined a church drama group, I naturally gravitated towards the mime roles. Someone saw me perform and mentioned a mime and physical theatre school, which I then attended a few years later. Truly a happy place for me as a performer anxious and self-conscious about my vocal ability.

Finding My Voice 

Years of solo practice gave me juggling proficiency, and the mime training gave me slapstick, so people started to ask me to perform. 

Once I had done a couple of thousand magic and circus shows I began to realise that maybe, just maybe, I was able to stand in front of a crowd and talk. 

Down the line, I joined Toastmasters and realised that I was actually quite good at public speaking and that I actually quite enjoyed it. I took some voice coaching, entered a national speaking competition and came second. The vocal coaching was hugely affirming: yes, it gave me some techniques to finally conquer my mumbling, but it mainly showed me that my voice was no longer a weakness.

Not the Same, Different

Most entertainers come in to children’s entertainment through magic, drama and/ or storytelling. I did 15 years of shows before I added any magic. My shows have always been unique. I have a mime and physical theatre element that most don’t, because that was my route in. Without my perceived weakness I may never have added that element. 

If you have a characteristic that you perceive as a weakness, take some time to reflect.

You are unique. You have will have a unique path through life. There may be others on a similar path, but none will be exactly the same.

You can only start from where you are. You can’t pretend to be someone else. They have their own journey.

Flip, Flop and Fly 

You may think you have a weakness that is holding you back. Flip it. Reframe it.

Your perceived weakness will impose boundaries on you. Don’t worry about that. Creativity loves a boundary. Your ”weakness”  can drive you down a road less travelled and you will end up with something special to you. As a result, your perceived weakness will end up gifting you a unique strength.

You may well take a different, longer route, but you will have valuable and unique perspectives and experience as a result.


“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”

This famous quote is spoken by Tancredi in the novel “The Leopard” by Guiseppe Tomasi de Lapadusa (translated by Colquhoun) (#ad).

If you stand still, the world moves on and you will be left behind.

And if you want to move forward, you are going to have be pro-active about it. In order to progress, think about to what you are giving your time.

It is very easy to be very busy without being productive.

The Moonwalk

The moonwalk is a dance move made famous by Michael Jackson in the 1980’s, originally thought to be invented around 50 years earlier by tap dancer Bill Bailey.

I started learning it in my early teens and then perfected it while I was at mime school in my 20’s. These days it forms part of my straitjacket escape to music(!) 

The moonwalk gives the illusion of walking forwards while you are actually moving backwards. 

It is so easy in life and work to appear to be moving forwards while we are actually moving backwards, or at least to be left behind as the world moves on.

How do we avoid this?

The Pause

Reflection is always valuable. 

Spend some time thinking about the activity that fills your life. You will have choice about much of it, if not all of it. Is it moving you forward? Why are you doing it? Maybe some of it was useful once but is now just habit. 

I am a big fan of education – stay curious, keep learning. Much education can move you forward and help you to advance, but some learning is just esoteric. This is fine if it is just for leisure or relaxation, but make sure you know why you are doing it. 
What tactical learning can you engage in to take the next step?

Likewise, think about the societies you belong to, the meetings you attend, the hobbies that you do. Do you know why you are doing them? Again, if they are good for your social life, relaxation and/ or recreation, that is great. But, again, know why you are doing them. If they have run their course, move on to something else that will help you take the next step forwards.

It is very easy to get stuck in old routines and carry on regardless. Suddenly you can find yourself very busy while the world moves on ahead of you,

The Shuffle

If you reflect and realise that you have unproductive busyness in your life or work, have the courage to change. Maybe it is time to end one chapter in the book of your life and start another one. That is fine. 

Mix it up and deal the cards in a new order.

Look at how the world is dancing around you.

Ask yourself: “Am I moonwalking?”

Minimum Effective Dose

Bill Gates said:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

I am not so sure about the virtues of being lazy, but I am all for finding the easiest ways to get things done.

Minimum Effective Dose

The more you do something the better you get. Therefore it makes sense to do things as much as possible. This is true of magic tricks, this is true of juggling, this is true of most business tasks.

The less time, energy and resources it takes to do something, the more often you will be able to do it. Therefore it makes sense to work out how little you can get away with while still doing something properly.

This is the concept of Minimum Effective Dose (MED), a term borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry.

Any More is a Waste

You may wish to take vitamin C supplements to boost your immune system. Up to a point, this will increase the level of vitamin C in your system and you will benefit from it. However, beyond a certain point you will have absorbed as much vitamin C as you can for the day. Any extra that you take will merely end up going down the toilet! You will have exceeded the MED.

At sea level, water needs to be heated to 100 Celsius to boil. You can add more heat after that, but it is a waste of time and energy. It won’t be any more boiling.

Efficient Circus

As part of my entertainment offering I run circus skills workshops at children’s parties. Juggling, plate spinning, diabolo. And that’s it. Maybe occasionally some poi twirling. I know other entertainers who run much bigger circus skills workshops for corporate fun and training days. They involve tightrope, unicycling and walking on stilts. Much bigger props. 

Why have I gone simple and small?

Well, my aim at a kids party is to get maximum participation, maximum engagement and maximum opportunities for parents to take photos. I have found that I can get all the kids and many of the parents involved and smiling with lots of colourful props flying around with only juggling balls and scarves, diabolos and spinning plates. 

The beauty is that I can carry all this in three shoulder bags. I can wheel my show case in at the same time. Only one trip to the car. Why do more? Big props would need me to have a van, take multiple loading trips and carry more injury risk. No, thank you. I don’t need all that to meet my objectives.

I have discovered the Minimum Effective Dose.

How much is “Effective”?

When do you go minimum and when not? The key is in the word “effective”.

If your aim is to be the best athlete there is, then there is no minimum level of fitness to achieve this.

If your aim is to be a recognised expert in your field then there is no limit to the amount of study and preparation that you need to do.

If you are building a bridge, you don’t build it so that it is only just strong enough, you engineer in a hefty safety factor.

However, given such exceptions, with most things you do not need to achieve 100% every time. If 70% will achieve the desired or expected result then go for that and then do it again. Achieving the extra 30% will take extra time, effort and resources that could be used to repeat the exercise, thus building more results, experience and expertise.

Perfection is rarely required for effectiveness.


As an example, think about how you respond to enquires: 

  • You could spend a lot of time getting to speak to the enquirer on the phone, having a lengthy phone call, transcribing what they say.
  • You could respond by email, typing everything out longhand.
  • Or you could use an email template, warmed up with a little personalisation.

How much would the prospect notice the difference? In many cases, not much, if at all. But the template approach could save you hours. Minimum effort, but still effective.

Consider Your Dosing

Have a look at your processes and business activities, Are you exceeding the MED anywhere?

Once the water is boiling, use the heat source to do something else.