When I told Josh Horton that I wanted to interview him for the Living the Dream series, he laughed. “That’s my general response when someone asks me how I’m doing,” he said. “I never say I’m good or all right. I say, “I’m living the dream.”” And by all accounts he is. The 23 year old is paid to juggle professionally, a skill he learned as a young participant in Illinois State University’s Junior Gamma Phi Circus. After winning a high school talent show, he had the opportunity to develop his talents in competition with the best jugglers in the world. When he realized he wanted to juggle for a living, he changed his major to entrepreneurial studies and leveraged his skill as a juggler into a business as a performer.
Q: How much time do you spend juggling these days? Do you have to put in a lot of practice time?
A: When I was in high-school and college, I was practicing about four hours every single day. But now that I’ve focused on juggling as a career, I’ve taken it down to to about four hours a week. That’s partly because I’m not competing anymore. Once you get to a certain level practice gets more frustrating because the better you get, the slower you are to progress because everything you’re trying is at such a different level. And part of it is having pains like shoulder, neck, and back pains, so I had to scale back because of that.
Q: How competitive is the world of juggling? How do you get the word out and differentiate yourself from other people with similar talents?
A: The world of juggling can be competitive depending on what market you are pursuing and where you live. The thing is, it’s not really about skill, it’s more about how well you’re able to market yourself. After that, it comes down to your likeability, your stage presence, and your comedy. I focus a lot on my internet marketing and that brings people to me. When creating my website I focused on SEO so that I show high on Google and other search engines. There are also certain websites where I pay to be listed and people see my profile. I don’t do too much cold-calling except for the halftime shows, but now I have an agency that knows who I am and they book me stuff.
Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Kenny (The Jet) Smith discuss a clip of Josh’s halftime performance for the LA Lakers playoff game.
Q: What’s the hardest part of your job?
A: The hardest part is having nothing to do sometimes. No one is hiring a juggler seven days a week. And I’m at a point in my career where charge enough per show so that I can make a living only performing once a week. Sometimes it is more, but often it is less. It’s important to learn how to use the down time effectively and productively.
Q: Do you see yourself doing this as a lifelong career? Where would you like to be in the next couple of years?
A: I don’t want to travel a lot when I’m older, more of a part time thing as I get older, maybe I can start doing some local things. I’m not exactly sure what the plan is, but I don’t want to be struggling at 60 to be a juggler. I want to keep gaining knowledge and learning about the world.
A: I have a very strong opinion that you need to look at it as a business. It’s called “show business,” and “business” is a longer word than “show:” You have to work on business more than your show. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if no one can find you, if you’re not marketing yourself in a way that makes you seem as good as you are, then all the hours you’ve spent perfecting your skill are wasted. I have a lot of friends who are jugglers, even better than me, but I’m more successful than they are because they just don’t get it.
Q: Any words of advice for those of folks still waiting on their big breaks?
A: I think you should do what makes you happy and makes you comfortable. If you are totally happy with playing piano in your living room and going to your accounting job and getting your paycheck every week, then do that, but if you want to do your hobby, skill or passion full-time, then go for it. Just do it in a smart way.