“When I was 14 years old, I had low self-esteem,” yo-yo champion BLACK begins his talk during session 4 of TED2013. “Then one day, I bought a yo-yo.” The first trick he tried — well, it didn’t work. But after a week of practice, he started to get somewhere. He remembers, “I thought, ‘The yo-yo is something for me to be good at. For the first time in my life, I found my passion.’”
But practicing for hours a day and winning the World Yo-Yo Contest four years later in 2001 didn’t take him on the path he hoped. “I thought I’d become a hero! I will get many sponsors. Money. Many interviews! I will be on the TV,” says Black. But fame and fortune never came. Instead, BLACK went back to school and became a systems engineer.
Eventually, though, he had to return to his passion. “I wanted to show how spectacular the yo-yo could be. I wanted to change the public image of the yo-yo,” says BLACK. “So I quit my company and started a career as a professional performer.” He won the World Yo-Yo Contest again in 2007, and even passed an audition for Cirque du Soleil.
On the TED stage, BLACK gives a performance set to dramatic music, a yo-yo spinning quickly and maseterfully around him like a ribbon around a rhythmic gymnast. Soon, he picked up a second yo-yo, spinning them wildly, as if juggling. Bending backwards to the floor, he keeps the yo-yos orbiting just millimeters from his face. The performance is both graceful and thrilling.