Learning To Dance

I often encourage leaders to try new things to keep their saws sharp and challenge themselves. It really doesn’t matter if they are new to management or long-time veterans.

I recently took my own advice. After procrastinating for decades, I checked off a long-time item on my (short) bucket list. I took formal dance lessons. I could dance – just not very well – and it usually took a bit of “liquid courage” (a martini). Every time I saw a couple who could dance well together and clearly enjoyed it at an event, I’d get dance envy, wishing I could do the same. I barely knew the basics and questioned if I had the ability to pull it off.

So, with some encouragement, I stepped out of my comfort zone in October and signed up for dance lessons at a private studio ironically called StudioJeff in St. Cloud. I set a deadline of learning to dance “better” by Holly Ball, an annual formal event and significant fundraiser held in the St. Cloud community in early December. I didn’t necessarily expect to be great; I just wanted to be better and experience the enjoyment that I saw my friends have while dancing.

I’m a pretty confident guy. But the moment I stepped on the dance floor, that changed. I knew I was supposed to lead, but I didn’t know how and it made me feel vulnerable. I felt clumsy and wondered how I would ever be able to perform well after 10 lessons.

I was consciously incompetent. I was not very good and I knew it. I had a lot to learn. We started that first night with the basics and the “rock step” – four steps that are my go-to today. By the fifth or sixth lesson, I finally felt like I had progressed. I became comfortable on the dance floor and actually learned a few moves that I felt I was pretty good at.

I received an opportunity to test my skills one evening with friends. They wanted to go out dancing. Although I wasn’t overly enthusiastic, I knew it was something I needed to do if I was going to advance my skills. I did not want my first time on a dance floor to be at Holly Ball. So I did what I tell others to do – practice and then apply. The experience actually gave me more confidence because I proved to myself that I could feel the beat, do the moves and, most importantly, have fun.

I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone this year and try something new. Here’s my advice when you do:

  • Take the first step as soon as you can.
    The first step is the hardest and it’s easy to make excuses. Just do it and don’t worry about planning it all out. You’ll be thankful later.
  • Set a deadline or a goal.
    The Holly Ball event provided me a deadline and helped me stay focused.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
    It likely won’t come easy. The only way you’re ever going to achieve your goal is to practice. Commit to the time and find ways to apply what you’re learning.
  • Find a partner.
    This person (or people) should encourage you and hold you accountable. If you’re in it together, the journey will be much more fun.

Today I’d consider myself consciously competent at dancing. You can see my progress by checking out the video below. I’m still taking dance lessons to keep getting better and reinforce what I’ve already learned. It’s made me think about what else I may take on. 

Are you ready to commit to something new this year? 

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Topics: Leadership