Friday, June 22, 2012

Dual Perspective: I'm Great, I'm a Loser, What About You?

Originally published in July 2007. It's been tweaked a little.

We all go through it:

  • I'm getting it!, It's no use!
  • It'll never work!, I knew it would happen!
  • Why not me?, Wow, that worked!
  • It's easy for them!, She looks great with me!
  • They're laughing at me!, They're laughing with me!
  • She's avoiding me! She thinks I'm hot!
  • She is bored with my dancing!, She loves the way I dance!
Seesh... It's enough to give me whiplash just thinking about how much I love and hate dancing at points. Sometimes I feel like I own the dance floor, the next like I should go home and watch "The March of the Caterpillars" on Animal Planet for the next two years, because I'll never be good at this.

I had the same thing with my music.

A long time ago, I developed something I call "The Dual Perspective".

Here's a summary:

I am nowhere near my potential and I deserve a kick in the pants to accelerate my growth. But I have also made tremendous progress since I started and I am proud of how far I’ve come. As the old commercial used to say, "Sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don't."

While you may not be thrilled with your current position, we are all a work in progress and it is often helpful to remember how far you’ve progressed since you started.

I try to keep both perspectives in balance. On any given day I can feel like I own the floor, because things are going so well--so much better than a year ago!--and the next night feel like I’ll never get it to a reasonable level. I can have a great dance where my partner and I complement each other and the music, and another dance the same night where I wonder what is wrong with me. Most of the time those are different nights, since we tend to gain momentum in a positive direction on the up nights, while it goes the other way if things aren’t working.

As a young musician, I found that there can be a depressing lag between all the practicing and actually seeing it work on stage. I remember my original drum instructor, Gene Stewart (a Juilliard grad and Motown session player) telling me, “If it doesn’t work effortlessly on the gig, you simply haven’t practiced it enough.” Gene told me time and time again, “When practicing, practice! Strive for perfection. But when performing, forget about all that stuff and play music. If it’s not working some nights, practice more and it will happen.”

Today I see the same concepts apply to dancing.

Just keep chipping away at it, doing something every day, even if it’s 5 minutes of footwork or learning more about the music while listening during your drive time. When things work on the floor, be sure to pat yourself on the back. When it’s one of those down days (and everybody has some), go back to fundamentals and practice. It will all show up down the road as long as we stick to it.

You’ll never really dance up to your full potential as it’s an unending process, and don’t get down on yourself if something takes you longer than you would like. Everybody has something that is a challenge for them.

Keep the dual perspective; at some point, your worst nights will be better than most people's great nights, and while you'll still have plenty of room for improvement, you'll be in that above average group and find partners hunting you down for a dance.

Stay humble, stay balanced, never stop learning, and keep both perspectives in mind.
Until Eve arrived, this was a man's world.
-Richard Armour

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero