I WANT to be paid to think.

I’m a hardcore entrepreneur. I live to create. I thrive on bringing ideas to fruition through the art of starting and developing business ventures.

But I’ve mentioned it before on The Happy Dance Podcast and I’ve mentioned it in my Lunchtime Entrepreneur Chats on Clubhouse: I like to keep some freelance work or a super easy part-time gig in my back pocket so that I can always make sure the bills are paid.

So the other day, when I was working at one of my part-time gigs, I overheard someone say, “I don’t get paid to think here!” He went to explain how, when he’s at work, he’s thinking about what he’s eating next or how he will be getting to the next level of a videogame, but not about the work he’s doing for the company.

I thought to myself: THAT’S what’s wrong with this situation. I WANT to be paid to think.

When I worked for a large charter school management organization a few years ago, I remember one of the principals was always emphasizing that we, as the teachers, were the experts in the room. She said this as a way–not to make us feel that we were all-knowing or that we should be teaching our students in a top-down way, but instead–to encourage us to feel comfortable and confident in our background knowledge, life experiences, and professional training to do our job properly. When I worked there, even on the really challenging days, I felt like I was getting paid to think.

When I’m running my dance programs, maybe a few parents think they’re paying me to entertain their child for an hour each week, but I think most parents knew they were paying me to:

  • Develop and facilitate engaging, challenging, and developmentally appropriate programs
  • Be the best or hire the best talent I could find to help their child discover and explore the art of dance in a safe and nurturing environment
  • Put money back into the business by the way of performance opportunities (including space rentals and costume purchases), buying and maintaining props (such as scarves, ribbons, balance beams, hula hoops, etc. for my Creative Movement classes and Dance Daze Birthday Parties)
  • Create appropriate music playlists that would guide the atmosphere of the class and support my instruction
  • Develop and maintain the best systems for relaying information, collecting payments, ensuring their child’s safety, and more.

When I’m working as an educator, I’m paid to think.

When I’m working in education, all of me matters.

My thoughts, experiences, and professional background are important because I’m taking on the extremely important work of supporting, informing, and influencing the minds and shaping the experiences of the next generation.

And I like it that way. I love being paid to think.

Any job that doesn’t pay me for this beautifully developed, empathetic, thoughtful, passionate, sensitive, curious mind of mine is 1) missing out and 2) will be short-lived.

PLEASE: Pay me to think. I like it that way.

Saumirah

Making Time + Being Present

I’ve been around long enough to know that “enough time” will never exist. It won’t exist in the course of a day, a week, and–if we’re doing it right–a lifetime.

For those of us “ambitious” souls (the word is in quotes because for my fellow dreamers and do-ers, you know there’s absolutely no other way we could be . . . . we’re not aspiring to be this way or this good, we simply are . . . . *smile*), there will always be another scent to smell, food to taste, sight to see, other world to experience, or other adventure to be had. We will always be hungry for all of life and all of its offerings.

But how can we go on this way if it always feels like we’re playing catch up and working with the bare minimum of the hours that have been allotted to us?

I believe that our ability to continue on and a sense of fulfillment in the actions we have taken may come from being present in each moment, so that each moment is given its full attention and can satisfy the needs of our soul in that time.

For example, a few minutes ago, I was creating new content for Dance Daze, Inc. Then, I got distracted (and was fully immersed) in making a few super quick updates to dancedaze.org and making notes in my iPhone for items I need to return to at a later date. Now, I’m sitting here, allowing my brain some space to think before heading out into the rain to walk my dogs and run off to the next thing.

The point, though, isn’t how much I feel compelled to do or about how much I’m accomplishing before 8:00 am. (But it must be said: Kudos to me. I’m am ROCKING the productivity so far this morning.) This point is that in each of these activities, I’ve allowed myself to be completely and entirely engaged.

Often, I become overwhelmed because I will sit down to write, and then I’ll think, “Oh, but this was my night to catch up on that Hulu show.” So then I’ll turn on Hulu and begin watching the show, only to pause it 10 minutes later because I’ve decided to return to the writing that should really take priority. Then, I’ll remember that I have a pile of dishes in the sink to wash, and I’ll hop up to get to those dishes. When I’m acting in this way, I’m not being fully present in anything.

I will say, for someone like me, being present in every single moment can be extremely difficult. Because I do live with a constant knowing of what else needs to be done. Sometimes, it’s almost painful to force myself to “relax” and “do nothing.”

But I’m working on it. Because I do believe that we can do it all, but not at the same time. I also believe that balance is impossible to reach, but that allowing (or forcing?) ourselves to be fully present in each task on which we are working (even if that is binge-watching a Netflix or Hulu original on a Saturday evening) will allow us a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that even if we aren’t always making the “right” choice, we are always choosing. And in choosing we are taking ownership of our life and happiness. And in that, I believe we will find a sense of satisfaction and peace.

Longer letter later, friends!

Saumirah

Create Your Own Luck: Remove Your Creative Barriers

I’m the creator and host of The Happy Dance Podcast, but I haven’t consistently recorded an episode in months.

Each week when I don’t record an episode, I tell myself that it is because I have other things to do or that the podcast simply isn’t highest on my list of priorities for the week. And this would be fine, IF the maintaining a weekly podcast wasn’t something that was really important to me. But it is.

I pretty much hate unfinished projects. Either I’m working on something obsessively or I’ll leave it entirely alone. I either love you insanely, or I’m completely indifferent about you. The point is: Halfway having a podcast just doesn’t fit with my ideal vision of myself and it’s just not who I want to be.

Lately, I’ve been talking about different ways to be creative and how to develop habits that lead toward creating every single day for a happier, more productive, more satisfying life.

One way to develop a habit that is really important to us is to remove all obstacles that prevent us from beginning. A personal obstacle that prevents me from podcasting as regularly as I would like is the setup. I have my podcasting equipment in a purple Sacramento Kings backpack that sits in a wooden toy chest that I got for free from a prior teaching job. I have to dig out and untangle all of the cords are stored in this backpack, plug in my podcasting mic, plug in my earbuds (because my mic doesn’t work with my AirPods… I don’t THINK?), and make sure my dog’s collar is off so that it doesn’t create excess background noise when he joins me in my recording space to get water. It’s just a lot of annoyingness, IMO, and I tend to avoid aversive stimuli.

So, I’m planning to just cut all of that out. Moving forward, I’m going to create some of my own magic and luck by making starting easy. For a few episodes, I’m going to try recording using only my AirPods and my iPhone. Sure, the quality may not be as great as I’d like it to be, but quality is not my current focus. My current focus is to just DO THE WORK. I would to record and publish podcast episodes in the shortest amount of time possible, so that the entire experience begins to flow as easily for me as writing and publishing these blogs does. (When I’m writing these posts, it seriously feels like I just THINK and the words APPEAR in front of me. I’m a fast typer, but I also really enjoy the sound and the feel of my MacBook Air keyboard. I know, I’m weird. The point is, I’ve eliminated obstacles, and I actually take great pleasure in doing this work of writing daily blogs. I want it to feel like that with podcasting too.)

If you’d like to support me getting back into the regular swing of podcasting things and listen to a few episodes that may have the strange sounds of living in the background, be sure to check out The Happy Dance Podcast. I’ll be back at it soon!

Until next time, friends!

Saumirah

If You Write, You’re A Writer

So I’m currently reading Seth Godin’s book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. In it, he says that if you write, you’re a writer. The point is doing the work and getting the work out there.

So, here I am blogging and being a blogger and all, but it’s not just so that I can update my IG bio (which ya know, I do love to do!). I’m working on changing my habits to develop multiple daily practices because I, like Seth, believe that we are what we regularly do.

I used to teach dance all the time (in person, to actual humans). I watched videos about how to teach dance. I read articles about concepts to teach and ways to teach them. I chose music that would best enhance my dance classes. I wrote lesson plans for my dance classes. I was a dance teacher. It’s what I did. It’s what I was. (To be clear: I am still a dance teacher, but I’m re-developing the way in which I deliver information and engage in the process of educating through the medium of dance.)

You may or may not know that I have a professional background in education. I have a Master of Arts degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. I taught kindergarten through second grade for 6 years. I’m currently earning a Doctor of Education degree. So yeah–professional background in education.

You may or may not know that I love creating – creating digital content, Reels, TikToks, blogs, social media plans, dance boards, etc. I’m a maker. And I once heard a poet at some event I attended in New York City say something like “My best days are when my art and my life are one in the same. I’m trying to have more of those good days.”

So, in an effort to live the life that I love, have as many good days as possible, and to get my creative work out into the world as the homie Seth is recommending to me, I’ll now be developing my creative and professional practice as an educational content creator for Dance Daze, Inc.

To start, I’ll be focusing on two topics that I absolutely love: Ballet and Creativity.

To catch my latest deep dives into living my best life as an educational content creator, check out the Dance Daze, Inc. Instagram page. I have some cool stuff shipping out!

More to come.

Saumirah

Why We’re Going Fully Virtual in 2021

Dance Daze, Inc. will be offering LIVE online dance classes beginning in April of 2021! Stay tuned as the journey begins….

As we all know, 2020 was an intense and crazy year. It was sometimes devastating, sometimes infuriating, but still–there were moments of joy found last year.

I taught my final in-person dance classes for Dance Daze, Inc. on March 14, 2020, almost exactly one year ago. I remember the date because it was a “Dance Daze Demo Day,” a special day on which we had small, informal in-studio observation for parents and family members. Dance Daze Demo Day acted as a small performance opportunity for all of our studio students, who may or may not have been able to participate in the other performance opportunities I was working to increase over the past 2 years.

Like everyone, I thought we would be back for classes in a few weeks, right after our scheduled break between our Winter Session ending and our Spring Session beginning. Of course, the Coronavirus had other plans, and I was wrong.

Throughout 2020, I offered a number of online dance classes and worked to create tons of dance-related content for kids. Besides a few very casual Instagram Live ballet barre classes for adults that I did on my personal Instagram, I never taught any live classes for Dance Daze, Inc. over the past year. I wasn’t interested in teaching live dance classes for a number of reasons.

First, like everyone, I was pretty burned out on all the mandatory meetings I’d been having on Zoom. I was already meeting remotely for online classes for my Doctor of Education program, for a remote social media and communications job I had last year, and also for monthly board meetings with a non-profit dance organization for which I am the Marketing Associate. I didn’t feel that adding on dance classes would spark joy for me.

Second, I really saw creating a digital library of dance classes for kids as a fun and challenging opportunity. Because of Dance Daze Online and the Dance Daze, Inc. YouTube Channel, I was able to develop my video creating and editing skills (minimal though they may be…) for the past year and explore creativity in this new way. I enjoyed having the responsibility of recording 2 to 3 dance classes per week in a variety of styles and the self-created obligation of getting each of those classes edited and uploaded within about a week for a full year. I wanted to keep focusing on this.

Third, I feel pretty awkward and shy on camera and I didn’t feel that the “magic” I can create easily with in-person dance classes would translate well on screen. I felt that I’d be shy and awkward and my insecurities would show. I knew parents would be watching and judging, not just my dance students, and I didn’t want to feel that awkwardness while teaching. It took me years (years!) to feel comfortable teaching my in-person dance classes with parents watching. Even today, I simply have to pretend they’re not there when a parent (or school administrator, when I’m teaching in a classroom setting) comes to observe or sits through entire classes. I often forget to make eye contact when speaking to parents who are watching class and make a comment to me and I respond. In fact, the idea of “performing” and being “on” is what saves me most of the time when I’m teaching and parents are watching classes. I didn’t know how I’d be able to perform in this way if I was dancing from my kitchen.

Finally, I wanted a break. I work really hard, and I have more obligations and responsibilities than most people are aware. I always want to create a life that I love each day, and I felt that forcing myself to create a program that I didn’t feel 100% certain about might be too much. I’m in a doctoral program, I’ve been working at other jobs, and I was really focused on creating the on-demand library of dance classes. I allowed this to be enough for myself to focus on while the entire world dealt with a pandemic.

And it was enough for me.

However, the creative person that I am, I’m easily inspired.

I’ve been spending tons of time following fellow creators, influencers, and innovators on social media who have started, grown, or catapulted their online dance programs over the past year. While I’ve obviously always known that live dance online dance classes are an option, what really inspired me is the opportunity to create a “work from anywhere” life for myself, while still working within my own business and developing educational dance programs in the way that I see fit and in a way that blends with my business and personal mission and vision.

So, next month, in April of 2021, I’ll be launching live classes for my business and brand, Dance Daze, Inc.

I’ve been spending lots of time considering different video-streaming platforms on which to host the classes. I’ve been looking at various ways to collect online payments. And, of course, the educator that I am, I’ve been considering the best ways to provide engaging classes to people of all ages and to create incredible educational experiences through movement, as I decided would be the mission of Dance Daze, Inc. when I first began this organization over a decade ago.

While I’m clearly an educator who loves teaching dance classes locally at schools and studios, I’m a big, big entrepreneur at heart who loves innovating. Also, I’ve never wanted to be location dependent. So, join me in my attempt to create a new learning opportunity for my students and a new teaching opportunity for me as I delve into the world of teaching dance classes online!

More to come. Stay tuned.

Saumirah