How My Dance Background Helps Me As A Business Owner

I had my first dance lesson at the age of 3. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember two things about it.

First, I remember there were weird stuffed animals in the window area that creeped me out. Second, I remember that I didn’t like it, and I kept going to my mom to ask for more snacks.

So from there, my mom enrolled me in acting, modeling, piano lessons, and gymnastics. And, while gymnastics was a very close second, by the age of 5, and after trying out my first tap dance class, I knew dance would be my thing. (I’ll forever be grateful to Ms. Vanessa, my first tap dance teacher who told my mother that I was a natural and that I should join her competition class after the first time she saw me dance.)

So, how does my background in competitive tap dance and my pre-professional classical ballet training help me as an entrepreneur? I think there are a few ways.

  1. I’m not afraid to fail when it comes to entrepreneurship. (Now, if we’re talking about with my every-day psychoses, fear of failure is a big thing in my life as a Type-A, over-achiever, and possible perfectionist. But if we’re just talking about entrepreneurship, then I’m good. ;) I know that I will always, always have more ideas. I know that I will always be able to make some kind of money from those ideas ( . . . It’s truly amazing what it does for the brain when you think of something, create something, put it on the Internet with a nice bow, and make a few hundred dollars from it. The first time that happens, you know you can make much, much more. Making money straight from your ideas is a game changer, folks.). I also know that I can always get another job if needed. Yes, I have a couple of university degrees under my belt, and I’m working on another, but, in addition to that, I have some crazy good life experience, drive, and I’m not afraid to get things done when I need to pay the bills. With dance, even when you do actually “fail” — have a bad class, mess up a performance, get an injury — there’s usually an opportunity to do better in the next class, try harder at the next performance, and to increase your strength so that you’re less likely to get injured in the same way in the future. Failure may exist, but only as long as we dwell on that feeling instead of focusing on ways to improve.
  2. I know that pain is temporary. Nobody likes pain. In fact, I’ve carried aloe vera, Band-Aids, and Advil in my purse since I was about 14 years old because I hate pain and I refuse to not be prepared for it. But, since I’m a dancer, I know that most physical pain will heal over a short time. In business, when things are uncomfortable, or when I’m learning systems that I don’t want to learn, I know that it’s part of a temporary pain that will soon go away and that my life will likely be better after I push through to get to the next level. (Disclaimer: I know dancing through injuries is a big problem in the dance world, especially in the world of classical ballet. I’m not endorsing that mindset, but I am saying that that mindset can be helpful in terms of being an entrepreneur. Sometimes we feel like it’s the end of the world. Later, we realize that it wasn’t. We just had to keep going. And that’s my truth.)
  3. I’m aware of a certain *magic* that exists for us artists that I’m not sure others are as keenly aware of. Maybe it’s from spending my childhood performing. Maybe it’s because my mother let me me dance around the living room for hours, re-enacting entire movie scenes (and often, as much of the movie as I could remember, which was typically a good amount). Maybe it’s because I’ve worked at summer camps for children, where “creating magical moments” was literally in my job description. But like, I know that magic is real. I know that it’s possible for us to create the life of our dreams. I know that the only real limits that exist are those that we place upon ourselves. (And this is not to discount systemic problems in the world, by any means. This is to say that, whether to my benefit or detriment, I’m a believer in fairy-tales and dreams that become reality.) They say that those who often succeed are those who don’t know that failure is inevitable. I think that’s true of dancers. We know that the possibility of living in a world of wonder is real. So we keep dreaming. And we keep doing.

What about you? What childhood activities or hobbies help you in your current business or career path? Let me know in a comment!

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

Don’t Forget to Run Your Business!

In last Monday’s blog, I told you how prepared I was to teach my first dance classes at a new location, working to expand my business. I explained how, even though all my planning was essentially all in my head, I would be using the Dance Daze® First Class Checklist to cross my Ts and dot my Is. I wanted to be over-prepared for my new students and my new classes. I was completely focused on the educational experience my students would have while exploring the world through music and movement. It’s great that that’s where my head was! The problem is: I completely forgot to mention that I would be entering the dance studio as both a dance educator and as a business owner.

In addition to having a lesson, playlist, and props for my students, I need sign-in sheets, a registration system, and a first aid kit when I teach! When I go to teach, I am not just an artist; I am also an entrepreneur.

So if you are starting your own dance business or expanding to a new location, don’t forget to run the business-side of your dance education organization! We are artists and educators as much as we are directors and CEOs. Keep that frame of mind the next time you walk into your studio!

Oh, and here’s this week’s freebie! Grab the Dance Daze® First Class Business Stuff Checklist FREEBIE to make sure you have all you need for the business side of your first dance class and all future dance classes!