How to do anything like nobody’s watching
In partner dancing, some people aim to have the best dance they can; others aim to look like they’re the best dancer.
One of these types gets asked for more first dances. The other gets asked for more second and third dances.
This is because when you’re caught up with worrying about how you look to the rest of the world, your attention is divided and you can’t bring your whole self to the dance you’re having right now.
There’s a big difference in how you approach the dance and how much you get out of it.
This isn’t really about dancing though.
I’m trying to bring my whole self to life. To work, to friendships, to family, to everything. I’m trying to do more of these 6 things:
1) Be willing to put yourself out there
You have to be more concerned with the truth in something than you are with looking good. To be willing to fail. To risk looking foolish. This can be easier if you can remember that your instinctive fear of being rejected by the tribe is irrational in the modern world. You’ll still feel the fear, but you can remember.
For most projects the real downside is limited to the work you’ve put in, though you might feel it’s worse than that. If it’s not a success? It’s just a damp squib. That’s not so bad.
2) Don’t make excuses
There was a time when I would always make excuses for my work before presenting it. I was trying to preemptively protect myself against rejection. All I was really doing was undermining the work.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t know how to present work in an effective way, but you don’t need to make excuses for it.
3) Feel what you’re feeling and do the work anyway
I loved this very funny talk by Lisa Hanawalt, the artist behind BoJack Horseman. She experiences negative feelings, and that’s all just part of her work. When she’s feeling anxious, depressed, like an impostor, she does the work.
We don’t need to be experiencing positive feelings to be productive. For instance, I’m writing this whilst simultaneously feeling like a worthless, horrible failure. Yay.
4) Find humour
Exemplified by a dear friend who’s taught me a lot about this quality, make a conscious effort to find humour in life. Not to take yourself or your situation too seriously. Laugh at yourself and share your funny pain with others.
5) Just enough technique
This is the difference between showing off with flashy techniques and saying something simple and true.
Whatever the field — music, writing, design, love — it takes a certain amount of technique and experience to be able to say something simple and true. It is much easier to parade flashiness without substance: all sound and fury, signifying nothing.
6) Be reflective and self-aware
Bringing your whole self is a journey. You don’t just do it one day and everything’s golden. There are going to be ups and downs. You’re going to have revelations and you’re going to have shockers.
I’m working on scrambling a persistent underlying belief that there’s a “right” way to do things (and that if I find it everything will be plain sailing.) And just the other day, I noticed a whole new set of areas that it encroaches on.
You have to be willing to start again every day.
Sometimes when I’m dancing, I notice I’m off-balance, out of control, like I’m falling off the floor. This feels sucky but I don’t stress or make excuses. I smile, centre and ground myself, and direct my attention towards just having the best dance I can have in that moment.