A Month of Sequence: Reflections On My #30DayChallenge
The internet is a weird place. Full of people doing whatever we can to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves and whatever we can to garnish attention in the process.
Enter “The Challenge.”
If you’ve been on the Internet in the last 5 years, you’ve certainly seen them. And if you’re a part of any of the variety of Circus, Movement Arts or Fitness communities on Instagram, you’ve seen a phenomenon that has been born from them.
The “XDaysOf” Challenge.
Personally, I practice 6–7 days a week, so these “Snapchat Streak” style challenges, well…aren’t really challenging. In fact, they feel more like a way to justify the uploading of a non-stop stream of “practice” videos in order to dilute the shame of attention seeking behavior of sharing mediocre video after mediocre video, taking what should be a journal that we use to observe and reflect on how we can improve and attaching it to a system of faux “feedback” in the form of Heart to View Ratio, or worse yet the emoji-laiden comment section, devoid of any constructive observations on the content being presented.
*Gasps for breath after huge run-on sentence.*
Is any of that really helping us improve?
I digress. Because I just released 30 videos in ~30 days. So, is the hypocrisy real?
As a teen and young adult, I was raised in Dance communities that espoused a highly visible disdain for anything but freestyled movement and 15 years of that has done serious damage as a movement artist transitioning into the Circus community where shit is so insanely difficult that choreography is required if you don’t want to fail spectacularly and injure yourself in the process. I wanted to take back the “challenge” aspect of the XDaysOf’s roots and challenge myself to build a choreographed sequence every day because if the Circus communities I’ve dabbled in have taught me anything it’s that small, actionable, specifically defined goals are a pathway to success. Along the way, I began finding and examining the elements of what a sequence can be, struggling with deadline management vs. quality of work, and observing the evolution of my process.
So, what did I find?
In summary, that a sequence is not just a trick, but it’s also not an entire act. It’s somewhere in between. But it’s also much more than just a thing bookended by what it’s not. For example, a sequence is also not a chinchilla, but that doesn’t help us understand what it is and how to create or identify one. Defining a thing solely by what it’s not leaves a lot to be desired in its understanding, but defining a thing in strictly “dictionary” terms is restrictive and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of context, variance and scalability.
That’s where experience comes in. And listicles. God damn listicles.
Okay, let’s go.
- The Seinfeld Strategy
The joy and relief of crossing off days as a punctuation mark to success led me to do the bare minimum to get that item crossed off and the bare minimum never stretched my abilities. If the point of the challenge is to grow, discomfort is a requisite. As soon as I found myself comfortably making a sequence, I knew I either had to change something or decide that the sequence of that day would be useless to my progress. Just another day checked off a calendar. I’m sad to say that there were a few days where I threw in the towel and did the minimum. I wish I would’ve just rested those days instead and doubled back the next day with enough fervor for the exercise to be meaningful. This led me to my now favorite hashtag.
2. Mind The Gap
My standards of success vs. failure often didn’t translate to camera. That painstaking stutter, grossly askew angle, wayward toss trajectory…they all felt far more terrible when performing them than they looked when viewing them on screen. There’s some perception gap happening here that probably has a psychological name, but for now I need to learn how to separate out that little voice so it shouts at me when I’m practicing, but not when I’m performing. Highlight this comment and leave tips, please. 💕
3. Defining Goals
Missing a trick 9 times, hitting it 1 time on video and calling it a day really grosses me out, but I caught myself doing it almost every day during this challenge. That’s not something that’s ever been a part of my practice ethic and it was strange observing it happen during a time when I was taking part in this “challenge.” Several times I had to remind myself what my goals were for doing this challenge and nowhere in my goals did I plan on individual trick sustainability. The goals were focused on transitions, storytelling and process building. Biting my tongue on what my “normal” practice goals were was essential to moving forward on the goals of this specific challenge. Perfect was truly the enemy of Done.
I’m on Day 23 already working on the end-game reflection piece to this challenge. Some people say starting a project is the hardest part. I find it easy. Starting something comes with all these good feelings about forward progress without having done any of the hard work yet. It’s the finishing part that’s hard for me. I’m anxious to be “done.” I’m anxious to get back to “normal” practice. I’m anxious about what “normal” practice will be like knowing I have to integrate what I’ve learned here back into the feedback loop. Maybe that’s why I’ve never done a challenge before. Because it would force change of my daily routines. 🤔
5. The Right Tool for the Right Job
Marijuana helps me with laser focus in drill practice. It helps with creativity in exploring new ideas. It helps to achieve flowstate so I can extract a bit of honey on command from these things I put frustrating practice hours into, but what it didn’t help? Making sequences. It took me 10 dismal days to figure this out and frustrations in forgetting what piece comes next in the sequence and constantly changing my mind on decisions dropped 10-fold after I stopped smoking. It makes sense for me and my history of psychedelics, which I’ve always found to act as a magnifying glass to sober reality. And if I suck at making sequences in sober reality, it stands to reason that poor performance simply gets magnified with psychedelics (even such mild ones as Marijuana).
Your mileage may vary.
6. Chasing the Dopamine Dragon
Speaking of drugs, I reminded myself every day that I’m not doing this for hearts on Instagram, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t checking my phone every 9.8 seconds hoping to get some of that sweet, sweet brain nectar. I decided to make this challenge public as an accountability tool, but it may have been more detrimental to my mental and emotional health than it was worth using. It was, no hyperbole, the strongest addiction I’ve ever observed in myself (maybe that’s for the best) and I’m thankful the challenge is over because my willpower is thrashed to pieces and my swipe-down-to-refresh finger is worn down to the bone. Hopefully both will grow back stronger, Saiyan style, and many thanks to the people kind enough to engage along the way.