How NOT to start a dance party at Penn State

Yes, there’s video.

BY CHRIS DANILO — First appeared on my personal blog

I dare you to turn your iPhone up all the way, and start dancing by yourself, in the middle of the crowded HUB at Penn State.

Why won’t you?

We can agree that it’s uncomfortable, but why?

Are you worried what others will think? Are you going to be laughed at? Embarrassed?

Here’s the short answer: it’s human nature.

Here’s the science-y answer:

We have evolved, over thousands of years, to be really sensitive to in-group/out-group characteristics. Translation: being ostracized from a group or tribe in early human evolution often meant death.

But it’s not as serious these days, is it? Yet we’re still carrying around this ancient, and irrational physiological response to ‘standing out.’ Don’t worry, we’ve got a modern word for it:


You should be ashamed that you said that.

You aught to be ashamed of yourself for acting that way.

Aren’t you ashamed of how you came across?

But really, what are the consequences of say, starting a dance party?

Maybe you get a few laughs, maybe someone thinks you look silly, but mostly; no one cares.

I know because we tried it.

Here’s how NOT to start a dance party in the HUB:

Before starting, we agreed to dance for at least 11 minutes before quitting. Looking back, we could have kept going, but at the time, it may as well have been eternity.

Boy, did we fail; hard.

But somehow, once we started moving and realized the lack of consequences, we started to feel kind of bullet-proof. It got easier to do more and more. We started to feel comfortable taking up more space.

At the, we’ve been challenging each other to dare greatly.

The idea is to grow our comfort zones, such that we can approach larger and larger problems and inspire others to take on more.

How do seemingly small challenges like “start a dance party in the HUB” or “ask 5 strangers to tell you a story about their childhood” turn into wider comfort zones and higher confidence?

Theodore Roosevelt probably said it best in his iconic speech “The Man in the Arena” in 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Daring greatly is like training your comfort zone ‘muscle.’

By taking on something just a little bit more uncomfortable, and by practicing it regularly, confidence is built.

The first time you get in a fight, you realize “I’m not made of glass.”

The first time your heart is broken, you realize “I’m going to be okay.”

After your first day of your first job, you realize “I’m still alive.”

The principle is the same, and confidence is transferrable to other parts of your life.

What did we learn?

What did we learn?

1. Daring greatly inspires others to dare greatly

“Once you overcome that fear, you just have that new found confidence that will inspire others. When I came back and told my friends, they said: ‘you know, I wouldn’t mind doing that with you next time.’ I think it really goes back to the idea of being a change maker or a catalyst. It only takes one or two people to start it.” — Harshil Patel
“People don’t get inspired by what you tell them to do, they get inspired by who you are. The best way to inspire people is to just start doing stuff that you believe in.” — Eric Campbell

What can you do about it?

Find a buddy. By doing this, we learned that it’s a lot easier to shrug off failures when you’ve got a pal to help you laugh it up.

2. Emotions can get in the way

Getting out on the floor was the hardest part. My heart rate went up. My skin temperature went up. But it was like jumping in a pool; the water is always cold at first, but then you’re fine.” — Chris Danilo
“The fact that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death is just such a great example of how irrational our fears can be, and why daring greatly, and challenging your fears is so cool.” — Eric Campbell

What can you do about it?

Ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” Maybe your face gets really warm and your heart starts pumping — but is that it?

3. Change making is a habit

Everything went wrong. We thought we were going to have a sunny day out on the Old Main lawn, and everyone was going to jump in and crowd around our speaker. But it rained, there was a film crew telling us to be quiet, the speaker died halfway through the dance; everything went wrong. Next time we’re going to bring a bigger setup.” — Chris Danilo

What can you do about it?

Ask yourself: “Will I regret not doing this?”

Still nervous about getting started?

It’s totally normal, but I’m pretty sure no one ever laid on their death bed and said:

“Boy, I’m sure glad I played it safe. No risks, nothing uncomfortable, no rapid changes. Whew. Made it successfully through the life of my dreams!”

Adventure may hurt you, but I promise; boredom will kill you.

If this resonated with you, recommend this article or share with someone who wants to start stretching their comfort zone.

Thanks for reading!

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